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Seattle Pacific University
Autumn 2007 | Volume 30, Number 2 | Features

Art Ellis

Providential Connections

Art Ellis
Russian educators have paid Art Ellis, director of the Center for Global Curriculum Studies (CGCS) in Seattle Pacific University’s School of Education, a remarkable academic honor. The professor’s book, Research on Educational Innovations, was named the Educational Research Book of the Year for 2007 by the Russian Academy of Education.

Yet when Ellis first went to Russia in 1992, he was told by one high-ranking official that “the only Christians I know are mental defectives.” In fact, the times were so perilous in the former Soviet Union that for a Russian academic to publicly claim to be a Christian was to commit professional suicide.

But in the intervening years, Ellis has formed relationships with well-regarded Russian Christian scholars and presented in some of Russia’s most prestigious academic institutions. “It means so much to Christian faculty members in Russia that we freely mention God in our lectures,” says Ellis. “I see the international connections in SPU’s doctoral education program as providential.”

The subject of faith became so “above ground in the once officially atheist nation that Ellis remembers sitting in a Moscow Pizza Hut writing a prayer on a napkin for a Russian colleague who was curious about how to pray.

Seattle Pacific’s Russian ties include annual educational exchanges with the University of the Russian Academy of Education, the Black Sea Humanitarian Academy, and the Shuya State Pedagogical University. Russian students attend Seattle conferences initiated by SPU on “The Social and Moral Fabric of School Life.”

“They’re a very relational people,” says Ellis. “So many Westerners go through Moscow just once. Not us. We make friendships and return often. It creates a social fabric that allows us to be very upfront and unapologetic about our faith.”

Equally gratifying to Ellis has been a similar program in China, where to be openly Christian can place a citizen’s very life at risk.

“We’re careful in China,” says Ellis, who prizes the relationships between SPU’s School of Education and Zhiejiang University’s College of Education and its Center for Christianity Studies. In annual presentations before Chinese students, Ellis and his Seattle Pacific colleagues lecture on the life and work of T.S. Eliot, C.S. Lewis, and other Christian thinkers. While they wouldn’t casually ask if a Chinese acquaintance is a Christian, Ellis is pleased that “we regularly have students come up after lectures to talk about the faith.”

That kind of approachability opens other doors as well. The Chinese edition of one of his books, Exemplars of Curriculum Theory, is published in Beijing by Education Science Publishing.

— by Clint Kelly []

— Photo by Mike Siegel

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