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Autumn 2006 | Volume 29, Number 4 | Alumni

Speaker Prompts Closer Look at Globalization

World Christians

YEARS AGO, Joel Carpenter, keynote speaker for Seattle Pacific University’s 2006 Day of Common Learning on October 18, met some international graduate students who changed the course of his career. The students were “very smart, with very different perspectives on faith and life,” he remembers. “I was deeply impressed with them.” Struck by this example of how the world was “shrinking,” the professor of history turned his scholarly attention to the need for American Christians to become “world” Christians.

Now the director of the Nagel Institute for the Study of World Christianity at Calvin College, Carpenter addressed an audience of SPU students, faculty, and staff, as well as visitors from the region. In his address, “Give We Sense: Seeking to Be Wise in a Shrinking World,” he told listeners that most Christians today live in Africa, Asia, and Latin America — not North America or Europe.

“The best thing for U.S. Christians to be thinking about is anything outside their selfreferential zones of familiarity,” he advises. “Look out ahead, scan the horizons, keep your nose to the wind, and ask the Lord for discernment about what you should be doing.”

In its fifth year, the Day of Common Learning embodies the best of interdisciplinary learning, explains SPU Vice President for Academic Affairs Les Steele, who initiated the annual event: “It holds up the vision that we are going to engage the culture with important issues. The Seattle Pacific community comes together to learn, and that is something we value highly.”

Previous topics for the Day of Common Learning have included integrity, how the brain learns, reconciliation, and the faith of the next generation. “This year, the event coincided with an intentional effort to think globally,” says Steele.

Beginning with a keynote address and followed by 18 afternoon session options, the day focused on becoming globally educated citizens. “It’s such a pressing issue in the world today,” says Susan VanZanten Gallagher, director of SPU’s Center for Scholarship and Faculty Development. “A university that is responding to the world around it has to take globalization into account.”

More than 1,000 people attended the afternoon sessions, which were led by faculty members, students, and panels. Before that, Brougham Pavilion was filled with more than 2,000 people to hear Carpenter’s address.

While talk of globalization generally focuses on outsourced jobs, NAFTA, and the Internet’s worldwide reach, Gallagher says that globalization at a university also means bringing international students to campus, creating offcampus study programs, and including global issues in the curriculum. “Different disciplines have different insights and approaches to the topic,” she says. “Globalization, for instance, is obviously important to the School of Business and Economics, but it’s also an important phenomenon as we see the increasing globalization of the church and the development of world Christianity.”

And more and more people are experiencing globalization firsthand. Before joining the Seattle Pacific faculty in 2006, Lynette Bikos, associate professor of graduate psychology, was in Turkey with her husband, who was on assignment for the Boeing Co. Living in Ankara for more than three years, she found that her experiences — as had been the case with Carpenter — impacted the scope of her scholarship. Meeting other “trailing spouses,” as well as missionaries and aid workers, Bikos began a research project about Westerners’ adjustment to new lands. When Gallagher called for faculty members to facilitate afternoon sessions on the Day of Common Learning, Bikos didn’t hesitate. With research she gathered in Turkey, she and four doctoral students led a session titled, “Sojourn Abroad: The Adjustment of International Missionary and Humanitarian Aid Workers.” Other afternoon sessions included “Untrivial Pursuit,” a game of global knowledge about unusual worldwide facts; “Shalom Tourist,” about the ethics behind tourism; and “China: The Four Modernizations,” which focused on China’s rapid movement toward modernization.

Although only one day in the academic year, the University’s Day of Common Learning has far-reaching results, notes Gallagher. Last year in an American literature class, students pointed out that Benjamin Franklin’s definition of deism mirrored what 2005 Day of Common Learning speaker Christian Smith had said about 21st-century American teenagers’ idea of God.

“Christian Smith’s account about what is happening to American teenagers and their faith also had a huge impact on our faculty,” Gallagher adds. “The School of Theology, especially, continued the discussions to inform how best they can teach Foundations courses.”

This year’s discussion is already starting to do the same thing. “Our world is more intensely interactive than ever before, something that should be flat-out obvious in a Pacific Coast city like Seattle,” says Carpenter. “So SPU should be well-suited to prepare students to be world citizens, God’s ambassadors, and servants, ready to go anywhere and engage anyone.”


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