[dropcap3]S[/dropcap3]everal years ago we began to produce a student calendar to give to the students in August as they returned for the start of the new academic year. Our intention was to produce a calendar that would inform the students of events and encourage them to get involved. As we went through the design stages of the project we decided to use the phrase “Be A Part of It” as a heading to capture the essence of not just seeing the events listed but asking students to join the journey of campus life. We were amazed as we saw all the events for an academic year listed out, which so crowded a traditional calendar that we had to place it in a poster format. How could this small institution have so many events to be a part of that it took a poster to properly display them? The answer is in the recent history of PBU, and in intentional practices to make the PBU experience one which is dynamic and relational.
When PBU moved from Center City Philadelphia in the summer of 1979 to our new Langhorne campus we brought with us a student enrollment which was 70% commuter-based. Out of the 30% of resident students a high majority of that group lived within a five-hour radius of the campus. As administration planned campus life they were faced with the reality that most of the students were not on campus once the classes for the day ended, and on weekends many of the resident students would go home for several days. In the years since that move, PBU has reversed those statistics and now over 70% of our undergraduate students reside in one of our three resident hall facilities and only 30% of the undergraduate students commute to the school. As the college grew into a University, classes which used to be taught only between 8 AM and 4 PM Monday through Friday expanded to cover morning to evening, six days a week. Students are on and about campus a great deal longer than their counterparts thirty years ago and they are part of a generation that enjoys being part of community living.
In our Student’s Life and Calling classes, we often have incoming students examine a quote by C.S. Lewis regarding the development of a biblical worldview. He states, “The more we get what we now call ourselves out of the way and let Him take us over, the more truly ourselves we become. The more I resist Him and try to live on my own, the more I become dominated by my own heredity and upbringing and surroundings and natural desires.” This statement allows professors to challenge students on their own actions and the impact of the culture they immerse themselves into. At PBU, we recognize that students will be immersed into a university culture, yet the PBU culture is unique from the culture espoused at many institutions of higher education. We design a community life on campus that allows the student to take that which they are learning in class and live it out in a body of believers. Done well, the cultural impact upon our students is not then dictated just by the norms of the current age but by the norms and expectations of a community of Christ-centered learners.
Much of what is offered to our students is designed by the Office of Student Life, the Resident Life team, and the student-led University Social Committee. These events are typically focused on fellowship, orientation, spiritual formation, service opportunities, and plain old-fashioned fun. However, there are many events hosted by students that are developed as they see a need. These students design initiatives which allow fellow students to use their current learning to be lived out in the context of community.
During a week in February this year, all sides of this intentional community life were on display. It was the second week of February and the University was hosting our annual Global Mission week. World-renowned photographer Brad Guice was on campus to speak to the students about vocation and missions. Although a snow storm interrupted some of the planned activities, many students engaged with Brad in formal and informal sessions to discuss how they might have a mission focus in their lives. Our student athletes were in the midst of the winter sports seasons competing at the NCAA Division III level in The Colonial States Athletic Conference. During that week, the men’s basketball team defeated arch rival Baptist Bible College for the second time in the season in a thriller at the Mason Activity Center. The gym was packed with students cheering the men on as part of the “Big Red Machine” cheering section. That week was also the beginning of student interviews for next year’s Resident Life team. It is always a thrill to see how the Lord shapes the selection of those students who will be leaders in the resident halls. On the Friday of that week University Admissions hosted an Open House with close to 50 students and their parents touring campus.They were all invited to join with the students for a concert that evening featuring recording artist Shawn McDonald. The concert was attended by prospective students, current students, outside visitors, alumni, and faculty and staff. Our students had the chance that night to talk with a group of young ladies that had travelled down from Long Island and another group of students from Princeton University.
Also in the mix that weekend were 36 younger siblings of current students who were participating in an event sponsored by the University Social Committee called Lil’ Sibs Weekend. In one week we saw an example of many other weeks where our students have a robust schedule of events to select from to be a part of community. Whether students’ interests are in music, drama, intramurals, intercollegiate athletics, student government, outdoor adventures, poetry, art, ministry, street evangelism, or a late night breakfast, PBU campus life offers the students something to be a part of.
At PBU we challenge our students to be part of the community at large in order to impact society. We draw this challenge from Romans 12. Paul’s statement is one of action. It is a call to be transformed and to demonstrate the life of the believer. This is seen in one of PBU’s three institutional objectives which states, “As an academic institution committed to Christian ministry, the University purposes to prepare students to the highest degree of professional competency and to instill in them a commitment to an intentional and obedient life of service to Christ in the church, society, and the world.” We challenge our students to recognize that the pursuit of wisdom is intentional, measured, and practiced. What better way to prepare for a life of intentional and obedient service to Christ than to live in a vibrant community of students with a robust calendar of events that can lead to character development and service opportunities?
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. -Romans 12:1-2 (ESV)
[framed_box]Scott Cawood, M.S.O.L, is the Vice President of Enrollment and Student Life. He has been working at PBU since 2003. He earned his M.S. in Organizational Leadership from PBU in 2000, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1984.