Thursday, October 31, 2013

An Adirondack Adventure: Quad Break at La Vida's Base Camp

By Nora Kirkham ’16

Just six hours away from the stacks of textbooks and coffee-stained paper of semester midterms are the Adirondack Mountains, sloping in the mist of a crisp New York October. This quad break weekend, thirteen Gordon College students and two staff members returned to La Vida’s base camp at Lake Clear to engage in a variety of service projects with the rangers of the Adirondack State Park.

For the past three years, the La Vida Center for Outdoor Education and Leadership has drawn together campus volunteers for a weekend of service at the program’s New York base working alongside the park rangers in the Adirondacks.

The Adirondacks themselves are known and beloved by many students on campus who have taken on La Vida’s college summer expeditions, worked as wilderness trip leaders—called “sherpas”—or served with the program’s support staff. Seven students were participants from Gordon’s WILD semester. The annual service trip offered this group of La Vida supporters a chance to give back to a program and a landscape that had impacted them significantly. In volunteering, the students all had a common purpose and interest: practicing environmental stewardship and experiencing fellowship rooted in a place.

The weekend projects ranged from building and clearing trails on Hurricane Mountain to digging privy holes at campsites on Pollywog Pond. Volunteers both hiked and canoed to their work sites, and the last day of the trip was spent hiking the breathtaking Phelps Mountain in the High Peaks Region.

I was one of thirteen volunteers on the service trip and can honestly say I couldn’t have spent quad break weekend in a better way. In one short trip, I was able to experience the simple pleasures of community and vastness of God’s creation. After weeks of running through the cycle of coursework and commitments, this Adirondacks service trip was a definite breath of fresh air. While at times it was hard work, the projects our groups took on introduced us to new skills, and we finished each day with the satisfaction of making even the smallest differences, on the trail and in the growth of friendships.

Photos: (1) Some of the volunteers enjoy a sunny afternoon in a field, (2) taking a lunch break on the peak of Phelps Mountain, (3) preparing to work on the Hurricane Mountain Trail. 

Nora Kirkham ’16 is a sophomore history major at Gordon College and a writer in the Office of College Communications. Raised in four continents, she is a 'Third Culture Kid'. Her interests include history, art, literature and sustainable development. 


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Positives of Playing Screwtape

Chloe Eaton ’15 reflects on her experience playing Screwtape in the Theatre Arts Department's production of C. S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters, adapted by Associate Professor of English Mark Wacome Stevick and directed by Professor of Theatre Arts Norman M. Jones.

“You first of all allowed the patient to read a book he really enjoyed, because he enjoyed it and not in order to make clever remarks about it to his new friends. In the second place, you allowed him to walk down to the old mill and have tea there—a walk through country he really likes, and taken alone. In other words, you allowed him two real positive Pleasures. How can you have failed to see that a real pleasure was the last thing you ought to have let him meet?”


Playing Screwtape in Gordon’s production of The Screwtape Letters has been filled with more “real pleasures” than I can count. It is always a blessing to work with professor and director Norman Jones, from whom there is always more to learn. Taking inspiration from the production's scenic, lighting, sound and costume designers and getting the chance to tackle the script’s wonderful language have also been great pleasures.

One of the greatest joys of working on this piece has been the large cast and crew I have had the privilege of seeing almost every day during the process. Each member is concerned not only with giving their best to the work, but also with creating an amazingly positive and supportive environment.

There have certainly been challenges: balancing a busy schedule filled with rehearsals, the pressure of doing justice to the words of C. S. Lewis and Mark Stevick, the discomfort of finding myself guilty of the often invisible sins Lewis so wisely points out, acting challenges, etc... In their own way, though, these challenges have been joys, as well—chances to learn and grow.

Lewis wisely recognizes that true pleasures of this kind connect us with our Maker in ways that make the other side tremble. I know I speak for all those involved when I say that I have relished the opportunity to enflesh this particularly important and eternal story.

—Chloe Eaton, '15

Performances of The Screwtape Letters continue this week, October 29–November 2, 7:30 p.m, and tickets are still available, if you have not yet seen the show! Click here to purchase your tickets.


Friday, October 25, 2013

Leading in Tomorrowland

“Somoclobat, Social Mobile Cloud Big Analytical Data—it’s the word that describes everything going on in IT today.”

Not every day do you get to hear one of the biggest players in IT (information technology) share his excitement about upcoming tech trends. Typically, it’s the kind of talk we expect from the friend we go to for all our computer needs, or during the conversations reserved for that one time of year when the next iPhone, with all its thumb-scanning tricks, is announced.

But recently during Convocation, President D. Michael Lindsay invited Pat Gelsinger onstage for his latest Conversation with the President. Gelsinger is CEO of VMware, a world famous cloud-computing and virtualization company based in Palo Alto, California. Gelsinger was previously President and CEO of Boston-based EMC, which recently bought VMware. Gelsinger’s three-decade tech career took off right after college when he received a call and free plane ticket to California from Intel, where he was offered a job as a technician. Before he knew it, Gelsinger had risen through the ranks to become the first Chief Technology Officer in the industry and the youngest VP in Intel’s history.

This year, Forbes named VMware one of the most innovative companies. They are on route to become one of the key players in cloud-computingthe next step after the information revolution that will allow us to finally use our online info across a plethora of up-and-coming platforms (e.g. Google glass) and virtual software.

Gelsinger entered the tech industry 30 years ago, a time when computer science was not even a discipline. “We had mathematics and we had engineering, and out of that through this emergence of the computer came the entire new discipline of computer science.” He expects there may be another discipline waiting to be revealed, “I see very much over the next 20, 30 years the area of data science will emerge as this entire new curriculum, a combination of mathematics, statistics, and probabilities, etc.”

As Gelsinger was keen to explain, data is becoming the much-sought prize in the tech industry treasure hunt. He shared his vision for an emerging trend, Big Data. “10 years from now, imagine the following: You wake up in the morning and your biometric sensor will have noticed a heart irregularity while you were sleeping. By the time you get out of bed, it  will have communicated with your cell phone, uploaded the information to your doctor, rescheduled your morning, made a doctor’s appointment so you could get an exam, and loaded the routing to your car to get to you doctors appointment.” In fact, on his wrist that Friday, Gelsinger wore a biometric sensor similar to what he described. The device allows him to use his iPhone to record everything from sleeping patterns to water intake. But, as he noted, this is just the beginning, “Not only will the device record your info, but by the time you get to your appointment, your doctor will have already taken your biometrics for your DNA patterns and tested it against every body of your demographic group with similar DNA patterns and already recommended a set of actions for you to take. That’s the world of Big Data that we’re moving into.”

Big Data is the thread that stitches everything else—cloud, social, mobile—together. These three different elements, drawn together by Big Data, make up what Gelsinger calls “Somoclobat”—Social Mobile Cloud Big Analytical Data.

The big question regarding Somoclobat: What are the implications for privacy?

“I think every aspect of technology, as it advances, opens up new questions around privacy, around ethics and so on.” Gelsinger responded, “Should we individually be concerned? As individuals, probably not; but collectively, a whole lot.”

In answering these questions about emerging technologies and speaking about his leadership roles, Gelsinger also noted how his faith has been essential. As he described to President Lindsay, “You have, as president of Gordon College, this school as your congregation, and I at VMware have a 15,000 person congregation to take care of. With this congregation, I think one of the most powerful things as a leader is to have an intentional relationship with people, and looking for opportunities to pray with them.” For over 16 years, Gelsinger led a Bible Study at his home church at Singing Hills, and still is involved as a Sunday school teacher where he is witness to what it means to prioritize career, family and spiritual demands. 

He entreated students to follow through with the call of Christians to be the best possible employees on the market, because God expects nothing short of excellence in all that we do. With the coming revolution in Big Data, Gelsinger noted the need for more Christian men and women to enter the workplace and use their witness for good. “I think the genetic aspects of DNA mapping, etc. will probably be some of the biggest socio-political issues of the next decade.” Gelsinger is being used in the tech industry to bring about tremendous change through his Christian leadership. Gordon College, we too can be the faithful men and women leading in tomorrowland. We begin today, by bringing the greatest impact possible in the community God has placed us.

Photo: President D. Michael Lindsay and Pat Gelsinger discuss the implications of cloud-computing. The entire conversation can be found here.

John Buckley ’15 is a junior business administration and communication arts double major at Gordon College and the Presidential Fellow for Rick Sweeney, Vice President for Marketing and Strategic Communications. Depending on the weather, his interests are theology, photography, a good read of Sherlock Holmes, or wiping out on his longboard. 


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Where Faith and Science Overlap: The 2013 Herrmann Lectures

By Nora Kirkham ’16

“If someone declares science and religion do not overlap... don’t believe it.”

These were the words of Owen Gingerich, professor Emeritus of Astronomy and of the History of Science at Harvard University as he concluded his lecture, “Was Hoyle Right?” at the 2013 Herrmann Lectures on Faith and Science at Gordon College. This year’s distinguished guest lecturer spoke on three topics—“Was Copernicus Right?” “Was Darwin Right?” and “Was Hoyle Right?”—across three consecutive evenings from October 8–10.

Along with his post as professor emeritus of astronomy and History of Science at Harvard, Dr. Gingerich serves as a senior astronomer at the Smithsonian Astrophysics Observatory. Author of over 250 articles and essays, Dr. Gingerich was among the first people to win the Harvard-Radcliffe Phi Beta Kappa prize for excellence in teaching.

I met Dr. Gingerich amidst a swarm of students, guests and faculty discussing the various topics pertaining to faith and science before his last lecture on Hoyle started. With a cup of tea in hand, I listened as he laid out his lecture’s most important point: science and religion—the magisteria—do in fact overlap. Steven J. Gould, he explained, had proposed a theory that science and religion can be friends so long as they stay out of each other’s domains. Yet what if they could work alongside each other, even overlap?

Dr. Gingerich’s lecture on Hoyle that afternoon addressed this question. Sir Fred Hoyle, the English astronomer who first coined the term, “Big Bang”—a theory he actually opposed. In his research, Hoyle inevitably was confronted with the question of God’s existence and His role as creator of the universe. While Hoyle initially seemed to reject the idea of God as Creator, Gingerich explained that Hoyle’s findings brought him closer to feeling that “a superintellect has monkeyed with physics.” “How can the magisterium of science cope with the idea that there is purpose in the universe?” Gingerich asked. “Either there are monstrous coincidences or there is purpose. That is the atheist’s dilemma.”

Three respondents to Gingerich’s lectures attended the conference: Randall D. Isaac, a physicist and executive director of the American Scientific Affiliation responded to the first lecture, “Was Copernicus Right?” Gordon’s own Stephen G. Alter, professor and Department Chair of History made his comments on “Was Darwin Right?” Edward B. Davis, distinguished professor of the History of Science at Messiah College discussed “Was Hoyle Right?” Davis encouraged students to join The American Scientific Affiliation, a 'network for Christians in the sciences,' which offers free membership to college students.

This year’s lectures concluded successfully, having created yet another opportunity for students and faculty to join together with some of our era’s greatest thinkers, pursuing God’s truth in a mysterious universe.

Named in honor of the biochemist Bob Hermann, the Hermann Lectures on Faith and Science are a Center for Faith and Inquiry event held annually at Gordon. Next year’s lecturer will be Dennis Alexander, an esteemed microbiologist from Cambridge University in the United Kingdom.

Nora Kirkham ’16 is a sophomore history major at Gordon College and a writer in the Office of College Communications. Raised in four continents, she is a 'Third Culture Kid'. Her interests include history, art, literature and sustainable development. 

Photo: Harvard astronomy scholar Dr. Owen Gingerich speaks on the intersection of faith and science during Gordon's annual Herrmann Lectures.


Friday, October 11, 2013

A Walk Through the Grapevine: Homecoming Weekend 2013

By Sarah Tang ’16

It is the most beautiful time of the year at Gordon and the perfect time for this year's Homecoming and Family Weekend. The cloudless blue sky and falling red leaves welcomed back many alumni and gave current students a chance to show their parents the place that has become home to them. The weekend was packed with illuminating discussions, class reunions, the annual Scot Trot and other athletic events (and complimented by the Captain Dusty's ice cream every Scot has come to love). Alumni strolled through the Ken Olsen Science Center (KOSC) and the Barrington Center for the Arts, revisiting the places they themselves once stood and marveling at the many campus improvements of recent years.

Conversations and Connections
Saturday morning began with a dynamic discussion about Gordon's role in faith and vocational development, moderated by President D. Michael Lindsay with accomplished alumni Christian Smith ’83, Richard Malloch ’74 and Abby Baird ’03—described in detail here.

As this conversation continued in the Philips Recital Hall, fans of Gordon College Women’s Soccer cheered the team on in their match against Eastern Nazarene College. Children enjoyed the bouncy castle and face paint on the Frost lawn and La Vida’s Adventure Swing offered guests a taste of Gordon’s unique outdoor education programs. Elsewhere, chatter and chuckles, shouts of “long time no see!” and endearing embraces marked the joyful reunion lunches.

Just above Gordon’s newest dining option, Bistro 255, in the Jenks Learning Research Center, former cohorts of the Jerusalem and Athens Forum (JAF) discussed the significance of a liberal arts education. Moderated by JAF administrator Ryan Groff ’06, and joined by program alumni Amy Gentile ’08, Izabela Wisniewska ’11, Joshua Birdsall ’06 and Stephen Armandt ’09, the conversation between these Gordon graduates and the many current JAF students and parents in attendance offered a refreshing perspective on the subject. Wisniewska, who now works with grants at Mass General Hospital, remarked on how her Gordon experience continues to impact her work today, “I started going to work by applying those big questions onto little things, and that made it much more meaningful.” Armandt, now a graduate student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, said, “[A liberal arts education] sets you up for the rest of your life… It frees students to pursue what they love.”

Another major event, which the Career Services department hosts every Homecoming and Family weekend, was Through the Grapevine: Homecoming’s Professional Networking Event. Current students arrived at Chester's Place in Lane Student Center eager to learn more about career possibilities after college and to speak with Gordon alumni, who were more than happy to network, answer questions and offer advice on how to make the best use of the opportunities a Gordon education affords. 

Musings and Music
The Gordon community was also very delighted to hear again from Christian Smith, who serves as professor of sociology and director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Society and the Center for Social Research at the University of Notre Dame, at his afternoon lecture: “Contemporary Culture and the Prospects for Christian Faith.”

Smith has spent much of his career researching American teenagers and their views on faith. His main concern about American identity and religion is the "deep culture"—the “deep categories of presuppositions and assumptions that we don’t even think about”—associated with it. In this emergent deep culture, Christianity is perceived as religion about how to be good people and how to cope with problems, a misconception far from the heart of the transformative Christian gospel. 

“People think knowing what’s good and bad is easy, it’s common sense… and the bar on what it means to be good is extraordinarily low,” Smith added. He went on to express his concerns that in modernity, people only value rational evidence, yet at the same time, rationalistic apologetics no longer seem effective. The individual has become an experienced consumer who trusts nothing beyond the self. And among this culture of consumption and skepticism, Dr. Smith observed, “There is a trend of bipolar attitude toward the future; almost all young people think one as an individual will succeed while the world around one is corrupt.” 

In response to the cultural conditions Smith laid out, there are a few things he suggested Christians could do. First, we should believe in the gospel, that “the Holy Trinity has chosen humanity to share God’s overflowing love unconditionally… If we do believe that, then everything changes.” Second, moralism—the idea of being a good person—needs to be challenged at every opportunity. “Christianity is about God being good, not us,” he said. Third, we must embrace our status as resident aliens in the world, and recognize that Christians are no longer in sole control of this country. Forth, we must become a minority without resentment and stop our obsession with being “relevant” to American culture. 

In order to achieve the last point, Smith urged, “Christians need to learn to love the other—not accept or tolerate—the other, meaning the real different ones who has displaced us.” Taking confidence in Christ’s work through the Spirit, we must trade confrontational apologetics for confessional conversations. Lastly, Smith argued, we must begin to recognize that Ecclesiology, or the doctrine of the Church, is a significant sacrament guiding the ministry of Christ. 

At the end of his talk, Dr. Smith reminded the audience that many young people are not at all hostile toward religion, but are instead actually quite open and curious, leaving the audience to reflect on his words long after the crowd had filtered out of the lecture hall.

The weekend of celebration concluded that evening with Jimmy Needham in concert at the A. J. Gordon Memorial Chapel hosted by the College’s student-led Campus Events Council. The Texan singer shared his Christian testimony and spoke on the charity he works with, the Mocha Club, while delighting his audience with a jazz-pop spin on the classic acoustic singer-songwriter sound, carried by his undeniably amazing voice.

As the weekend came to a close, students and staff said their goodbyes to parents and alumni, having gained, in the space of a short weekend, a deeper understanding and appreciation of this place that continues to bind us together.

Sarah Tang '16 is a sophomore Communication Arts major at Gordon from Hong Kong and a writer in the Office of College Communications. 


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

There and Back Again: The Homecoming of Three Gordon Alumni

By John Buckley ’15

“If you could give some advice on how to maximize the Gordon experience, what counsel would you give?”

Saturday morning of Homecoming weekend, questions like these were asked to a forum of alumni featuring Abigail Baird ’03, Christian Smith ’83, and Rich Malloch ’74. The event offered a unique perspective into the alumni’s experiences during their time at Gordon, and the different careers they have come to pursue (quite successfully).

Light poured through Phillips Recital Hall’s windowed walls overlooking Coy pond as students, alumni, faculty and staff gathered to hear from these prominent graduates the panel discussion moderated by President Lindsay.

It was quite intriguing to hear the panelists’ varied responses to the president’s questions—case-in-point was the first question about what each alum’s “expected life story,” the sense of calling inherited during growing up years, was like. Malloch, now President of Hearst Media Corporation, explained how his “sense of purpose from a young age” drove him toward leadership; whereas Smith commented that he really hadn’t had much sense of calling until his junior year at Gordon; and Baird recalled how her parents pushed her to delve into many areas that interested her. Each answer gave a unique story.

“On the journey to success there is often failure, would you be able to share one of your most spectacular failures?”

“My biggest failure was getting fired at Morgan Stanley,” Rich Malloch responded. He described how he eventually lost his job, “When the market started going through a rough time, I was asked to fire a number of people in my group at Morgan Stanley, but I didn’t see the need. So, it was either their way or mine, and it was theirs.” Thanks to the graciousness of his manager, he was given a severance package that led him to Hearst Corporation. Malloch’s current company is now the second largest monthly magazine publisher in the world, ABC’s largest TV affiliate, and the owner of 125 companies with 30,000 total employees. As he recalled, “I probably would never have gotten to Hearst if it weren’t for being fired.” This year, Malloch was named distinguished alumnus of the year. While at Gordon, he majored in economics and was an avid pick-up basketball player. After graduating from Gordon in 1974, Malloch earned a master’s degree in econometrics and quantitative methods at King's College at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. He and his wife, Suzi, have three kids, and live in Greenwich, Connecticut.

“Was there a professor here that made a difference in how you thought about faith and vocation?”

“For me it was a combination of Dr. Sheratt and Dr. Harper,” Abby Baird recalled. “The senior seminar course especially was helpful, where I learned about Christian political thought and how we should order our world.” Abby is an 8th year associate at Ropes and Gray, a large law firm of more than a thousand attorneys worldwide. While at Gordon, Abby majored in political science, was active on the Judiciary Board and in intramural athletics. Abby was a devoted student; when asked what two words describe her time at Gordon, she was ready to say “too serious.” But her serious approach to her coursework paid off: after Gordon Abby graduated from Boston College School of law, and while there had the opportunity to work in the US Supreme Court. Abby currently lives in Beverly; she serves on Gordon’s Career Services Advisory Board and is active at Grace Chapel in Wilmington, Massachusetts.

“Looking back at your own experience and where you are now, do you think the liberal arts is still a viable approach in higher education?"

“The liberal arts are so crucial, and it’s a dying reality in modern education,” Christian Smith asserted. “I think it’s one of the important things I got at Gordon, the idea that I’m not being educated to get a first job, or some narrow or technical position. I’m being broadly educated as a person.” A prolific author on American religion and emerging adulthood, Smith is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Sociology at Notre Dame. He is also Director of the University’s Center for Study of Religion and Society. Years ago, Smith transferred abruptly to Gordon from another Christian college just before his junior year. Smith described to President Lindsay and the Gordon community assembled how he had chosen to come to Gordon last minute, “I decided totally on a gut feeling, no reason whatsoever, but it was the best decision I ever made.” During his time at Gordon studying under Dr. Stan Gaede (now the College’s scholar in residence and president of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities), Smith’s interest in sociology took root. After graduating from Gordon, he earned his MA and Ph.D. in sociology at Harvard, then serving as a faculty member at Gordon and later at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill before moving into his position at Notre Dame. He is author of scores of books including Souls in Transition, Passing the Plate, Moral Believing Animals, The Secular Revolution, and American Evangelicalism.

As the forum concluded, President Lindsay thanked the guests for visiting the campus and sharing their stories with their fellow alumni. During this weekend of reconnection and collective reflection, the forum provided fascinating look at the three very different paths these alumni have followed since graduating; and the lessons, memories and milestones that continue to draw them back to the Gordon experience. 

Photo: President D. Michael Lindsay interviews three visiting Gordon alumni about their experiences. From left: D. Michael Lindsay, Abigail Baird ’03, Christian Smith ’83, and Rich Malloch ’74. 

John Buckley ’15 is a junior business administration and communication arts double major at Gordon College and the Presidential Fellow for Rick Sweeney, Vice President for Marketing and Strategic Communications. Depending on the weather, his interests are western history, theology, photography, collective media, or a good read of Sherlock Holmes