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Life, Faith, and Culture: Taking FOCUS into the New Semester

JACKSON, Tenn.Aug. 28, 2002 – Under the lights of the courtyard and around the fountain, students of all years and majors gathered to bring in the new school year with the annual Howdy Party, and with it, signifying the close of New Student Orientation. The party was a good ending to the last long, structured day of the freshman’s start at Union. The new students had their last FOCUS meetings early that morning and spent a majority of the rest of their day becoming familiar with the many programs offered by the various organizations representing Union.

“We ‘over-program’ at Union University, there’s a lot more available than any sane person should be involved in,” said Hal Poe, Professor of Faith and Culture, chuckling, as he talked to the students at the “Welcome to our Community” workshop hosted by Provost Carla Sanderson Tuesday morning. “We have a unifying vision here at Union. It involves the mind, it involves the heart – all of it under the Lordship of Jesus Christ – and you will find what goes on in the classroom will possibly be reinforced in other neighborhoods of campus life. So learning is not restricted to the class. Hopefully in your neighborhoods of conversations, in your friendships, that conversation will go beyond the mundane and ordinary to the beginning of a lifetime of stretching of your mind.”

“We are very interested in making your Christian walk all that it should be,” added Greg Thornbury, assistant professor of Christian Studies. “We are of the decided opinion that Christians should not be lazy or stupid, and that on the contrary, Christians should be the most articulate, thoughtful, and well spoken people in our culture.”

Instead of finding their last lecture to be a less-than-exciting question and answer session with faculty, Ann Livingston, associate professor of political science, Poe, and Thornbury interjected the information they were seeking to pass on with periods of banter and even broke into song at one point in the meeting, conveying that the experiences to come at Union might offer something to look forward to.

“We expect students to interrupt us and ask questions,” said Poe. “Now, we don’t like to ask questions as people because that suggests that we don’t already know that answer and that means we’re stupid and that’s why nobody needs to go to college because they already know the answers,” he said, tongue-in-cheek.

“We ask that you appreciate all disciplines,” said Livingstone, “If you are undecided, sit with your indecision and sit comfortably with it. Take a wide variety of the courses that we offer here and find out what your passion is.”

“You need balance. You can overdose on fun, just as you can overdose on academics,” Poe added. “Part of it is maintaining a balanced life and figuring out what that balance is for you.”

“It’s about setting your priorities, and it’s very difficult,” added Livingstone. “What you do now has implications for the rest of your life.”

With the words of these three professors still in their minds as they left the chapel, the newest additions to the Union family went out to start making these decisions on what they would do with themselves and their time at Union. Some will maintain their undecided position and fill their time with a wide variety of core classes and one or more of the various groups and programs represented at the Campus Life Fair whether it be the Cardinal and Cream, Student Government, or any one of the other opportunities. Other students know exactly where they’re headed with their lives.

“I want to make movies,” said Faith Cooper, a double major in theatre/speech and broadcasting, “I’m looking forward to classes starting because I’ll have more time and be able to absorb everything that I’m hearing.”

So it is fitting that New Student Orientation ended with a gathering of students in conversation with each other covering all topics and walks of life and ushering in a new phase of growth in mind, faith, and culture. It is but the first step into a new horizon just waiting to be discovered.

By Alaina Kraus, Class of 2005

Media contact: Sara B. Horn, news@uu.edu, 731-661-5215

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