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  | Advice for Those Along the Path IVCF Blog |
The Challenge | Home Links |  Younger Scientists

College and University Teaching and Research....A Page for those considering a career in higher education 

The Challenge

Laying out the landscape

Touryan, Kenell J.,  "ASA in the 21st Century: Expanding Our Vision for Serving God, the Church, and Society through Science and Technology," PSCF 56.2:82-88 (6/2004) .

Alister McGrath, "The Christian Scholar in the 21st Century,"  Real Issue, January/February 2000.

Bill Hamilton's review of:
The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, by Mark A. Noll, Grand Rapids, Eerdmans 1994. 255 pages, index, $19.99 Hamilton deftly outlines this landmark work which challenged conventional thinking.

The Discussion Continued: 2011

A Christian interested in teaching and doing research in a college/university setting will face some challenges which are common to all academic institutions and others that depend on the type of institution.  Whether one contemplates a secular or Christian job it is important to assess how you would fit into institutional culture.

Christian institutions appear more safe and offer fellowship with those of like faith and ethics. Yet schools and financial supporters have influenced religious standards that may pose problems for the unwary scholarly investigator. The fall-out over the 2011 Christianity Today article and editorial on Adam and Eve is the latest example of conflict  and job loss involving academic freedom in Christian institutions. 

Secular colleges and Universities offer different challenges to the Christian.  There one is judged by peers and a culture which picks up on ones Christians convictions and associations especially those that challenge a secular culture. Tenure and promotion are the places where subtle distinctions are made - guilt by association or tent maker approaches however subtle - may lead to eventual dismissal.  One may win a civil law suit but it is a hollow victory.

When considering a teaching job seek advice from faculty members at your undergraduate and graduate school and ask Christians associated with the school you are considering about departmental culture before taking a leap.  Consider your personality - being a Christian radical is especially hazardous to academic health!

The writer was fortunate to enjoy a career in a Christian institution which supported academic freedom.--JWH



Christians in Academe: a Reply

Recently, Timothy Larsen of Wheaton College published an essay entitled "No Christianity Please, We’re Academics,” in which he presented anecdotal evidence of discrimination against Christians and called for more thorough study to determine whether they represented isolated incidents or were part of a broader trend. Larsen concluded on a note of despair, believing that his call would fall on deaf ears — and the comments he has received so far mostly confirm his prediction.

I am among those who would view such research as questionable — not because I think Christians have it coming or because there are "bigger problems" (there always are), but because I believe the question is ill-posed. First of all, by using the term "Christian," Larsen casts much too broad a net. I find it difficult to believe, for instance, that average Roman Catholics or mainline Protestants face any significant opposition in the classroom. It is clear from both his institutional affiliation and his article that he is using the term “Christian” to refer essentially to conservative evangelical Christians (which is in itself a very evangelical thing to do). Second, I believe the use of the term "discrimination" is overblown and misleading, inviting inappropriate comparisons to sexism and racism — including rhetorical appeals to discrimination against (conservative evangelical) Christians as "the last acceptable prejudice," falsely implying that the others have been eradicated. ...
Inside Higher Education
Full Story


Solving the two-body problem

Married couples pursuing two careers face many obstacles.  When both partners work in academia, the situation can look downright bleak.  Due to their limited geographical mobility, some academic couples endure “commuter marriages,” living apart for years in different cities.  Results are varied: some have a stroke of luck and land appointments near each other, sometimes even in the same department.  For other couples, one person leaves academia to take a more flexible job and live with their spouse.  In some cases, the couple eventually breaks up under the strain of work and isolation. ....Full Story



Every scientist needs someone in a position of power who has faith in his or her abilities, to provide advice and do a bit of trumpet-blowing on his or her behalf.

One Friday evening in the winter of 2009, I ended a 20-year affiliation with a college of the University of London, lugging three boxes of personal possessions and a bucket containing 12 tropical fish from my emptied office. In the face of looming redundancy, brought on by my failure to contribute adequately to my department's last Research Assessment Exercise submission, I jumped before I was pushed. I left with a compromise agreement and a lot of thoughts about how my career, initially as a reasonably successful scientist, had come to such a sticky end. My story has useful lessons in it, some of which are exclusive to scientific research but some of which reflect, I think, the experience of women in academia. Full Story

Asking the right questions

Asking the Right Questions: Christian Faith and the Choice of Research Topic in the Natural and Applied Sciences
Sponsored by InterVarsity and Graduate and Faculty Christian Fellowship and Funded by The John Templeton Foundation  October 13-15, 2000, Mundelein, IL. From PSCF Volume 53 Number 4  December 2001

Terry Morrison,  What Are the Major Themes of This Conference?  [PDF]Chemiluminescence

Paul Anderson, Loren Haarsma, William Dembski, and Susan Drake Emmerich,  What Are Important Future Directions? Where Do We Go from Here? [PDF]

A 'classic' from Stanford University Scientist Dick Bube
Bube, Richard H., 'So, You Want to Be a Science Professor!' The Education Business: Things My Mother Never Told Me Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 41.3:143-151 (9/1989)   

Princeton University researcher Bob Kaita looks at another dimension
Kaita, Robert,
Obstacles and Opportunities In Science for Christian Witness Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 45.2:112-115 (3/1993)

Is research a Christian calling?
Moberg, David O.,
The Great Commission and Research Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 51.1:8-17 (3/1999)

A career in flux
Russell, Robert John , Christian Discipleship & the Challenge of Physics: Formation, Flux, and Focus  Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 42.3:139-154 (9/1990).

From our younger scientists

Keith B. and Ruth Douglas Miller, "Taking the Road Less Traveled: Reflections on Entering Careers in Science," Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 49.4: 212-214 (12/1997)

Grace C. Ju, "Caution: Roadblocks Ahead,"  Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 50.2 80 -83 (6/1998)

Steven G. Hall, "In Transition," Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 50.3 158 - 159 (9/1998)

William M. Struthers, "A Guide to Graduate School for Christians in Science: Growing and Staying Sane," Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 51.2 72 - 75 (2/1999)

Jennifer J. Wiseman, "How You can Help Young Christians in Science," Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 51.1 2 - 5 (3/1999)

Advice for those along the path

Tamara J. Garca-Barbosa & John R. Mascazine, "Guidelines for College Science Teaching Assistants,"

Gregory Schraw and David W. Brooks, "Helping Students Self-Regulate in Math and Sciences Courses: Improving the Will and the Skill," University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE

Web Sites

Rachael Carson
Washington DC 1963

Women in Science

Journal of College Science Teaching

ASA Education page


For a wandering would-be scholar in the humanities....

Why Get a PhD in the Humanities?
In two recent columns in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Thomas H. Benton (the pen name of William Pannapacker, associate professor of English at Hope College) warned students against getting a PhD in the humanities. Just in case anyone missed his point, Benton’s first column was entitled “Graduate School in the Humanities: Just Don't Go" and his follow-up column, “Just Don't Go, Part 2”. We recommend reading both articles, but here was a key passage from the first:
As things stand, I can only identify a few circumstances under which one might reasonably consider going to graduate school in the humanities:
  • You are independently wealthy, and you have no need to earn a living for yourself or provide for anyone else.
  • You come from that small class of well-connected people in academe who will be able to find a place for you somewhere.
  • You can rely on a partner to provide all of the income and benefits needed by your household.
  • You are earning a credential for a position that you already hold — such as a high-school teacher — and your employer is paying for it.
Those are the only people who can safely undertake doctoral education in the humanities. Everyone else who does so is taking an enormous personal risk, the full consequences of which they cannot assess because they do not understand how the academic-labor system works and will not listen to people who try to tell them.
We weren’t satisfied with Benton’s advice, because we felt he left out important reasons why one should attempt a PhD in the Humanities. Rather than write a response ourselves, we contacted several Christian faculty in the humanities and asked them how they would respond to the question: ...more

Highly Recommended:  the official blog of the Emerging Scholars Network, a program of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. Published on Tuesdays and Thursdays on topics like academic vocation and calling, spiritual formation in the academy, and the integration of theology with academic disciplines.


Two Recent NAS Publications

Gender Differences at Critical Transitions in the Careers of Science, Engineering, and Mathematics Faculty

Gender Differences at Critical Transitions in the Careers of Science, Engineering, and Mathematics Faculty presents new and surprising findings about career differences between female and male full-time, tenure-track, and tenured faculty in science, engineering, and mathematics at the nation's top...

[read more]

A Data-Based Assessment of Research-Doctorate Programs in the United States (with CD)

A Data-Based Assessment of Research-Doctorate Programs in the United Statesprovides an unparalleled dataset that can be used to assess the quality and effectiveness of doctoral programs based on measures important to faculty, students, administrators, funders, and other stakeholders. ...

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