By Karissa Urry
With the ever-expanding scope of social media, the concept of the world being our campus seems to be continually growing.
A new blog, By Study and Faith, bystudyandfaith.wordpress.com, records experiences of BYU faculty and students that “seek learning, even by study and also by faith” as quoted in D&C 88:118.
Jane Birch and Alan Wilkins, graduate students working at the BYU Faculty Center, began developing the idea for the blog more than a year ago. They recognized that many professors taught with secular and spiritual learning intermixed and wanted a platform to share and discuss personal experiences with their fellow colleagues and students.
“We have been inspired by … BYU faculty … [who] make their work both spiritually strengthening and intellectually enlarging,” Birch said. “We hope to share some of these good ideas through this blog and encourage faculty to share what they are doing. By learning from each other, we hope faculty will be motivated to experiment and try new things.”
A recent post is from public management assistant professor Eva Witesman’s experience connecting a gospel principle with a secular concept in her public program evaluation course. She quickly volunteered to share her experience with Birch and Wilkins upon hearing about the blog. She said she believes strongly in consciously incorporating religion into the classroom and the need to share those experiences.
“Not only has this benefited me and my own spiritual growth, I have felt a deeper connection to the students in my courses as we seek greater understanding of some of the deepest topics of the gospel — through the unexpected medium of secular coursework,” Witesman said. “I think if more professors try to find these connections, and share their process and results with others, we will be strengthened as individuals and as a community of faith.”
In addition to professors’ personal experiences, Wilkins and Birch will also be posting insight from students to help faculty better understand the most effective teaching methods.
“We will also be sharing specific insights and examples from faculty who have been highly rated by students, as being both spiritually strengthening and intellectually enlarging,” Wilkins said. “We have also been conducting focus groups with students … exploring with them what faculty members do that is most helpful in strengthening them both intellectually and spiritually.”
Birch and Wilkins said they feel BYU faculty are already doing an excellent job, and are hopeful this new tool will help them.
“No one can calculate the impact BYU faculty can have on the lives of the students who pass through,” Birch said. “Many of our faculty are doing excellent work and would like to do better and learn from each other. We hope this blog facilitates that process.”
Wilkins reminds others that the power and effectiveness of the professors ultimately traces back to the foundation of the university.
“BYU is a university that is unique among other major universities,” Wilkins said. “Our mission from the beginning has been to teach every subject with the Spirit of the Lord. We are committed to facilitating informed and thoughtful dialogue and learning efforts to help us continually improve in accomplishing that mission.”
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