Judge Kenneth Starr, president of Baylor University, and Dr. Darryl Tippens, provost of Pepperdine University, participated in a faculty dinner Monday evening on ACU campus where they shared ideas about how to build a strong faculty at a Christian university.
Tippens and Starr met with senior leadership and individual faculty members throughout the day. Additionally, Starr met with the Faculty Senate and with students interested in graduate studies at Baylor Law School.
Much of the discussion with faculty members centered around whether the university will continue to hire only members of Churches of Christ as full-time faculty members. About a 100 faculty members attended the faculty dinner emceed by the provost, Dr. Robert Rhodes. Together, Tippens and Starr discussed “mission-fit” hiring, said Dr. Neal Coates, chair of the Department of Political Science and chair of the Faculty Senate.
“They wanted to tell us about positives and negatives that those schools have grappled with over time,” said Coates. “ACU does not aspire to make its mission like Baylor’s or Pepperdine’s or any other particular school. We’re looking to see how we can provide Christian education the best way that we think we should.”
Tippens, who will return to ACU in fall 2014, said during some periods at Pepperdine hiring for Christian mission has been lax and that this inattention created problems for them as they attempted to remain true to their Christian mission. Neither Pepperdine nor Baylor limit faculty hiring to members of their affiliated religious heritages, Churches of Christ and the Baptist Church, respectively.
“Our premise was that there is no single model for how to do this,” said Tippens. “Judge Starr and I provided examples of how the hiring of faculty is carried out at our respective institutions.”
Tippens said his day with the ACU faculty and administration was invigorating.
“I was struck by the obvious interest in the discussion of how to make ACU an even greater University,” said Tippens. “ACU has a clear mission and a proud tradition of excellent education, but I sense that no one wants to rest on last year’s laurels.”
Coates said this semester’s campus visitors such as Rick Atchley, minister at The Hills Church of Christ, and Dr. F. LaGard Smith, professor at Church of Christ-affiliated Faulkner University, have brought ideas that have resonated throughout faculty meetings.
“All four of our speakers have been received well on campus this fall,” said Coates. “We’ve all learned from them. We haven’t agreed 100 percent with what any one particular person said but we have appreciated all of them coming.”