On January 18-20, 2013, your friends at Values & Capitalism hosted a two-day faculty retreat on the sunny campus of Ave Maria University, just 30 miles from Naples, Fla.
Our goals were 1) to provide a platform for leading professors to inform forthcoming resources, such as online modules, classroom supports, and monograph study guides; 2) to cultivate a greater inter-campus “movement”; and 3) to truly retreat, providing fresh content for professors to help sustain them in their upcoming teaching.
The lectures and faculty conversations around tables were provocative. A few highlights:
- Lawrence Mead discussed his underlying reasons for writing “From Prophecy to Charity,” and his firsthand observations from speaking on a number of Christian college campuses. Larry noted that “your campuses are places where, unlike the secular academy where I teach, where interdisciplinary conversations are real, and where unifying truth is assumed, not discredited.”
- Michael Novak discussed his forthcoming book, “Writing from Left to Right,” and described some of his own perceived campus challenges in tying together economic freedom and poverty alleviation. “This connection is terribly important,” he argued, “but so frequently misunderstood—particularly when business majors are perceived to be hard-hearted materialists, and only biblical studies students are perceived to be pious.” Using humor and stories he challenged evangelical faculty members to host cross-campus project-affiliated events that explore contemporary trends including lower fertility rates, an increased sense of entitlement and growing narcissism—especially among some Millennial students.
- AEI’s Michael Strain spoke about new trends in course-blogging, classroom video use, improved faculty webpages, and the benefits of “inserting our head into the online stream where many of today’s undergraduates are swimming.” He offered practical techniques to help give affiliated faculty members a leg-up, whether through access to cutting-edge videos or following noteworthy blogs.
- On a similar note, Seattle Pacific University’s Geri Mason demonstrated the classroom benefits of using Poll Everywhere, a software tool that helps professors draw in immediate, real-time student feedback on provocative questions, including big-picture faith and economics debates.
- Two new monograph authors offered a morally grounded overview of their forthcoming V&C book, “Economic Growth: Unleashing the Potential of Human Flourishing,” and led a wonderful discussion challenging peers to use their classrooms to forthrightly identify some of capitalism’s critiques: a rise in economic materialism, temptations to neglect the needy, or its limits in defining “the good, true, and beautiful.” Instructional honesty doth better disciples make, they argued. And yet only free enterprise has the power to help the most people benefit materially—whether through basic gains in poor countries, or in developing new prosthetics and other imaginative technological advances “that truly can make human life better.”
- Finally, P.J. Hill offered a marvelous overview describing the intersection between Christianity and economics. In a biblically grounded reflection, he offered helpful summaries of three new books worth referencing in forthcoming classroom lectures about the free enterprise system.
This faculty retreat was a first for the project, and it is something we anticipate replicating for a growing group of professors in the years ahead.
“You guys achieved something truly organic here,” said Jesse Rine, director of research and grant initiatives at the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities, who recently joined V&C’s faculty network. “Rather than talking one-way at the 27 professors and others who gathered, you combined top-notch instruction with ample time around tables for conversation—bringing faculty members in as full partners.”