As the nation in general, and institutions of higher education in particular, navigate the uncharted waters into which we have all been tossed, the mission of a Christ-centered university becomes more important than ever. Just a month ago, our students were focused on completing mid-term exams and then perhaps a restful week at the beach or Disney World. When they left campus for spring break, life was good. Almost overnight, their isolated sense of security melted away as their courses, finances, campus living arrangements, freedom of travel and, even in some cases, the health of themselves or their families, were abruptly transformed. Now we have students spread out literally around the world who are, at best anxious and, at worst, terribly frightened.
It is in this setting that an institution like the University of Mobile has the unique chance to rise to the occasion and show, not just that we can maintain a strong academic program, but also the love of Christ. It is interesting that several companies have already starting surveying university and high school students to see how their attitudes and expectations have been affected by the current crisis. Many are saying things like they value an institution’s ability to provide caring mentoring. They rank items like “The professors and staff care about me as a person” very high in their desired attributes. What an opportunity for us distinguish ourselves.
How then, do we position ourselves in this time of upheaval? I heard a pastor recently ask, “Do we give up or do we look up?” At UM, we are making a conscious effort to show our students that, just because they are not physically on campus, they are still a part of a caring family. Our faculty and staff are going to great lengths to stay in contact with, and minister to, students. One advantage of a small to mid-size Christian institution is that this is a manageable task. If one of the “family’ is hurting, we know it quickly and respond. In addition to our classes, we have done remote chapel services, prayer groups, and Bible studies. As hard as it is sometimes for academics to realize, at this particular moment, a student understandably might be facing pressures beyond what we can comprehend.
Finally, as the president of a Christ-centered university, it is my role to reassure our students, faculty and staff that our God is faithful. The same God who is with us on the mountaintop is faithful while we temporarily walk through a valley. The greatest advantage institutions such as ours have is the liberty of sharing our faith and hope with those who are struggling. I constantly think of the question that Mordecai asked Queen Esther. Who knows, but that we have been called for such a time as this?