Speaking with host Dan Hummel is guest Shirley Hoogstra, President of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, a higher education association of more than 185 Christian institutions world-wide. Rooted in the historic Christian faith, most member institutions focus on teaching the arts and sciences, and aim to grow students in integration of biblical faith and learning.

Learn about Shirley Hoogstra & CCCU

Read Shirley’s Contributions to Uncommon Ground: Living Faithfully in a World of Difference

With Faith in Mind is produced at Upper House in Madison, Wisconsin and hosted by Director of University Engagement Dan Hummel and Executive Director John Terrill. Jesse Koopman is the Executive Producer. Upper House is an initiative of the Stephen & Laurel Brown Foundation.

Transcript

00;00;05;07 - 00;00;32;02

Speaker 1

Hello and welcome to With Faith in Mind and our series on Christian education at the Crossroads. I'm Dan Hammel, the director of university engagement at Upper House and your host. Today, we're exploring the landscape of Christian higher education with one of its key institutional leaders, Shirley Hoogstra. Shirley is the president of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, a body that's existed for nearly 50 years and right now counts 140 Christian colleges and universities in the U.S. as members.

00;00;32;23 - 00;00;53;13

Speaker 1

Just a few more facts about Shirley before jumping in. She trained as a lawyer and spent more than a decade practicing law as a litigator before joining the ranks of Christian higher education. She served as Calvin University's vice president for student life from 1999 to 2014. And since 2014, she's been the seventh president of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities.

00;00;53;13 - 00;01;14;00

Speaker 1

We'll call that the CCCU in this conversation. And she's been serving in that role now for almost a decade, I guess. Great. Well, Shirley, before jumping in to talking about the CCCU I did want to ask just a more personal question or a question about your story, and that is how do you when people ask I'm sure they ask often how you became the president of.

00;01;14;00 - 00;01;26;08

Speaker 1

CCCU Was this something you wanted for much of your career, or is this something that sort of landed in your lap, so to speak? How do you tell the story of moving from law into into higher ed and then into this position you have now?

00;01;27;00 - 00;01;51;14

Speaker 2

Yeah, well, I would say that God is a God of surprises. So when you're on a vocational journey, it is almost 100% unlikely that what you start off with at some point in your life is where you end up with, especially today. That was very true for me. I graduated with an elementary ed degree and a special education concentration, and that was because I wanted to get a job.

00;01;52;00 - 00;02;18;08

Speaker 2

And back when I graduated, they were hiring teachers and I thought, Good, I'll have a paycheck. Subsequently got married, moved to New Jersey, taught school there for three years. And then my spouse, my husband moved and we moved because he got a residency at Yale New Haven Hospital up in New Haven, Connecticut. Now, who knew? But there was a teaching glut at that time in my life history.

00;02;18;08 - 00;02;36;04

Speaker 2

And so there were no jobs to to get hired in at New Haven, Connecticut. And so I knocked on doors and I said, hey, look, I'm going to organize, so be organized person. I could be a paralegal. What did I know? And someone hired me. In fact, Wiggin and Dana, the largest firm in New Haven, Connecticut, hired me to be a paralegal to work for Yale University.

00;02;36;17 - 00;02;53;16

Speaker 2

Now, if you don't think when you hear my whole story, that that's not just a little God moment. So I get to work for one year with Dorothy Robinson, one of the best general counsels in the United States, and I get to serve. And she said, Would you take a month to month job? I'm like, Yeah, because that's better than no job.

00;02;53;22 - 00;03;11;07

Speaker 2

Yeah. So I take a month of my job and not only that, what do we know about jobs? If you hire them, it's unlikely they're going to fire you because they can find something else. And not only that, lawsuits take a long time. I thought for sure I had a job for a year. Well, the lawsuit settled. And so here I am, almost unemployed again.

00;03;11;18 - 00;03;31;13

Speaker 2

Except Dorothy says, hey, no, you know what? You're this frugal kind of honest worker, and we got another job for you. We want you to investigate secret societies at Yale University. So I got to spend the next, you know, four or five months because there was a lawsuit against the secret societies. So I got to do the research on that.

00;03;31;13 - 00;03;55;11

Speaker 2

And lo and behold, I go to law school. I end up working at a wonderful firm called Jacob's Grover Belton. Diallo is a litigator. I grew up, as I say, in New Haven, Connecticut. I love the law. I love the rule of law. And I loved helping people. Then God says, you don't even know this, surely. But about 20 years from now, there's going to be an opening at the CDC.

00;03;55;11 - 00;04;14;15

Speaker 2

You and they're going to need a lawyer who's been a campus leader. So you guess, well, I'm going to pick you up. I'm going to change your profession. You're not going to be a lawyer anymore. You're going to go be a higher ed administrator in student life. Now, the most thing I had had done, student life would have been I was like a super R.A. But that was a while ago.

00;04;14;23 - 00;04;38;06

Speaker 2

But I did love student life, and I had an incredible staff. I had some transferable skills and I was there for 15 years. And the place that educated me and everything I needed to know about higher education was the CCCU and I volunteered at the CCCU. I went to their conferences, they became my friends. They taught me what I needed to know as long as they incredible staff at Kelvin University.

00;04;38;19 - 00;04;58;05

Speaker 2

And then in 2014, I'm at a conference of the CCCU and they needed a president and people came up to me and said, You should apply for that job. And I'm like, Well, not really. I think I might have finished my career at Kelvin University. And not only that, they all they always hire presidents to take that job.

00;04;58;05 - 00;05;20;21

Speaker 2

And I'm not a president, I'm a vice president. And lo and behold, you have to be in Washington, D.C. to take that job. But I was living somewhere else. Well, God had other plans. I interviewed. I got the job. I love the job. In fact, I am doing six cylinders on a six cylinder engine in this job. And again, God put it all together.

00;05;20;26 - 00;05;38;09

Speaker 2

And that's why I tell folks I do graduation speeches quite a bit and I say to graduates, Do not worry, say yes to the things God puts in your pathway. Believe that he will equip you, trust in him when you feel afraid, and he will give you the ride of your life.

00;05;40;01 - 00;06;00;19

Speaker 1

I'm so glad I asked for this for that story, and I think I think that wisdom you ended with really resonates for many of the students that we see at Upper House, too, who are and maybe that's even different. I'm a little older, but I was in college about 15 years ago and even then I didn't have a huge plan and and things.

00;06;00;19 - 00;06;17;10

Speaker 1

It definitely didn't work out. Like if I did have a plan, well, they would have. But students today often come into UW, at least with a very strong sense of what they need to do for the until they're 40 or something. Right. And that can close off some really interesting opportunities. I think your story is one of those opportunities.

00;06;17;10 - 00;06;17;20

Speaker 1

So.

00;06;17;22 - 00;06;43;00

Speaker 2

Well, it's a rearview mirror philosophy, right? So if you say I am open to what God has for me, and I will believe even in hard circumstances, that he must have a purpose for these experiences, then you will you will more likely than not most days, then not feel that you are doing something purposeful for the work of God in the world.

00;06;43;18 - 00;07;04;28

Speaker 1

Mm hmm. Very good. Well, I do want to get to the cue that that was a good entree to that for I imagine there are listeners here who know about, you know, certain Christian colleges, maybe famous ones like Wheaton or or others, but they may even have heard of the CCCU How do you describe it? What's its mission?

00;07;04;28 - 00;07;09;21

Speaker 1

What is it? What are the functions? What's the value to members? What's your sort of elevator pitch?

00;07;10;15 - 00;07;42;01

Speaker 2

We are a member service organization and we do things together that they could not do on their own. So for instance, we do a lot of advocacy work, which is telling the story of Christian higher education to people who make rules about us. So in Congress, they make rules about housing, food, Title nine. There's a lot of rules in the executive branch, the Department of Ed, Department of Justice, HUD.

00;07;42;08 - 00;08;15;04

Speaker 2

They make a lot of rules about Christian colleges in all colleges. And and so we tell the story there and then in the courts, there's a lot of cases that come down where there might be a question about religious mission or whether you can hire and fire, whether you're exempt from some of the rules that Congress promulgates. So we are in there with amicus briefs and we try to do, again, things that individual campuses cannot do.

00;08;15;04 - 00;08;34;00

Speaker 2

So we are efficient for people. We try to make their jobs lighter. And then in a so that's the advocacy part. Then we do professional development. Who's going to be the next vice president? Who's going to be the next president? How do we become better at our job? We do a lot of integration of faith and learning work, so we do key leader conferences.

00;08;34;00 - 00;08;55;01

Speaker 2

And then lastly, I don't know about you, but sometimes the press doesn't fully understand about the entities they write about. And so we try to make sure that we're really good communicators with the media, print, social, even a podcast like this, in order to just clarify what it is that Christian colleges universities do.

00;08;56;01 - 00;09;11;13

Speaker 1

And this is sort of implicit in what you just said, but you're located in Washington, D.C. right now. What's your normal I know month or year? Like, are you mostly in D.C.? Are you traveling around to member colleges? What does it look like to be the president?

00;09;12;01 - 00;09;32;29

Speaker 2

Yeah, Thank you. I wish I knew. You know, I'll tell you what. I'll tell you what what it kind of looks like, because what I love about the job is it's just so varied. But in the three pillar areas, which I just described, advocacy, professional development and telling the story of Christian immigration, I spend every day probably touching in all three of those areas.

00;09;33;07 - 00;09;57;15

Speaker 2

It could be in the office, so it could be recently I was in the Senate gallery watching a vote on some legislation that we had been part of. It could be talking to member campuses about questions they have or actually visiting member campuses. That's a sort of professional development. We are going to have a conference for presidents in the beginning of January.

00;09;57;15 - 00;10;16;19

Speaker 2

We have a conference for key leaders and Destin, Florida in February. And then I, I do a lot of networking with both partners, friends, allies to say, how can we serve you and how can a relationship with you serve our members?

00;10;17;27 - 00;10;36;17

Speaker 1

Very interesting. I want to ask a bit about the history of the CCCU. I I'm a historian myself, so, you know, often that's one of the first couple questions I ask about anything is sort of where did this come from and why did it sort of emerge? I know very basic details about the course history. It was founded in 1976.

00;10;36;25 - 00;10;53;24

Speaker 1

It was much smaller than than it is now. How do you understand the history? What's the sort of reason the CCCU came about? And maybe we can start there and maybe in its early years, sort of was it doing all the things it was doing now, or is that changed over time?

00;10;56;27 - 00;11;25;07

Speaker 2

College presidents We're finding that even in 1976 that their jobs were getting more difficult and they looked around and said, hey, if we're going to go to Congress and say, look, you should increase the Pell Grant, if we're going to go to Congress and say the Charitable Giving Act, which is really interfering with a small donor, is not a good idea.

00;11;25;21 - 00;11;55;15

Speaker 2

You could have everybody in an unorganized fashion go one off to do that sort of thing. Or you could say, what if we paid a little bit of dues? We hired a couple of people in Washington and they then represented all of us on our common issues. And so back in 1976, 30 campuses got together. They built pooled their money, They rented a little place here in Washington, D.C. They hired great people, just a small staff.

00;11;56;03 - 00;12;27;17

Speaker 2

And then that small staff at the time said, hey, you know, we could get a grant and that would help our through the Eyes of Faith publication that we're doing. And they did that. Hey, you know what? 50 years ago, campuses were having a hard time doing semester study abroad. So they started the Oxford program. They started a program in Costa Rica and in Jordan and in Washington, D.C., and then students from all the campuses could come and have a semester away from campus.

00;12;27;17 - 00;12;55;08

Speaker 2

We call it, you know, we now call it just study way to study abroad. And that was really meaningful to our campuses. They also started a magazine. It was kind of a pamphlet. Remember that word pamphlet? They had a pamphlet that would just keep people informed. Well, there was a low bar of entry in terms of cost. And there were a couple of things, though, that made everybody have similar interest.

00;12;55;08 - 00;13;14;13

Speaker 2

The first one is that you have to have a Christian mission. The second thing that you had to hire all Christian faculty, the third that you had to be in a regionally accredited. Of course, now that's nationally accredited, but regionally accredited, you had to pull for the other schools to you couldn't talk badly about other Christian schools, sort of like, hey, we're really Christian.

00;13;16;02 - 00;13;43;10

Speaker 2

And and then you had to want to have Christian formation as an integral part of your educational endeavor. So those are the sort of the principles involved, what make members similar and that those principles remain today. And our advocacy work has multiplied by four. Our media relations has multiplied. Our key leader development. That's pretty much stayed the same.

00;13;43;10 - 00;13;58;06

Speaker 2

And we still have excellent programs in Oxford and in Jordan and in Washington DC and Christian studies students could come to those semester programs if they wanted to have a really incredible experience with the integration of Faith and learning.

00;13;58;06 - 00;14;06;18

Speaker 1

Months And you mentioned that there were 30 original members of the CCCU and now it's, you know, well over a hundred.

00;14;07;04 - 00;14;11;01

Speaker 2

What was it, 4140 in the U.S. and 185 around the world.

00;14;11;15 - 00;14;21;22

Speaker 1

Yeah. So where is that growth come from? Is it just more. Yeah, I don't even know what I don't even want to guess. Is it just who's who's joined in the last, you know, 50 years.

00;14;22;10 - 00;14;49;15

Speaker 2

The CCCU Well, the most of the campuses existed. They just didn't know that there would be so many benefits from banding together. So the growth was pretty was has always been up. So you know then another 1012 and a person in my role would have gone out and talked to different campuses, talked to boards to say, hey, I think there are a lot of benefits here.

00;14;50;00 - 00;15;12;12

Speaker 2

And then the benefits of the association just keep kept growing. Like we have an insurance consortium, A KTM is our cost sharing online consortium. We have a tuition exchange so that people can go for free to different campuses. So if you're at a tailor and you wanted to go to Wheaton, you can make an exchange there. It's not unlimited, but it's really important.

00;15;12;24 - 00;15;44;21

Speaker 2

So all of those all of those member services started to accumulate and then people actually come to us and say, we would like to be a member. And the growth from 30, I would say the 90 happened over the first 20 years and the growth from 90 to 140, you know, was that next set of years because we got the majority of folks at first and then, you know, like the Concordia institutions, of course, you get looser institutions.

00;15;44;21 - 00;15;55;07

Speaker 2

They're newer, newer members because they had such a strong Concordia identifier ID, Concordia Lutheran schools. But now they they see the benefit of being part of this issue.

00;15;55;18 - 00;16;37;26

Speaker 1

Yeah, makes a lot of sense. One of our interest in the series is to think about all aspects of Christian education, higher education being a very prominent one, but not the only one. And I just wondered, how do you see the role of Christian colleges and universities in relation to other types of Christian education? And, you know, the big ones here might be education people would receive in their church, in their primary schooling for those who go to, you know, Christian K-through-12 and then other things like Campus Ministries and Christian study centers and other Do you do you have conversations about sort of the broader ecosystem of Christian education and how Christian colleges and universities

00;16;37;26 - 00;16;38;12

Speaker 1

fit into it?

00;16;39;08 - 00;17;07;14

Speaker 2

Yeah, that's a great question. Thanks, Dad. Well, first of all, God uses every single one of those entities to further his purpose. And what he wants is for people to have a heart that's closest to his heart. And that's a journey kind of question. And let's just take the journey metaphor. Who you journey with is really important for your your growth as a believer.

00;17;09;04 - 00;17;40;08

Speaker 2

That time you get to spend thinking about the heart of God and what interests him is a factor in how much you want to dedicate your experiences to that endeavor. The mentors you have, right? So if you're in a campus ministry, a campus ministry or Christian Studies Center, you're going to get great mentors, you're going to have good peers, you're going to have excellent conversations.

00;17;40;08 - 00;18;13;22

Speaker 2

So that's very similar. In a Christian college. You just have more of it. And so I love the synergies between the the study centers, the Christian ministries like University and CRU. And I love the fact that some individuals are drawn to have a completely immersive experience. So you have all Christian faculty and you have peers that have some similar commitments in a Christian college.

00;18;14;14 - 00;18;34;17

Speaker 2

The practices of faith can be developed in some ways with just a larger group. I think the quality of individuals in a Christian ministry or at a Christian studies center probably match 1 to 1 then in in a Christian college. Think about it, just on steroids.

00;18;34;26 - 00;18;52;20

Speaker 1

Mm hmm. And there's a there's a I guess maybe to fill that out. There's like an institutional dimension to that, Right? That's that sort of permeates the the student experience, for sure. But even the faculty and administrative experience.

00;18;52;28 - 00;19;19;24

Speaker 2

Yeah. What about this? Can we can we talk about that a little bit? Because one of the things there are such excellent Christian faculty in secular institutions and students have good role models through them. One of the things that I think Christian scholars and Christian colleges universities are able to do is have no cap, no obstacle for that scholarship that they want to do for the time it takes for the conversations they have with peers.

00;19;19;24 - 00;19;43;24

Speaker 2

Right. But I think that Christian college scholars have something to export to the other larger sort of Christian scholarship world. Wherever scholars find themselves. And then I got to overlay this with the Holy Spirit. So people are led. If you if you're if you're a Christian and you say, hey, look, I want to go to the University of Wisconsin.

00;19;43;24 - 00;20;03;17

Speaker 2

They've got a great Christian science center there. They've also got InterVarsity. And you feel like that's a good place for me. I say to people, don't doubt the Holy Spirit's leading, because maybe the conversations you're going to have, the people you meet, are unique to your God story. And then there are folks that say, Boy, I would have been in it.

00;20;03;26 - 00;20;23;26

Speaker 2

I've been in a secular high school all my life. I would just love to have no obstacles. Freedom of conversation. You know, I'd like to go to a Christian college to do that, or God just has a plan for them to to grow up their faith, to deepen their outlook and worldview, to meet the people they're supposed to meet.

00;20;23;26 - 00;20;47;20

Speaker 2

So this is all Holy Spirit driven. And I would say if you're a Christian in any of those places, be intentional. Whether it's a Christian college, you can kind of surf through that, right? You can surf through University of Wisconsin and just dabble. Or you could just really dig in to the ministry that's at your doorstep and make the best of your life.

00;20;48;29 - 00;21;20;20

Speaker 1

Thanks for that. Yeah. And I think of the the you talk about there's no cap at a Christian, you know, sort of Christian college context. And I think about our work here at Upper House and how we we work with so many faculty who really enjoy UW. Not many of them are looking to leave actually. And there's so many advantages to it, particularly in certain fields, to the resources that a place like particularly in the arts sciences to being able to, you know, teach massive, massive classrooms.

00;21;20;20 - 00;21;49;29

Speaker 1

I don't know if anyone actually likes doing that, but that's something you can do here too, to definitely have very diverse students who come from which which. CCCU schools also have people coming from all around the world, from all different faith perspectives and everything, but it is a very diverse context here at Madison. But there's always this question of particularly in the realm of scholarship and even in service, and how they relate to their departmental colleagues and how they relate to the institution there.

00;21;49;29 - 00;22;09;24

Speaker 1

Are you know, boundaries there that in part that's because we're a public institution. And so there are certain standards around that. But it's also because it's a it's a not an institution that commits to the same things that the CU School does in terms of its mission. And so, you know, there are there are all these tradeoffs, I guess is what I want to say.

00;22;09;24 - 00;22;26;17

Speaker 1

And and I think places like Upper House are, you know, sort of find themselves and on the campus of a major public university because we're trying to fill that gap that at a Christian college maybe isn't there because because as we've talked about, that's sort of built into what the institution is all about.

00;22;27;01 - 00;22;53;09

Speaker 2

Well, then I never doubt your calling right. So the calling of a of a a state school, a faculty member who is a man or woman of faith, you you have a opportunity to be Jesus in a way that's different than the Christian college faculty member who also wants to do that. But I love the the plus of that description.

00;22;53;09 - 00;23;22;04

Speaker 2

And then the same way with with the Christian Studies Center, you're at the cross section of a really important purpose. And that ecosystem of Christian higher education is just that. It is a large it's not siloed. It is something that works together to just create some of the best oxygen you could hope for.

00;23;23;12 - 00;23;43;01

Speaker 1

Just to circle around on the last part of this question, also talk about the churches. So how do you see Christian colleges? And this might be I don't know if anyone's asked you this sort of how do churches and particularly I think of my church that has sort of adult education for in various ways, none of it sort of credential or anything.

00;23;43;13 - 00;23;53;04

Speaker 1

But is there a do you see a pipeline or sort of an ecosystem connection between what churches are doing in their setting and what Christian colleges are trying to do?

00;23;53;28 - 00;24;24;10

Speaker 2

I love that question because it's a it's like hand-in-glove and for the denominational higher education institutions that I represent. So Nazarene Wesleyan reformed some ways of God for just to name a few those denominations, let's say 150 years ago. Most of my institutions are 150 years, some a little older, some a little younger, but 150 years. Well, that was a long time ago.

00;24;25;13 - 00;24;56;07

Speaker 2

And people needed to be educated. And they and they really thought that the churches could be the the seed bearing institutions that got that started. And they really relied on the church for resources, for seminary faculty, for other learned individuals. Okay. So now 150 years, I would say that it's fair to say, based on the research that churches are in a place of stress.

00;24;57;28 - 00;25;22;14

Speaker 2

And so the colleges, they didn't go back 150 years ago that the colleges could be this resource to the church in terms of scholarship teaching good church members thoughtfully and theologically trained. Right. So there's it's this ebb and flow that has happened between the colleges and their birthing denominations.

00;25;22;26 - 00;25;40;07

Speaker 1

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Okay. I want to sort of moving to you just talk about some of the, you know, point of crisis in the in the churches acknowledge, you know, we're in a moment of tension. We're talking this series is called Christian Education at the Crossroads. And we use that crossroads metaphor to mean a bunch of different things.

00;25;40;07 - 00;26;00;07

Speaker 1

But one of them is that there are a number of challenges facing higher education in general and Christian higher education in particular. And so I just wanted to run through a couple of the hot topics and just let you talk about them. Let's discuss them the first and this is in no particular order is just how they came to mind.

00;26;00;07 - 00;26;34;10

Speaker 1

The first would be through the financial structure of higher education, and that can mean a lot of different things. The cost for students, the cost for running a university, the desire to expand the student body into groups that are less advantaged economically, and what that means for higher education. As the president of the. CCCU How do you think about and there's so many other dimensions to finances, how do you think about Christian higher education and sort of its its current state as financially?

00;26;34;27 - 00;27;17;08

Speaker 2

Yeah. So we just got McKinsey report to say that 50% of Christian college governing members in the CCRC have grown and 50% have gotten smaller. Now that's it can be getting smaller by one student or 500 students, and it can grow from ten students to thousands of students. So it's right down the middle, 5050. Now, the financially the good thing about Christian education is that they the tuition is 50% I'm sorry, is 25% less than the peer related, also nonprofit.

00;27;17;25 - 00;27;54;28

Speaker 2

So that makes it more affordable. And Christian colleges universities have really excellent scholarship funding that's not grant related or Pell related, but is what we call institutional funding. So that's that's a really important factor. That being said, the model of formal fashion, that's what happens in the college rate them at the best. It's formation that's a high touch endeavor.

00;27;54;28 - 00;28;30;07

Speaker 2

That's faculty to student ratio and and people are of course centers, right? So you've got pensions and insurance and some office space and etc.. So there's a lot of conversation about how, again, we we can go from doing everything one off to shared expenses. So that's a new conversation like back of the House, shared expenses. Are there shared expenses in it, perhaps marketing, perhaps the business office, food service, you know, those kinds of things.

00;28;31;12 - 00;29;00;26

Speaker 2

And we do not have schools closing within our 140 U.S. institutions covered was both a plus and a minus so that the COVID relief funds that we're given by Congress were so critical to the well-being of the campuses, but also the giant pivot to the way in which courses are delivered and and can be hybrid. They could be fully online, they could be fully in-person.

00;29;01;25 - 00;29;05;03

Speaker 2

There are some silver linings to those sorts of things.

00;29;05;29 - 00;29;27;15

Speaker 1

How do you think about that core mission of formation and online teaching or this this new way of delivery? Like is that something that is it or there conversations about that where I guess in the most basic sense, can you inform people? Well, if it's all online, but I know there's there's gradations to that. But yeah, is that part of the conversation?

00;29;27;15 - 00;29;35;19

Speaker 1

I imagine that might be a little different in the Christian higher ed space than in the higher ed space. More generally, though, there's a version of that conversation in general, higher ed as well.

00;29;36;19 - 00;30;29;03

Speaker 2

Yeah. You know, I think that Fareed Zakaria had a quote that said higher education is to help students think, well, right, well, move through life, create a noble life. So think about that. Speaking in writing and the character formation and then bringing that all together into a noble life that is a three dimensional process, you know? So if you have online classes that have a three dimensional nature to them, either great conversations, great participation, experience, real opportunities, I think you can do it if you have a sort of a one dimensional online course, you're not going to get that outcome of the noble life.

00;30;29;03 - 00;30;53;17

Speaker 2

The fruit of the spirit influenced life. So I would certainly say that you can get quality education through a multitude of delivery systems. You I would also go on record to say that unless you have the mentorship and the role models of faculty, staff and peers, it's not going to be as good.

00;30;54;02 - 00;31;23;24

Speaker 1

Yeah, that aligns well with how we think about things here as a as a sort of of landed Christian studies. And are we really value right in person as well. Yeah. And another challenge for higher ed and maybe particularly for Christian higher ed is sort of the demographic future of college aged students. And we know about that here in Wisconsin in part because UW Madison is part of a larger UW system which has more than I don't even want to hazard a guess, at least a dozen schools in it.

00;31;24;10 - 00;31;44;27

Speaker 1

And there's been a lot of conversation in the legislature, just in higher ed circles about the future of that system based on the sort of demographic projections of Wisconsin kids who are going to be college age want to go to college. I know that's probably a conversation that Christian colleges are having as well, and then they're sort of on top of that.

00;31;44;27 - 00;32;08;10

Speaker 1

The demographic shifts in religious affiliation and the declining mind in young, particularly younger people identifying as Christian. So, yeah, What do you make of that sort of demographic challenge? You just mentioned that half of the CCCU schools are growing, so it sounds like it's not entirely negative. GRAMMER But it has to be something you talk about a lot.

00;32;08;25 - 00;32;33;26

Speaker 2

Well, if we don't say here on this panel, on this podcast, the phrase demographic cliff, we would not be in the running, right? Okay. So yeah, we do have a shifting population, as you've described. And I think you've talked about a couple of both that shifting in terms of number of people and it's shifting in terms of beliefs that people hold right?

00;32;36;03 - 00;33;10;08

Speaker 2

So what has happened is that the schools that are clearest about their distinctive are growing and Christian higher education has a real distinctive. And the one I've heard David Brooks, columnist, writer, PBS commentator, we all know him. He teaches a class at an elite institution. And he says at that elite institution, the big spiritual questions are always on the students minds.

00;33;10;18 - 00;33;37;16

Speaker 2

So he could be teaching about happiness. He could be teaching about character. But when he has office hours and people know that he's a person of faith, and this happened with Russell Moore, this also happened with Arthur Brooks. So three that they both taught at three elite secular institutions. And to a person, they said students wanted to come in and talk about the existential questions.

00;33;38;19 - 00;33;56;17

Speaker 2

Right. And that's because we're human. And that's because I believe that all of us are looking for meaning and purpose. And the big questions are the things that you hope to be able to discuss in your college years, whether they're undergrad or graduate. That's why the study center is so important. That's why university and crew are so important.

00;33;57;04 - 00;34;27;23

Speaker 2

The benefit at a Christian college is that as a question that can come up any time, you don't have to wait for that faculty member to ask that question. But all of us can can access people to talk to about those questions. I think that doesn't really matter if beliefs are decreasing. I think those are human questions. So whether you're attending a church or whether you have a label doesn't really vanquish the existential questions.

00;34;27;23 - 00;34;57;18

Speaker 2

I know. And I think that Christian colleges will always be a place that is appealing. If they can be clear about the fact that there is no question that can't be asked. So that's one of the beauties of that. In fact, the Nesi, the National Survey for Student Engagement just in 2022 indicates that the Christian college classrooms, there's more diverse conversations that any other both private and public institutions.

00;34;58;09 - 00;35;24;10

Speaker 2

And and that's a really interesting fact. There's a maybe some people think that, oh, there's a limit on what you can really ask because there's so some sort of religious I'm just going to use a word again, obstacle. You can only ask the right questions, but that's not true. And there's probably less political correctness at a Christian college campus.

00;35;24;10 - 00;35;35;21

Speaker 2

So you could say, well, I've got this question about the afterlife or whatever. So that's let me just let's stop there and see what your thoughts are about that.

00;35;35;29 - 00;36;24;15

Speaker 1

Yeah, And that makes a lot of sense. And I think that answers a lot of or, you know, it's a potential answer to how Christian colleges can whether the declining identification with Christianity among younger students say you don't have to be a Christian to be there. This could be a very open intellectual space for for anybody. How have you seen Christian colleges and universities address the maybe just the numbers game or how how how do Christian college universities sort of try to attract new students, students that may be first generation students or or otherwise, the students that, you know, sort of having considered Christian colleges before, I'm just thinking in in the in the in

00;36;24;15 - 00;36;41;08

Speaker 1

the conversation around Wisconsin, it's really I mean, part of it is less about even, you know, how can we convince more students to come it's that there are just going to be fewer students. Yeah they're just that just demographically and so how do Christian colleges think about that?

00;36;43;11 - 00;37;04;13

Speaker 2

I'll just add this. This is just higher Ed, one on one. Yeah. You have to broaden who your customer is. And I'm using words that, of course, don't go with the normal life. We're talking about a customer now, but the customer concept is there are 70 million Americans who have not completed their college degree. So they've started but not completed.

00;37;05;01 - 00;37;47;17

Speaker 2

There are many, many businesses. And we you know, the competition is becoming Google and Microsoft, etc.. There are many, many businesses that would like to have a workforce that has a certain set of do skills. And so that 70 million non graduated American adults or adults that have not started a college degree, but their employer says, hey, Campus X, Y and Z is going to partner with us and we're going to pay for your certificate, we're going to pay for your job skills, change a set of courses.

00;37;48;17 - 00;37;57;06

Speaker 2

So the first thing is you got to think more broadly about who are your potential students and people that have done that and started that ten years ago. Are weathering the demographic.

00;37;57;06 - 00;37;58;03

Speaker 1

Cliff Yeah.

00;37;58;14 - 00;38;26;18

Speaker 2

Yeah. And then the the again, to the definition, what do you have to offer the family? Because often undergrad is a family decision. The family that's looking for values, character, flexibility and price. I heard like in California, there was a time when you might start one of the California state schools, but because of the press for classes, it would take you six years to graduate because you just couldn't get all your classes in.

00;38;27;00 - 00;38;39;24

Speaker 2

MM Well that is. And you can graduate in four years from one of the CCCU institutions because there's, it's just a smaller pool that you're dealing with.

00;38;40;20 - 00;38;48;11

Speaker 1

Okay. So that makes a lot of sense. I actually am I, I haven't heard this before with you, Shirley, but my family is very linked into Biola.

00;38;48;24 - 00;38;49;03

Speaker 2

Okay?

00;38;49;03 - 00;39;14;06

Speaker 1

You know, before my dad just retired from there after being in the administration for many years, and I have two siblings who went there. So I actually actually know the comparing the class sort of load at Biola with I had a sister who tried to do a non Biola public schooling and had a hugely difficult time finding classes that she can actually fit into, which I was just not familiar with until she went through that.

00;39;14;17 - 00;39;38;28

Speaker 1

Yeah, I want to raise one more challenge that is facing Christian higher ed and that is the sort of legal challenges to Christian higher ed. Often this is what makes the headlines. There's, you know, news out of DC that Congress is thinking of some new law or the Department of Education is thinking of some new policy that's going to negatively affect Christian colleges and universities.

00;39;39;24 - 00;39;55;17

Speaker 1

How do you when when you have to sort of talk on this, what are you mostly talking about? Like what are the issues that are most commonly coming up and how do you see how do you see sort of the work of the CCCU two in that conversation?

00;39;56;02 - 00;40;28;10

Speaker 2

Yeah, that's something that I'm really involved in a lot. And as a lawyer, God is equipped me in this rearview mirror kind of way to to think about the legal challenges. I think of legal challenges as opportunities to always be reviewing how we're doing as a as faith based institutions. Are we worthy of the protections that the Constitution gives us under the First Amendment?

00;40;29;05 - 00;41;03;22

Speaker 2

Are we worthy of the exemptions that we get out of Title nine, Title seven, the right to hire and are we worthy of the protections that courts will give religious mission? And so that's just a when you're challenged, you have to say to yourself, hey, look, can we can we make the case that government should not be making our policies and interfering with our practices because we're doing them honorably, We're applying things fairly.

00;41;03;22 - 00;41;30;06

Speaker 2

So that's how I think about legal challenges. The second thing is we live in a pluralistic society and a diverse society as as believers in Jesus Christ. We have to want to have protections for all faith, right? This is not just the Christian faith. This is about sincerely held religious beliefs. And so the CCCU has a coalition of religious liberty partners.

00;41;30;06 - 00;41;56;10

Speaker 2

It includes the Orthodox Jewish Union, the Seventh Day Adventists, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Catholics, Protestants, because we again, we want to be worthy of the protections the Constitution said were necessary for a really vibrant America. And we look, you know, we look in our international schools, they don't necessarily enjoy the same freedoms and protections that we receive.

00;41;57;05 - 00;42;30;00

Speaker 2

The key that one of the key things and that is the ability to hire. So if you have a Christian mission and you we legally discriminate in order to have people believe the same beliefs. Now, if you're the Audubon Society, for instance, you want to hire people that believe in the goodness and worth of birds. Right. And so if you you're not going to maybe hire the person that says, well, boy, they just seem so expendable, those birds, what in the world?

00;42;30;27 - 00;42;57;02

Speaker 2

And the same thing happens when you hire for a we are advertising that you will have a faith integrated educational experience and the people who deliver that are going to be people who believe not just can teach, but actually believe in the the the beauty of the gospel, the authority of Scripture, and that Christ has claims on our lives.

00;42;57;14 - 00;43;14;23

Speaker 2

So those are the kinds of things that we're always watching. Is there any encroachment on our ability to hire and how about the ability to continue to have funding because of religious beliefs? So we want to be worthy and we want to be vigilant very helpful.

00;43;15;08 - 00;43;30;09

Speaker 1

Would you say the question of hiring just if you could have a pie chart of represent 100% of your time as you're talking to legislators now, is that sort of the one that dominates the pie chart or what else fills out the pie chart of the hiring?

00;43;32;13 - 00;44;04;02

Speaker 2

Well, it's so the hiring question is is almost settled in terms of we've had some really Hosanna Tabor is a recent case that really settled that Christian mission. Government should not interfere with the hiring or the termination of individuals. Now you have to use that wisely, right? So you don't want to fire unfairly because it's a pretty big blanket exception to that.

00;44;04;22 - 00;44;45;18

Speaker 2

So another area of that religious mission has exemptions from the law is Title nine, and Title nine is the Office of Civil Rights. It's it has to do with women's sports. It has to do with so regulations, etc.. And so that exemption, we just had a win in that case just recently in the Hunter versus Department of Education case, the judge dismissed the plaintiff's case who said that that religious exemption in Title nine violated the First Amendment.

00;44;45;18 - 00;44;54;19

Speaker 2

And the judge said, no, it doesn't. The Constitution said that America is best when religious organizations get to practice their faith fully.

00;44;56;21 - 00;45;23;17

Speaker 1

Very interesting. Well, thanks for sharing about the sort of round that the full circle of that work. I want to just end with a question asking you to just think about the future and you can either answer this as what you think will happen or what you hope will happen depending on your personality. I think you know. But what do you think will happen or hope will happen to see you schools as a collective in the next couple of decades, say 20 years?

00;45;25;00 - 00;45;27;20

Speaker 1

Yeah. What what are you anticipating? What are you hoping for?

00;45;28;29 - 00;45;58;02

Speaker 2

Well, I would like to get a grant to do the kind of work that maybe you're familiar with. Veritas. Yes. So I think they are just a great organization. And Veritas is working with Christian scholars on secular campuses to them as fruitful and as supported as possible. And I would like to see Christian scholars at Christian college campuses have that same sort of support.

00;45;58;12 - 00;46;32;15

Speaker 2

And nurturing because there's such a pull on faculty lives. Right. Right. They have to teach more. They have to advise more. They have to write more. And there we have to as an association, I want to be very intentional about seeing where I can, and our organization can find outside support to make sure that that Christian scholar has as big a amplified voice as possible.

00;46;33;03 - 00;47;03;19

Speaker 2

So that that would be something I'd hope for. Another thing that I would hope for is that the the business model of higher education as a whole, you know, we have a really cohesive group of 147 and 100, 140, but that is a very cohesive group. And I think that we should be able to offer some creativity to the larger higher education sector because we don't have to worry so much about so many differences.

00;47;03;29 - 00;47;30;18

Speaker 2

We can we can actually sort of speed train this conversation on what are good models economic models for higher education. And then thirdly, we recently received a grant from the M.J. Murdoch Trust to work with adjunct communities. So we know that part of the financial model is in fact the adjunct community that provides more and more of the teaching function.

00;47;31;19 - 00;48;02;00

Speaker 2

And yet they are nascent in that breadth and scope. And it used to be sort of one off. But our grant is to work with institutions and adjunct faculty to say, how could we make your teaching more life giving and how could we make the experience for you and the organization better? How can you be less of a peripheral member and, more of a valued member?

00;48;02;10 - 00;48;26;12

Speaker 2

You know, they're never going to be full time that that they could very well be full time tenured faculty at somewhere. But one, they're adjunctive, they're not. Right. And so instead of being a that's not thought of as intentionally, our grant is going to give us a pilot program to see if we can learn something about how to build up this adjunct community.

00;48;27;18 - 00;48;56;24

Speaker 1

Well, that last one is very interesting. And I you mentioned wanting the CCCU to be sort of a test case for the broader higher education world. I think if you can figure out a way to raise the profile of adjunct faculty, that's something that obviously is mass, a massive issue in higher education more broadly and probably is even, you know, more acute at much larger institutions where the scales are just even higher in terms of the number of of classes being taught by adjuncts.

00;48;56;24 - 00;49;01;16

Speaker 1

So that sounds very interesting, very sort of cutting edge work there. So.

00;49;01;24 - 00;49;23;03

Speaker 2

Well, that's that's why the trust, I think, entrusted with the funds to do it because they said it's it really is groundbreaking. Yeah. And again because of our cohesiveness but with similar kinds of experiences as the broader world of higher education, how can we be a blessing to our sector?

00;49;24;05 - 00;49;34;04

Speaker 1

Yeah, well, thank you, Shirley. Thank you for your time. Thank you for your leadership. I guess it's been a pleasure to talk to you and thanks for coming on the podcast.

00;49;34;19 - 00;49;44;06

Speaker 2

Why you were so kind to invite me and I, I it is my hope that you will find your calling that you do so well to be a blessing to you.

00;49;45;03 - 00;49;45;23

Speaker 1

Great. Thank you.

00;49;46;02 - 00;49;46;19

Speaker 2

You're welcome.

00;49;48;26 - 00;50;14;29

Speaker 1

Thanks for joining us. If you've enjoyed today's podcast, be sure to subscribe and give us a rating on your favorite podcast app. Also, be sure to check out our upcoming events on Upper House dot org and our other podcast UpWords, where we dig deeper into the topics our in-house guests are passionate about With Faith in Mind is supported by the Stephen and Laurel Brown Foundation is produced at Upper House in Madison, Wisconsin, hosted by Dan Hummel and John Terrill.

00;50;15;02 - 00;50;22;13

Speaker 1

Our executive producer and editor is Jesse Koopman. Please follow us on social media with the handle at Upper House, UW.