Each summer, students leave the John Brown University campus and fan out across the world to pursue jobs, internships, summer classes, vacations and adventures galore. When they return, exciting news of these summer adventures wafts across campus like a refreshing breeze of excitement and opportunity.
But, have they ever wondered what professors do in the summer when the students are all gone?
This summer, many faculty members will be using the summer months to teach, hone their skills, research and serve communities around the world.
Some will have opportunities to travel because they are leading groups of students on study abroad programs such as the Ireland Studies program or the European Art Tour.
Others are pursuing research, teaching, service and scholarly presentation opportunities on their own by applying for a professional development grant from the University.
Tim Gilmour, assistant professor of Engineering and Construction Management, knows the political situation between North Korea and the United States is tense.
But, that is not stopping him from pursuing an opportunity to teach at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology for seven weeks this summer. He will be leaving on May 4, right after graduation.
Two years ago, when Gilmour was nearing the end of his Ph.D. program, he was searching the internet for universities in North Korea, a country he knew was closed to the gospel. As an engineering professor, he hoped he may have more access to entry into the country. That is when he found Pyongyang University.
Since then, Gilmore has been exploring this opportunity, and this summer he gets to go. This will be his first significant international teaching experience.
The North Korean government is trying to increase the technical expertise, so that is why they are very interested in this university. There not many universities there.
At PUST, the professors volunteer their time and receive room and board as compensation for their teaching. They must cover their own travel expenses, which is why Gilmour requested a small grant from John Brown to help cover those costs.
“I am grateful to JBU for their Faculty Summer Mini-Grant support, which will help pay for my airfare to North Korea,” Gilmour said.
Gilmour’s main task while in North Korea will be to teach a computer networking course to 34 students in an accelerated 5 lecture-per-week course.
He will be teaching concepts that are useful for commercial purposes, but not anything that he believes would be used against his own country.
“I am hoping that in the process of teaching engineering I can build friendships with the North Korean students and hopefully have some good conversations about significant things,” he said.
He aims to use the course he is developing to teach this summer as an engineering elective at John Brown in the future.
He would appreciate prayer support during his summer travels and for the country as a whole.
Several years ago, Charles Raith, assistant professor of religion and philosophy, had the opportunity to study at Jamaican Theological Seminary while he was a student at Beeson Divinity School.
Since then, the Jamaican Theological Seminary has established a campus called Southeastern Caribbean College on the island of St. Lucia.
This summer, Raith was invited to be a visiting scholar and teach a four-week course in theology at the college in St. Lucia.
He will also be working with the library to build their collection in theology, speaking at a few pastor leadership seminars and participating in local church outreach programs. He was told to expect to preach a few Sunday mornings at various churches in the area. His wife will be able to join him for a week on the island, as well.
“I’m very much looking forward to the opportunity to teach theology in a non-Western environment,” Raith said. “I expect the different cultural perspective that the students will bring to the class will enrich my own theology and provide fresh ways of approaching our common faith. I also look forward to interacting with other professors at the university, as well as learning about church life in St. Lucia.”
Raith hopes that the connections he builds this summer in St. Lucia will positively affect John Brown University in the future. A study abroad program on the island is a definite possibility.
“I think this is an exciting opportunity for JBU,” he said. “St. Lucians are friendly and hospitable people, and I think it will be a tremendous experience for JBU students to live, study and minister with Caribbean students at the college.”