I’m paying my dues to my alma mater. I’m back in my Lookout Mountain stomping grounds, reminiscing about what I learned here and who I’m becoming as a result. Covenant College has perhaps become dearer to me this week than it ever has been before. I always liked Covenant, warts and all. But the stage of life that I’m in has given me fresh appreciation for what I learned in various times & places that I’ve passed through. The 4 years I spent at Covenant were influential, and that’s an understatement.
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: one of the best parts of this place is the professors. Several of the professors I had for classes have kindly kept in touch since I graduated 4 years ago. This week I’ve been roaming the halls and dropping by their offices to say hello and catch up in person. And they’re happy to see me! What’s more, they’re interested in what I’m pursuing since Covenant and interested in praying for me. Is it just me, or is that unexpected from the average college’s professors?
I sat in on class with each of my 2 French professors – Dr. Neiles and Dr. Shaw. In the class about contemporary French culture, I felt a wave of nostalgia as the students talked about the French art museums that I remember also reading about in the textbook but then got to see in real life after graduating. In the other class on French grammar and stylistics, I remembered how difficult it was to think through the structures of what was still a “textbook language” to me. After being re-immersed in it long enough, I now speak intuitively. My conversations with my French professors this week were leaps and bounds ahead of what they were in college; I express myself about most anything, only occasionally “cherching mes mots.”
One of my biblical studies professors – Dr. Ward – gave me the honor of sharing with his Theology of Missions course. What a humbling opportunity to share with 50 college students the work God has laid before me and how He directed my path through Covenant and in the “real life” that has followed. Later after class, Dr. Ward gave me some practical and pastoral pointers about missionary itineration based on his own experience. He offered his time and encouragement freely, as I remember him doing while I was still a student. His counsel was much-needed, and I didn’t even have to ask him for it.
I caught up over lunch with one of my sociology professors – Dr. Vos. We shared some reflections about American culture, and power, and symbolism, and the American church, and language, and evangelism as “offering a different story,” and the efforts of some to “protect” the Scriptures. Our stimulating conversation helped me realize how formative my sociology classes were for me in critically assessing culture as a Christian. Dr. Vos has always been an example to me of the sociologist as a prophet – calling out the failures in culture when we have grown accustomed and blind to them.
An exciting part of my visit has been witnessing a new part of Covenant – the recently established linguistics minor! In my day, there was only one introductory course in linguistics (which I took and relished while my education major classmates wondered why they had to take it). Now there’s a professor on staff with her doctorate in linguistics who has Covenant students buzzing about the science of language. I met Dr. Stephenson, and we hit it off. She showed me the course descriptions of the minor offered now. She asked about the graduate program I’m pursuing at GIAL. We compared notes about Lookout Mountain vs. the Texas flatlands, about taking the title of “linguist” with all its connotations, about the joys and pains of digging into a minority language. She then asked what I would major in if I could do it all again. After thinking a few seconds, I answered that I’d still choose interdisciplinary studies (IDS).
I admit I’ve not always been the proudest of my bachelor’s degree major; people don’t really get it and I can’t blame them. Having three different concentrations (French, biblical studies, and sociology) can sound like the option for students who could never decide on a major. But although it’s not for everyone, I’ve become more convinced this week that it was the right choice for me. Jumping from conversation to conversation with my professors who each represent a different discipline, I was reminded that those various fields bring unique perspectives on work and life that I’ve learned to appreciate as invaluable. I wouldn’t have sacrificed any of them to choose a single area of study. And I hope each discipline’s voice will continue to inform my calling.
Applied linguistics is by nature interdisciplinary – drawing on multiple fields like language, sociology, anthropology, and more. I think that’s what I find so appealing about it. My philosophy is that heck, life itself is interdisciplinary.
The one professor who wasn’t in his office when I looked for him was my IDS professor himself, Dr. Dennison. It’s a shame, but I’ll be back. And when I am, I’ll thank him (again), and I’ll reassure him that I’m still IDS through and through.