Category: Academics


Johnson hosts 16th annual Stone Campbell Journal Conference

scj-conf-logo_01KNOXVILLE — Johnson University will be hosting the 16th annual Stone-Campbell Journal Conference April 7-8. This year’s theme is “Communicating the Old Testament.” The conference will feature three plenary speakers and 13 study groups.

Featured speakers include: Ellen Davis, Amos Ragan Kearns Distinguished Professor of Bible and Practical Theology, Duke Divinity School, who will present “The Old Testament— Does it Preach?…and How?!” and “Reading the Old Testament as Christians.”

Chris Heard, Associate Professor of Religion, Pepperdine University, will present “Drowning in Cuteness: How the Flood Became a Children’s Story,” and “The Lord Chooses How the Dice Fall: Using Games to Teach Old Testament.”

Jason Bembry, Professor of Old Testament, Emmanuel Christian Seminary, who will present “The Old Testament Prophetic Tradition – Wide A-‘woke in America.”

The first plenary session will be held from 9:00-10:10 a.m. Friday in the Phillips-Welshimer Building Gym. Students that wish to attend will be dismissed at 9:50 a.m. to accommodate 10 a.m. classes.

Heard will be speaking on the topic “Drowning in Cuteness: How the Flood Became a Children’s Story.”

Davis’ “Reading the Old Testament as Christians” plenary session will be held from 10:15-11:15 a.m.

In addition to the plenary sessions, there will be 13 study groups meeting. Study groups give scholars the opportunity to join together to hear a variety of papers on a common topic of interest. The study groups feature topics such as:

  • Acts & the Early Church
  • Biblical Teaching on Women
  • Christian Education
  • Contemporary Issues Intercultural Studies
  • History & Theology of the Stone-Campbell Movement
  • Jewish Scripture as Christian Scripture
  • Old Testament Prophetic Tradition & Application
  • Online Learning and Technology
  • Patristics
  • Philosophy
  • Second Temple Judaism
  • Theological Anthropology
  • Theology Reflection
To commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Stone-Campbell Journal, this year’s conference will include the 20th SCJ Anniversary Celebration and Awards Dinner.
This dinner will celebrate highlights in SCJ history and awards will be presented to honor those who have made contributions to SCJ within the first 20 years.
Be sure to check back to the Scribe later this week for more highlights on the 2017 SCJ conference.

Students’ reactions to QEP Service Reflection Groups will likely spark change in coming school year

KNOXVILLE  — As part of Johnson University’s 10-year accreditation cycle, the faculty are required to develop a Quality Enhancement Plan to meet SACSCOC’s standards. SACCOC is the university’s regional accreditation body’s standards.

JU’s QEP plan is the Metacognitive Understanding for Service Engagement program, which launched this year.

Freshman students here at JUTN are the first to experience the Service Reflection Groups as a part of the MUSE quality enhancement plan this semester, and reviews are mixed.

The biggest complaints are that the experience is not for credit, that students are required to buy textbooks, and that administration has not communicated well with the students.

JUTN freshman, August Cox, who dropped the SRG after one meeting, said he felt blindsided by the SRG requirement.

“None of us knew about it until three-fourths of our way through last semester,” he said. “They wanted us to buy a textbook and have assignments weekly and lead classes and all this stuff for a class that was worth zero credits.”

Tommy Smith, Vice President for Academic Affairs, said that the zero-credit nature of the SRGs is not unusual for a graduation requirement.

“The service learning has never had hours, there’s never been credit, its a graduation requirement,” he said. “Most schools that I know do not give credit for chapel but they still require chapel for graduation.”

Smith said that because the class does not have credit it is free for students to take this semester.

“The service learning program now is so much better designed,” he said. “There’s more intent behind it, there’s a specific goal. This is a great deal, in essence you’re getting a free class. Okay, you’ve got to do some reading and you’ve got to go to the session. I think the trade-off is worth it.”

Smith said that the administration admittedly did not communicate the MUSE plan effectively.

“Two years ago when all this was done there was huge marketing, we had MUSE courses in chapel and so we sold this QEP to the student body,” he said. “Well none of the freshmen were there of course. So we sold it to one group of students who really had nothing to do with it.”

Cox said he feels that Johnson already asks for students to engage in extra curricular requirements without providing credit.

“I feel like with the SALT volunteering and the extra curricular stuff we do at Johnson anyway, including like chapel and all this stuff, I don’t think they need to add more things,” he said.

JUTN Freshman, Courtney Callow said she thought the SRGs would be similar to Freshman Cornerstone small groups when she first heard of them.

“I thought it was going to be like our cornerstone groups where you just go and talk and its just discussion and so I wasn’t too upset about that,” she said. “They didn’t tell us there was going to be any work or anything cause they just kept saying that they hadn’t decided yet.

“So we get in there and we have like two textbooks and we have assignments and we’re like ‘this isn’t for credit.’ So it was just kind of frustrating,” she added.

Cox said many of the freshmen are frustrated.

“I’m definitely in the majority,” he said. “When that happened me and Eli (Birchfield) we both were super frustrated with it and started talking to people and after just talking to so many people about how its a zero credit class I know that at least six people just on our hall dropped the class as well.”

While several other students voiced frustration, none were willing to comment on the record.

Cox said that prior knowledge might have prevented him from dropping the class and Callow said she felt the concept behind the groups were not well-communicated by the school.

“They [faculty] came in not knowing exactly what they were going to do. So that made us [students] more confused,” she said. “They just need to be more upfront and knowledgeable about what they’re doing instead of talking to us before they know.”

Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, Gary Stratton, said that administration understands the difficulties that have arisen with this requirement.

“Anytime you do anything different you need to over communicate,” he said. “Just because something is said in someone’s presence doesn’t mean its communicated. The hand off was not smooth and I should have made sure it was smoother.”

Cox said he experienced that feeling of frustration firsthand.

“If it was in my requirements I would have been a lot less frustrated about it because I knew I had SALT hours and small group but this is just something they sprung on me at the later half of my first semester,” Cox said.

Stratton said faculty are working to fix the perceived issue.

“Because that first service reflection group feels like a class and there are books to buy and there are assignments to do, we realized we needed academic credit for it,” he said.

Stratton said that the SRG requirement will likely be changing next semester, which hopefully will help ease frustrations.

Callow said that students are not fully participating in the current SRG because they know it is not for credit.

“I think [Dr. Kirk McClelland] knew that if we knew we didn’t have to do work nobody would,” she said. “Students are starting to pick that up, that we don’t have to do the work in that class.”

McClelland was brought in at the beginning of 2016 to facilitate the SRGs and direct the Quality Enhancement Plan. He was not involved in the development of the MUSE.

Even with the change to credit, Cox still sees other issues.

He said that he feels students can get something out of the class but he said he does not think that it will change a student’s mind about servanthood.

“I really think that if you want to come and have a servant heart making people do it is not going to encourage [anyone],” he said. “I feel like if someone comes here and doesn’t want to volunteer, this class isn’t going to make them want to.”

April Kilinski, professor of English and literature, and Mark Weedman, professor of philosophy and ethics, served as two of the faculty members who designed MUSE.

Weedman and Kilinski said that, by design, they have not been involved in the SRGs since writing the plan.

Weedman provided insight into their motivation while writing the plan.

“The idea was we would add a metacognitive component to the academic side and a metacognitive component to the service learning side,” he said. “So [the] SRGs are the metacognitive component that we added to the SALT side.”

Kilinski said that developing a servant identity was central to their goal for students participating in the SRGs.

“We noticed that a lot of students kind of approached their SALT and service as kind of an inroad to ‘this is what I’m going to do for my profession.’,” she said. “Which is not necessarily a bad thing but my thinking was, we need to get people serving and thinking about service reflectively, thoughtfully [and] in a Kingdom minded way.

“Maybe, in advance of picking a major so that your service doesn’t just become a means to an end to get a internship and then get a job,” she added.

Kilinski and Weedman said that the classes were designed with the best interest of not only the student but the community in mind.

“Presumably when you choose Johnson you have [service] at the heart of what you want to do,” Kilinski said. “These classes are helping you to do that, they are setting you up to learn how to do service well.”

Weedman said that reflection should not only increase a student’s servant ability, but their overall experience at JU.

“We became convinced that reflection on your education helps a lot, its value adding,” he said. “The idea is that it will make SALT better and it will make the core better hopefully. So that’s what I would say is you’re going because it will make the experience better.”

Weedman said that the service learning portion of the MUSE plan is unlike any QEP the design team had seen.

“We looked at all of the service learning programs in the area and no one has anything like this at all,” he said. “Its unique among our sister institutions and Johnson is really one of the few schools that is configured to be able to pull this off.”

“You have to do service, hopefully you want to do service, here’s how it can be made better for you and for the people you’re serving,” Kilinski added.

Stratton said the focus of service will not change in the SRG, and that new core learning standards for the university will actually strengthen the focus on service.

“I think we have a more clear set of core goals now in place that might make it much simpler and more easy to understand,” he said. “Right now we’ve got two different proposals that we just haven’t quite figured out.”

Stratton said the new plan will likely involve a significant change to Freshman Cornerstone.

“We’ve taken the biblical meta-narrative out, and we’re moving some of the spiritual formation into the freshman chapel so I think we’re going to get the workload to be appropriate for it to be a one credit class,” he said. “The second semester you’ll take [what] will be the SRGs but they’ll be getting one credit for it.

“Then sometime, normally during your sophomore year, we’ll be asking students to do some sort of intercultural experience,” he added.

Stratton said that students who think the class time would be better spent in service should see the class as crucial training for that service.

“We really want to be a Great Commission University, we really want people that are out extending the kingdom of God among all peoples and we all know from the history of missions that its possible to think you’re doing that and you’re actually doing more harm than good,” he said. “So that’s really what this is all designed for.”

Stratton said that time spent in service learning is very important and he understand students who are eager to be in the field.

“I really applaud students that jump ahead and are getting involved in doing service learning right from the start,” he said. “But this presupposition of, ‘I don’t need college to teach me to serve better’ is pretty – well when they’re seniors they’ll look back and say, ‘that was really naive.’

“To become somebody who can thoughtfully engage in the world and be a real agent of transformation in the world is not something we just do automatically and well,” he added.

Stratton said that the role of the church in social issues and service has changed over time but he said requirements like the SRGs are a possible first step in changing that role in the future.

“We’d really like the 22nd century to look different by Johnson training students that can thoughtfully engage everything that’s going on and really be agents of shalom in bringing social justice and human flourishing into every element of society in every society on earth,” he said.

The new standards Stratton mentioned are also part of the university’s 10-year reaffirmation accreditation process.

“The concern of the accrediting association is how are we improving student learning,” Tommy Smith, Vice President of Academic Affairs, said. “So the overall goal of the reflection groups is to be able to engage in service learning and then in order for the learning part of that to take place, to be able to reflect on that learning.”

Smith said that the plan was to eventually equip students to lead the SRGs.

“Out of this first set of SRGs, [McClelland] would identify students who he would be able to train and mentor and then he would leave those students to lead those groups,” he said. “So it would be self-perpetuating and rather than it just being a faculty driven project it would be a faculty and student driven project.”

McClelland was interviewed for this article but asked that all questions be directed to Stratton.


What can I do with this degree? Non-Profit Management

KNOXVILLE – Rachel Nawrocki, Assistant Professor of Business Administration and the Business Administration and Non-Profit Program Director, came to JUTN in August with a focus of Non-Profit work in mind. Listen below on this podcast as Rachel shares what students with a degree in Business and Public Leadership can do post graduation.



JU ranks high among best value small colleges for christian studies, history degree

KNOXVILLE — Johnson University is ranked third on the 2017 Best Value Small Colleges for a Christian Studies Degree list and named the second Best Value Small College for a history degree.

Johnson offers a wide range of ministry based programs and stands as one of the best small Christian colleges for affordable education.

Dean of the School of Bible and Theology, Jon Weatherly, believes that this ranking is an honor for the university but still leaves room for improvement.

“Johnson has always had a commitment to affordability,” he said. “I think Ashley Johnson would be proud of our dedication to keep his mission of providing affordable education —we can do better.”

Alongside affordibility, Johnson’s students are offered a quality christian education in addition to their desired area of focus.

“We have faculty across the board that is dedicated to delivering the best education that they can,” Weatherly said. “Anyone that says they are going here is going to have a great experience for the money.”

Johnson’s history department was ranked No.2 just behind Berea College and recognized as being “one of the best small colleges for history majors who want to incorporate their Christian faith into their studies.”

Associate Professor of History, Jason Mead, said he believes the focus on church history and selection of history courses offered sets Johnson apart from other universities.

“We have tried to emphasize more of a global approach,” he said.” I think the courses that we are able to offer bring something different to the table and allows us to teach a broad range of courses in church history that you don’t get in a lot of places.”

On the Tennessee campus, Mead teaches courses including World Civilizations I and II, American History I and II, Historian Craft/Intro Historiography, American History 1877-1945 and America Since World War II.

His advice for history majors is to “continue to read, listen and think deeply through everything.”

Each qualifying school on the list is required to offer at least two majors for students seeking a bachelor’s degree in history and must also demonstrate a genuine commitment to providing affordable education.

Johnson ranked high among other colleges for affordable education with a net price of $15,458/yr.

To qualify for the list, each school had to meet the following criteria:

  • Must be a 4-year public or private non-profit institution
  • Must have qualified bachelor’s programs
  • Must offer traditional academic programming
  • Must admit a maximum 60% of applicants each year.

In addition, they must each maintain an overall undergraduate graduation rate of at least 55% and meet net price requirements.

Schools were ranked based on academic breadth and depth, student support and affordability using the NCIS college navigator database.

To view the lists, click the links below:

25 Best Value Small Colleges for a History Degree 2017

20 Best Value Small Colleges for a Christian Studies Degree 2017 


Funk hopes to become full-time professor at JU

Brandi Funk is a professor at Johnson University who teaches principles of management in the School of Business and Public Leadership.

Funk is an adjunct professor and plans to teach full-time in the future.

“I love my job and I feel that God is calling me to pursue education,” Funk said.

Funk has an associate degree, which she earned from Hawkeye Community College. She also has a bachelor’s degree and MBA from Upper Iowa University.

Currently, Funk is an adjunct professor, but she knows that JU, as a four-year university, will want her to get a Ph.D. She plans to get a doctorate degree and is currently looking at various doctorate programs.

Funk has spent several years teaching in the business field. Her experience in teaching includes teaching business ethics and personal finance management for five years at Upper Iowa University.

Funk has also taught in Knoxville for two years at Pellissippi State Community College.

At Pellissippi, she taught under the Administrative Professional Technology program and taught Microsoft Office.

Before Funk thought of becoming a professor, she was raised in a small town of about 800 people in Necedah, Wisconsin. The town was so small it only had one traffic light. Growing up, Funk was not raised in a Christian home and she did not become a Christian until about 10 years ago.

“You either grow up in a Christian home where the Lord is your foundation or you have hard circumstances that bring you to your knees,” Funk said. “When you have nowhere to look but up you turn to Christ and that is kind of what happened to my husband and I.”

Funk and her husband have been married for 19 years and will celebrate their 20th anniversary in August. The Funks have a daughter, Taylor, 14.

Funk enjoys spending time with family, watching movies and going to the mall with her daughter.

One of Funk’s favorite movies is Outsiders, because the movie is based on the first book that she read cover to cover.

Funk has a busy schedule and does not participate in many activities outside of work, family and church but does enjoy listening to Christian rap music.

She does not listen to secular music very much anymore since she became a Christian.

Becoming a Christian led Funk to search for employment opportunities at Christian colleges or universities. Fortunately, Funk found JU where she now teaches.


SACSCOC approves JU reaffirmation, gives recommendation on assessment

KNOXVILLE — For most students and alumni, Johnson’s accreditation reaffirmation in December went by with little fanfare, or even acknowledgement. But for administrators, faculty  and staff, the reaffirmation was the culmination of year’s of work.

Johnson received its 10 year reaffirmation of accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges Dec. 4, 2016.

The Vice President for Academic Affairs/Provost, Tommy Smith said, “We invest a lot of time into this [two year process] because it’s worth it—Worth it for the students and University.”

Being accredited places the University in a class of high quality that reflects the best practices in education.

Read More


International professor spends semester at JUTN

KNOXVILLE — Chinese Professor Miss Tao is visiting JUTN’s campus this semester as a part of the visiting program between the Chinese Anhui Normal University and Johnson University.

Tao is the second professor to come to Johnson through this program and will be working with the faculty and staff in the Templar School of Education.

Tao said that the whole campus has been friendly and welcoming.

“I have been here since January 15th, and I will be here for three more months, so far I have found a fulfilling life here at Johnson,” Tao said.

Tao said that she teaches classes over photo shop and 3-D photography.

“Teaching in America is a very different from in China. In America, there is more of a focus on teacher and student relationships,” Tao said. “Teacher’s give opportunity to explore their independent learning and critical thinking.”

Under the Corporation Project, Chinese students come to study technology at JU and bring their knowledge back to China.

“The Corporation Project is a very good communication platform for both Johnson and Chinese students,” Tao said.”[This] project has been very beneficial for the Chinese students here at Johnson.”

Director of International Relations, Duan Hua, said at this point there are four students currently in this program.

“It started back in 2012 when it was approved by the Chinese Ministry of Education,” Hua said.”In October of 2013 Johnson started to have students come to America for the program.”

Tao will be returning to the Anhui Normal University in April.



Budgeting workshop hosted for students

KNOXVILLE — Johnson University is holding a financial workshop that is focusing on budgeting, which is designed to help students to budget on their own.

This workshop is being hosted by Kelly Estes and the First Generation group.

The event will be from 5 to 6 p.m. Tuesday in Gally Commons Private Dining Room No. 1.

If students cannot make it to this meeting, but think it will be helpful ,there will be other financial workshops in the future.

During the work shop Financial Aid workers will be there to help students with their financial needs, focusing mostly on budgeting. Student can have dinner while getting help from staff and upperclassman mentors.

“It’s a huge need,” Estes said.

She said students are often used to living and relying on their parents for many of their needs, and while they aren’t necessarily paying many bills while living on campus, they still need to know how to budget.

She said that wise spending habits are good habits to have no matter what your situation.

Estes estimates that there are around 147 first generation students on the JUTN campus this semester.

Many of these students and their families are unaware of all the options dealing with scholarships.

Estes said that many scholarships offered on and off campus go wasted each year because no one applies for them.

She said that every scholarship, no matter how small, should be applied for because, even if it doesn’t put a significant dent in how much a person owes, that’s still money that they don’t have to pay.

Estes said that these workshops are here “to even the playing field.”

All of the First Gen. workshops are designed to help students understand and navigate the complex world of college.

Estes said that first generation college students are often at a “disadvantage”, their families don’t usually know what college life will be like or all of the money and work that goes into it.

Estes said that it’s important to make sure that these students know that they can receive help and that they know they’re not alone.