Dr.Kent Sparks Named As Eastern’s Provost

With the introduction of new staff members across Eastern, faculty and administration acted in the trend by electing a new provost who firmly believes in the school’s ability to grow every year as he did throughout his life.
Dr. Kent Sparks was recently elected as Eastern’s new Provost. however, he has been working for the university for years. Students who know him assume that his path to Eastern was a straight shot, but it was one filled with endless opportunities.
Originally, Sparks aspired to be a medical doctor when he was  very young; he changed his career goals quite drastically when he felt a calling in his life to become a pastor.
“That decision at a church camp when I was just 14 is why I’m here now,” Sparks confessed. He explained that, while he was at a church camp one summer, he was given the opportunity to consider a career in ministry. “And I thought,” Sparks explained, “‘so, the world needs the gospel; somebody’s got to do it. Why not me?’”
After preaching his very first sermon the following Sunday, Sparks went on to earn a PhD in Philosophy at the University of Chapel Hill in North Carolina after receiving numerous other degrees from universities all over the South. Out of all the places he’s lived, Sparks expressed a particular affiliation to the Tarheel State, elaborating: “I think I identify more with North Carolina, because I lived there the longest, even though it was later in my life.”
After graduating from UNC Chapel Hill, Sparks remained in Raleigh, N.C. for 10 more years as a pastor at Providence Baptist Church. While he did eventually become a preacher as he had planned when he was 14, Sparks also struggled with his faith and considered a different career path.
“I wanted to do psychology,” Sparks said.
However, after a discouraging conversation with a professor in the graduate program in which he was interested, he decided to apply elsewhere.
Sparks describes his mindset during that time, explaining, “I thought, ‘well, I love ministry, and psychology is apparently too hard, so I’ll go to grad school and do Biblical Studies.’”
He wanted to help people, and he recognized that psychology and pastoral work are both valid ways to do that; however, he did express his concerns that some people might be flocking towards psychology because seminaries lack some of the skills psychology programs equip students with to take care of others.
Sparks does not have regrets about his career path, however, though he later realized psychology could have been an attainable career path for him as well. Advocating for the use of counseling, Sparks declared, “I’m a believer in counseling, in therapy; whatever it takes to uncover the darkness and the brokenness in my soul, so it can be laid bare, and we can work on it.” His belief in the importance of acknowledging the sinful nature of the human soul is strongly correlated to his goals for Eastern, as well.
“I would love for Eastern to be a place where we confront the brokenness of our human condition,” he shares, “and not just Justice writ large in the sense of society, but in my soul itself.”
Dr. Sparks expresses his hope that Eastern University will be a place that inspires students to have courage, and a place that “inspires movement on Faith, Reason, and Justice.” Elaborating on his ideas for the future, Sparks wants to shift the focus in the administration back to the students.
“I’m trying to turn things on their head,” he announced frankly. “Start designing things around what students want and need.”
Eastern University is indeed a special place, and Sparks’ presence has been integral to the University for years. As he takes on the position of Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, let us hope that Eastern continues with, and increases in, its cultivation of Faith, Reason, and Justice for years to come.

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