President Duffett Comments on Vision for Eastern University

     In light of changes made by Eastern president Robert Duffett in response to the recommendations made by the Organizational Design Task Force (ODTF) last fall, many questions have arisen over how Eastern defines itself as an educational institution. In an effort to promote transparency between Eastern students, faculty and administration, Dr. Duffett agreed to be interviewed about his vision for Eastern. Below is a transcript of a portion of the interview, highlighting the two most important sections.

Interviewer: What do you believe the purpose of a university is—in particular a liberal arts university?

     Duffett: “Help love God and love humanity more….The ultimate purpose of Christian higher education  through all the things that you do here is to love God more, and so that has the whole issue of spiritual formation; it has the whole issue of becoming more intentional about your Christian life, and love humanity more. Now, I think specifically education is the whole purpose of vocation. Now, I don’t mean vocational education. I’m using the term ‘vocation’ in its theological sense. God calls us, and God has given us gifts, and there is a role for us to play in society, and I mean vocation. So, it’s not just getting your first job, although that’s part of it. It’s not all just getting a paycheck, although that’s part of it. But in essence that is hopefully what we do at Eastern. Well, if we could find how do you love God, we have found your vocation!”

Interviewer: You have mentioned several times that a goal of the ODOC is to make Eastern more efficient, in turn creating more effective students. We must admit that this kind of language makes some students nervous. Talk of efficiency and effectiveness implies a kind of utility…a concept that ought to play no role in the shaping of human persons, especially at a place that claims to care more about our spiritual growth than our GPAs. Please speak to this concern many students are feeling.

     Duffett: “I challenge that assumption from its absolute core. You mean to say that if you come to Eastern we shouldn’t have an effective education? Effective means a great education; effective means excellent at what we do; effective means giving you the education you deserve; effective means what we say we do, we will do; that’s high on my list. If we aren’t effective in what we claim, then we are worse than cheats and scandals….Now efficiency is also a Christian term because that has to do with stewardship. So if we are not spending our money wisely, if we are mortgaging our future for the sake of the present, I think that that is beneath the dignity of a Christian university. And if we are not effective and we are not efficient, we have no right to claim to be anything close to Christian. So, I love those words.”

     Duffett wishes to add this statement to the question about the purpose of a liberal arts university:

     “Jesus laid out the meta purpose of higher education—love God and love humanity. This is the greatest of all commandments, said Jesus, thus tying the Old Testament with the inauguration of the Kingdom of God in his ministry. Following this theological concept, we at EU try to help students discern their vocation—God’s call and gifting to each student. We individually love God and humanity by performing well our vocation (effectiveness). This is why Christian education is so very important. It is the means to vocation, discerning God’s will and making a difference for the Kingdom.”

     I am thankful that Dr. Duffett took the time to speak with me, and I hope that the community finds his words enlightening and helpful.

     Source: Interview With Robert Duffett

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