Toccoa Falls College with the Best Students Around
When new faculty candidates pass through the Provost’s Office each year, it is customary to ask, “How is God working in your life that you would apply here at this time?”
More simply asked, “Why TFC?” While such questions are customary for outside candidates, it is the type of question that internal interviewers can also be asking themselves on a regular basis. Reflection of the present that leads to new realization of our attendance in life is in short supply. So, I ask myself from time to time, “Why TFC still?” This is my seventeenth year at this institution.
When the interviewer mirror asks me why, the answer inevitably centers on our students. At TFC, we have the best students around. They generally come to this Christian college with the expectations to prepare for career and to learn about the Lord of their faith. To combine these two qualities, they are ready to develop a Christian worldview, to integrate faith into learning, and to recognize a divine calling for their careers. They generally willingly participate in spiritual formation activities: community worship in chapel, student missions fellowship, ethnic student fellowship with devotional activities, small groups for spiritual accountability, and students ministries for community service. They promote a community ethos of sharing what each has with others who do not have. They often sit across social lines in the dining hall without care or concern. They generally have a great attitude toward learning and spiritual growth. It is easier for a provost to lead in promotion of the institutional mission when the constituency embraces four years of that mission. Of course, not all of students are fully confident of their life tract supported by these activities, but a university is measured by the unity amidst its diversity. TFC are overwhelmingly united in its mission.
Perhaps most of all, I think our students are the best around because of their willingness to articulate their faith. They are not afraid to open in prayer or to offer a testimony about their lives. They ask questions out of curiosity, seeking to synthesis big world problems into their small campus lives. They seek to understand just war theory, divine providence, missions trends, scientific phenomena, or a theology of dating. They wear nursing scrubs for clinical class in preparation for God’s call to a medical professional job someday. They may carry a copy of the Koran for World Religions class while frequently carrying a bible without a class requirement. They share stories from their public school teaching observation experience in the dining hall at dinner. In each of these episodes, TFC students are a breath away from contextualizing these activities in God’s call on their lives and why they themselves are at TFC. When a guest comes to class, one of my favorite activities is to show off our students by asking them to share how God has worked or can work in the topic at hand. In that moment, some students will never fail to provide an answer for their faith.
Yet, TFC joins so many other Christian institutions of learning that feel the same way. In 2016, an outsider to Christian higher education, was noted as saying: “You [Christian colleges] have what everybody else is desperate to have: a way of talking about and educating the human person in a way that integrates faith, emotion and intellect....Almost no other set of institutions in American society has that, and everyone wants it.” (“The Cultural Value of Christian Higher Education,” Advance 7.1 [Spring 2016])
Perhaps I remain at TFC because of the student-centeredness that we offer, evidenced by this blog. Perhaps it’s the 1,100 acres and a waterfall 8’ higher than Niagara, set at the foothills of the southern Appalachian Mountains. Perhaps it’s because as provost I can teach, write, and travel with students. Perhaps it’s because my daughters have grown up in this area. Except for the waterfall, many a college can provide these same things. But not many colleges can brag on such low campus crime, such a willing intensity of bible and theology curriculum, or so many young people capable of playing the guitar for a church youth group. And none can compare with the faith willingness of the vast majority of its population.