I remember it like it was yesterday. Sept. 29, 2014, was a “summer-like” fall day in Washington, D.C. I didn’t know what God would bring into my life as I started as president of the CCCU, but I knew I was called. I walked to work on 8th Street, just seven blocks from the U.S. Capitol, to meet my expectant colleagues. Greetings abounded as I entered, and I knew that in their minds, they wondered, “What will she be like? What will the next year look like?” It feels like yesterday – yet now I’m starting my fourth year.
You’ve experienced the same phenomenon – time speeding by. That first year, I often used the phrase, “Let’s see what God does in one, three, five, seven, 10 years.” The first year is always one of listening, observing, and analyzing; the following years involved acting on what I had heard and seen. The CCCU has refreshed its membership criteria, and we have revitalized our member services. At the last New Presidents Institute this past July, a participant said what they appreciated about the CCCU’s programs and services is that they are not merely transactional – they aim to be transformational, with Christ at the core. I am grateful for the good foundation that has been built both internally and externally over the past three years, and I look forward to the clearer vision and more specific assignments set before the CCCU through trial and error, opportunity and challenges.
But first, to the 182 colleges and universities that comprise the CCCU, I want to convey a deep and resounding, “thank you.” You stood by the CCCU, you supported my presidency, and you have been continuously engaged. Because of your faithfulness, the CCCU is stronger now than ever. I believe God has called all of us to this moment.
Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, asks organizations to answer this question: “What can only you do?” In this moment in history, I see how those of us working in Christian higher education are particularly situated to address issues in culture in ways that only we can. In involving ourselves in the important issues of the day, we as Christians further the good of our cities and the well-being of God’s people here on earth until God returns. It is in this moment of history that Christian higher education is asked to explain itself and its value to government, as well as to suggest ways for government to be better. In this moment, Christian higher education embraces the promises of racial healing from the position of deep theological foundations so that we shed fear, anger, and the incorrect, corrosive belief about racial difference so that our words and work have a reconciling impact. In this moment, we can be for the poor, the oppressed, and the vulnerable – whom are deeply loved and inherently valued by God – as we work toward immigration reform. In this moment, when colleges and universities are expanding their undergraduate degrees into the correctional system, we have something to offer in prison reform. In this moment, when human sexuality expression between men and women rests only on consent, Christian higher education can model the ingredients of relationship, self-restraint, admiration, modesty, and honoring each other. In this moment, Christian higher education can be an exemplar by recognizing LGBTQ students as whole people who are seeking a faith-inspired education. In this moment, Christian higher education creates campuses where students are gaining skills in kindness, compassion, critical thinking, and civility. In this moment, Christian colleges and universities educate students in a way that builds courageous character so that our future global leaders can address human suffering.
I believe this is the moment for Christian higher education to live from the providential preparation of the past for the providential assignment of the now so that the future is shaped for the glory of God. This is the moment. It is challenging and full of unknowns. But I have seen firsthand these past three years that we have a great God who leads us, comforts us, and equips us by providing colleagues, peers, and friends – you – to come alongside us in this work so that we can learn from each other and build the kingdom together.
Shirley V. Hoogstra is the president of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities.