Dr. Kimberly Battle-Walters Denu is the CCCU’s new vice president for educational programs; she will be responsible for creating and implementing the CCCU’s vision for the global education of students and the professional development of faculty and staff on CCCU campuses. We recently sat down with Dr. Denu to discuss what brought her to the CCCU, her passion for Christian higher education, and her vision for her role.
You have many years of experience working in Christian higher education. What drew you to consider this particular role with the CCCU?
I was drawn to this position for several reasons. First, I greatly respect President Shirley Hoogstra and her leadership and the tremendous work that the CCCU team does through professional development, advocacy work, and study abroad. The opportunity to work with such high-caliber leaders was very appealing.
Second, I have a passion for and commitment to Christian higher education. Our campuses do important work that supports excellence in scholarship and the furtherance of the Gospel around the world. Because of my love for the church and the academy, I want to do all that I can to support Christian higher education in a greater capacity.
Third, the vice president for educational programs (VPEP) position is a compilation of things that I have experience with and love to do. Having spent more than two decades in Christian higher education, I have worked as a full-time professor/scholar, a student development staff member, and an academic administrator. The VPEP position is the perfect blend of my experience with my passions.
Finally, and most importantly, I felt led by the Lord to apply for the position as an act of service to Christ, Christian higher education, and the broader Christian community.
You’ve traveled extensively and have been awarded Fulbright grants to study and work in other countries. How would you describe the value of faith-based experiential education experiences for undergraduate students?
Anyone who knows me knows that I love to travel – especially internationally! My grandfather loved nature and taking trips to explore God’s creation. I believe I inherited his love for “seeing” the world and strongly believe that if God “so loved the world,” then I need to love the people in it and to see it, too.
This has been the impetus for me to engage in experiential education both in the inner city and abroad. My experiences as an exchange student in Latin America, as a scholar conducting research in Africa, as an educator in Europe and Asia, and as a professional doing ministry and service in Australia and in various parts of the world have been invaluable experiences that will stay with me for the rest of my life.
That is why I think that experiential education is one of the best educations a Christian college student can get. The opportunity for students to step outside of the familiar; to see and understand from another perspective; to put theory into practice; to engage in active research in the field; and to witness their faith in action in the larger global community is impactful and life changing personally, academically, and spiritually. Faith-based experiential education helps students transfer their focus from themselves to others. Isn’t this what the Christian message is all about?
Thinking now of the work your role will do in guiding the CCCU’s professional development opportunities for faculty and staff, how have you experienced the benefit of these opportunities in your own career? What value do you see these programs providing your peers and Christian higher education broadly?
We were not born to be stagnant. Just as we grow physically, we are meant to grow spiritually, intellectually, and professionally. Prior to joining the CCCU, I worked at Azusa Pacific University, where I was not only encouraged to grow but I was mentored, sponsored, and invited to sit at the table and connect with others who helped in my professional transformation. It was during this time that I was invited to participate in various professional development opportunities through the CCCU – the Advanced and the Women’s Leadership Development Institutes, and the Diversity Conference, just to name a few. These had tremendous impact on my professional trajectory and leadership capacity.
I believe that if more university leaders would support and encourage faculty and staff to participate in these types of professional development offerings, it would not only produce more happy, healthy, high-performing employees, it would also cultivate the next generation of Christian leaders, scholars, and citizens who make an eternal and global difference.
What hopes and goals do you have stepping into this new role?
I am excited to see what God is going to do in and through our campuses this year. My primary goal this first year is to engage and support our member campuses through vital professional development resources and through the promotion of our study abroad programs. The CCCU has a commitment to and resources to support students and professionals at each of our member campuses. A secondary goal is to create diverse “glomestic” educational engagement opportunities that welcome faculty, staff, and alumni to participate as life-long learners in various parts of the world.
Finally, I hope to encourage the Christian higher education community to remember that what we do is not just for ourselves but for the kingdom. With this in mind, my hope is that Christian higher education as a whole will continue, as Scripture says, “to do justice, love mercy, and to walk humbly with our Lord.”
KIMBERLY BATTLE-WALTERS DENU is the CCCU’s vice president for educational programs.