“As a place that seeks to be academically excellent and Christ-centered, we have the urgent responsibility to prepare young men and women of this generation to rise up and be the salt and light in the world with their careers and in the Church.”
Last week, Union University announced John Netland, current Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, as the new university provost, who will officially start in this new role on Monday, Oct. 16.
Netland graduated with his Bachelor of Arts in English from Biola University in 1981. He then received his Master of Arts in English from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, in 1984, going on to earn his Ph.D. from UCLA in 1989 in English with an emphasis in nineteenth century British Literature.
He served as assistant professor, associate professor and professor of English at Calvin College from 1989 until 2002. Netland then served as chair of the English Department at Calvin from 2002 until 2005. Through 2007, he served as the college’s director of the English 101 Program, where he held supervisory responsibilities over this college-wide required writing program, mentored full-time faculty and reviewed English curriculum.
“One thing I love about literature is that it truly has the power to transform lives,” Netland said. “I chose to pursue a career in higher education because I believed very firmly in this power and knew I wanted to do my part in ensuring this happened in students’ lives.”
Netland’s resume is certainly an illustration of years of dedication, passion and leadership. While his credentials provide strong evidence that he is well-equipped for the promotion to provost, his unparalleled heart for students and learning will be an immeasurable gift to the university. Netland wants students to know that they have an entire university administration and faculty who care and want to hear from them about both problems and reasons to celebrate. He gave steadfast commitment to always be someone who will be accessible to students.
“Dr. Netland was my advisor when I first came to Union undecided,” freshman education major Britta Olund said. “He was super helpful and knowledgeable about the university and all courses. I could tell he truly cared about me, even though we’d just met.”
As he steps into this new position, Netland explained that it will be crucial for him to be intentional with students to be most effective as provost. He plans to continue teaching a literature class, as time allows, but he also hopes to regularly meet with various student leaders that represent organizations on campus as well as those that may not represent a specific organization but still are leaders in the way they influence others and carry themselves.
“Serving as provost is not about merely moving up university rankings and staying distant from the students,” Netland said. “The heart and soul of our endeavor as a university faculty is to not only educate students for their professional vocation, but also develop students into men and women who will influence society as well as their local churches.”
Netland shared that one of the things he will miss is the closeness of the working relationships he had cultivated while serving directly with the arts and sciences departments. But he especially looks forward to the provost’s active role in vision casting for the university. Netland admitted that he gets excited thinking about the purpose of Christian higher education and how it can be done creatively and effectively.
With a most hopeful tone and thoughtful response, Netland revealed some of the vision casting specifics. He wants Union University to continue to be a place that gives preparation that is excellence-driven, Christ-centered, people-focused and future-directed. But he also wants the university to aim even higher and prepare young men and women to engage faithfully and constructively with the culture.
Today’s culture is teeming with conflict, and it is Netland’s heart that Union University be a place that models how Christians are able to bring reasoned discourse into public discussion to debate and discuss constructively, but boldly.
“As provost, it will be my priority to ensure that this university seeks to cultivate thoughtful leadership in the hearts of our students,” Netland said. “Our world needs well-educated, winsome and loving voices speaking truth, and that’s why I refuse to be about anything less.”
Photo courtesy of Jacob Moore