Providence’s mission has always stressed that education involves both the head and the heart, both thinking and doing. With renewed commitment to cultivate critical thinking and educate the whole person, Providence introduced the first-year experience this fall under the direction of Dr. John Cunningham as an addition to the core curriculum. The course consists of exploring several current cultural issues–sexuality, identity, and religious freedom–from a Christian perspective.

“FYE is a carefully structured and planned program consisting of tailored classroom experiences, group discussions and mentoring that seeks to awaken and empower students to the joys and responsibilities of life-long, whole person learning that engages the world for God’s glory and the bringing of his shalom to it,” Cunningham added.

One of the goals of the new program is to build “a connection between the life of the mind and a heart of love,” in Cunningham’s words. As such, the program includes the leadership of peer mentors, who lead discussions tied to the classroom sessions and who were heavily involved during new student orientation in August.

The FYE program began at the semester’s start during the new students retreat at Forest Home in the San Bernardino Mountains. Dr. Cunningham and Dr. Jim Belcher, Providence’s president, led three sessions on the wonder of learning and the power of community. Both drew heavily from their own experiences as well as Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s classic book Life Together.

Dr. Cunningham holds a PhD in historical theology from the University of Virginia, and has spent many years in a pastoral and counseling role, most recently in the PCA. His doctoral work was on Jonathan Edwards.