By Dr. Jim Belcher
At the start of the school year, I had the privilege of speaking to first-year students and their parents. My talk was called, “A Community that Commits.” During my speech, I mentioned New York Times columnist and best-selling author David Brooks’ case that the people who change the world are people who are capable of making commitments. In fact, it is this ability to make and keep commitments that produces the kind of character that is needed to live a meaningful and purposeful life, while making a lasting impact on the world. Making commitments—to God, to church, to our family, and our vocations—leads to the deepest life, one of profound meaning and purpose.
Unfortunately, this perspective is very different from our culture today. Our society frowns on commitments and self-sacrifice, and holds up the twin gods of individualism and personal liberty, which erode the self, truth, and community.
But this is what makes places like Providence so unique. We aspire to stand apart from our culture and achieve deep commitments in our students, faculty, staff, and entire living learning community. As Brooks said in a talk to Christian College Presidents last January in Washington D.C., “You [Presidents] are the avant-garde of the 21st century culture. You 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. You have a recipe to nurture human beings who have a devoted heart, a courageous mind and a purposeful soul. Almost no other set of institutions in American society has that, and everyone wants it.”
Brooks is right. Providence has “what everyone else is desperate to have”—a language that produces people of commitment and character. Our values are what make us unique.
But how is this accomplished? Through our classes, student life, experiential learning, clubs, and athletics programs, our goal at Providence is to educate the mind, heart and emotions of our students—to teach them to love the right things—truth, beauty and goodness. In addition, we aim to help our students develop habits of the heart that will make them great lovers of God and their neighbors.
You may have noticed that these goals are merely an extension of our college’s mission statement. As a confessionally reformed liberal arts college, Providence’s mission is to equip students to be firmly grounded in biblical truth; thoroughly educated in the liberal arts; and fully engaged in their church, their community, and the world for the glory of God and for service to humanity.
In summary, Providence students will learn to make the kind of commitments that engender character—the kind of character that produces amazing people for the Kingdom of God. This is our covenant to those who join us on this journey.
Providence is the avant-garde of the 21st century culture. Together, we will build a truly remarkable living and learning community that will not only transform students’ lives, but also make them men and women of commitment and character that will profoundly impact the culture around us.