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MBU’s Fourth Annual Faith and Research Conference Reaching New Heights

As this year’s theme focuses on, “Mental Health and the Wholeness of Creation,” the docket of presenters for this year’s Faith and Research Conference has more than doubled in size and scope, with twice as many speakers from MBU, across the nation and around the world presenting their research over the course of two days this week, Thursday, April 7, and Friday, April 8, in the Learning Center.

Dr. Keith Beutler, pictured here presenting the keynote address during last year’s Faith and Research Conference, will again be speaking this year during the Published Authors Roundtable Discussion. While this year’s conference will have live sessions throughout two days in the Pitch Room of the Jung-Kellogg Learning Center as well as the Performance Hall in the Dale Williams Fine Arts Center, technology will again be the order of the day as presenters and attendees will be able to connect via Zoom to any and all presentations throughout the two days of the conference.      Photo by C. Allin Means

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Editor’s Note: If you would like to attend the Faith and Research Conference but are unable to join us in person on the campus of Missouri Baptist University, simply click this Zoom link at any point during the two-day conference and join us, free of charge. We welcome everyone. Also, for more information, click here to visit the Faith and Research Conference page on the MBU website.

From STAFF REPORTS

The fourth annual Faith and Research Conference, scheduled for Thursday and Friday, April 7-8, on the campus of Missouri Baptist University in St. Louis, continues to make history as it more than doubles in size and reach from last year’s conference.

“And last year’s conference was about twice as big as the years prior to that, so we are definitely moving in the right direction, it’s really exciting to see so much interest in our one-of-a-kind conference,” said Dr. C. Allin Means, director of the Faith and Research Conference for the second year, and also director of the Communications Department at MBU. “But our goal is not just growth for the sake of growth, but for the sake of God, because we want our conference to be the premier conference in the nation that integrates strong Christian faith and rigorous academic research. We want to demonstrate to the world that faith and research should never be exclusive from one another, but perfectly connected to each other.”

In fact, the Vision Statement for the Faith and Research Conference reflects exactly that connection between Christianity and scholarship, stating: “The Faith and Research Conference at Missouri Baptist University in St. Louis celebrates the intersection of Christian faith and rigorous academic research, promoting collaboration among faculty members and students to augment the building blocks of knowledge in the ultimate pursuit of God’s truth.”

Presentations begin at 9 a.m. and run through 6 p.m. each day, April 7-8, in the Pitch Room of the Jung-Kellogg Learning Center, as well as concurrently in the Performance Hall of the Dale Williams Fine Arts Center. All presentations are free and open to the public, with no reservations required. If you are unable to attend in person, click the Zoom link here or at the top of this story.

While the Faith and Research Conference showcases the work of MBU faculty members, whose research has earned the designation “rigorous” from a recent Higher Learning Commission visit, it also features presentations from faculty members throughout the St. Louis region, across the nation and even around the world.

The Keynote speaker this year, Dr. Shane Crombie, will be presenting via Zoom from LCC International University (formerly Lithuania Christian College), a liberal arts institution based in the city of Klaipèda, Lithuania, which Crombie refers to as “the hidden frontline in the Ukraine-Russian conflict.”

“Having students from both sides of the divide, our university strives to foster unity, while dealing with the very real consequences of war,” said Crombie, assistant professor in the Department of Contemporary Communications at LCC International, which cultivates peace through the commonality of Christianity. “Faculty members, as leaders, face this challenge not only in the classroom, but in every facet of university life.”

In fact, the title of Crombie’s Keynote presentation is: “Faith Integration in a Time of War.”

Amid the chilling strife of war in Ukraine and stress of maintaining some semblance of college normalcy while emerging precariously from a global pandemic like COVID, perhaps there is no more appropriate time for the Faith and Research Conference’s theme than this year: “Mental Health and the Wholeness of Creation.”

Crafted by Dr. Matthew Bardowell, associate professor of English at MBU, with assistance from Dr. Jason Jordan, assistant professor of counseling education, both who will be presenting at this year’s conference, the theme statement reads as follows: “Our society is increasingly attentive to mental health issues in the face of recent unprecedented challenges to our wellbeing. Our mental health is affected by our perception of ourselves, the wholeness of people in our communities, and the health of our world. As Christians, we must reflect on our current practices and determine how to better love our neighbors and carry their burdens.”

The theme of this year’s conference goes on to say: “To this end, Missouri Baptist University’s fourth annual Faith and Research Conference invites proposals for paper presentations, roundtable panels, breakout discussions and poster sessions addressing the topics of faith, mental health and wholeness. Students and faculty are encouraged to submit proposals interpreting the conference theme broadly and with an eye toward what the various unique research disciplines have to say about faith, mental health and the health of the world.”

Jordan explained that, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control, one out of every five Americans will experience a mental health issue at some point in a given year.

“And 50 percent of Americans, at some point in their life, will be diagnosed with a mental health illness,” Jordan explained. “The world seems complex, often times confounding. Economic issues, employment transitions, school disruptions, physical health concerns, and of course mental illness are things that we all face, and those that we care for deeply. That is why this year’s theme … is so important at this critical time.”

Faculty members and students have been encouraged to submit presentation proposals because another key goal for this year’s conference has been collaboration.

“At so many conferences I’ve attended and presented at, it’s either faculty members or students, but not very often both, together, at the same time, with the same level of emphasis,” Means said.

“We really wanted to break down those walls between faculty members and students and have all of us presenting on the same level.”

With that in mind, Means and Dr. Larry Smith, director of MBU Honors and also director of interdisciplinary studies, have combined what was traditionally the Student Research Symposium (for students) and the Faith and Learning Symposium (for faculty members) into one collaboratively inclusive Faith and Research Conference.

“About a year ago Dr. Smith and I started working on this idea of having students present their research on a somewhat equal playing field as faculty members,” Means said. “Certainly we understand that faculty research is likely to be a bit more in-depth in scope, methodology and rigor, but at the same time student research can be impressive, too. And that is what we wanted to emphasize in this combining of the two symposia into one bigger and more inclusive conference.”

The result will be a much larger overall conference, with twice as many faculty members presenting research than last year, filling two full days, April 7-8, in the Pitch Room of the Learning Center, as well as a full day of student research presentations, April 8, in the Performance Hall of the Dale Williams Fine Arts Center, along with poster presentations throughout the day Friday, April 8, in the Mabee Great Hall.

“We knew that making the decision to double the size and scope of our conference from last year would be ambitious, but we also had confidence that God would continue blessing this endeavor, and He has, tremendously,” Means said. “Our hope and prayer is to keep this momentum going as we move forward.”

Smith pointed out the two symposia had been cohesive in some ways during years past, “but this year we wanted to make it more intentional. We wanted to find a way to keep the element of original student research across all disciplines, but also allow faculty and students to workshop together on the topic of mental health and the wholeness of creation,” Smith said.

One example will be a research presentation by Luke Little, a senior nursing major and biology minor at MBU, and Mikayla Harrison, a recent graduate of MBU with degrees in biochemistry, mathematics and biology.

The two will be presenting their grant-supported research, titled, “Mitigating Chronic Stress in University Students: A Quantitative and Qualitative Study on the Effects of Counseling on Chronic Stress in University Students.”

A portion of their research abstract states: “The university setting is known for high levels of stress and mental illness among students as they are a young and vulnerable population, with recent changes in social networks, living situations and goals for life. College students are in a unique position for universities to intervene as they live, work and learn in the same environment.”

Along with MBU students like Harrison and Little, dozens of other MBU students will be presenting their research, as well as students from other universities like Trinity Christian College near Chicago, all working in conjunction with faculty members from MBU and other universities.

“We believe this will be a great opportunity for fellowship and scholarship to join together at MBU,” Smith said.

The resulting synergy could be unique in the Christian research community.

“Our hope and prayer is to have this unprecedented level of energy and excitement that comes with recognizing strong research from students and faculty members from not only MBU but other universities as well,” Means said. “Our Faith and Research Conference continues to make history, and it’s all for the glory of God, the ultimate creator of all truth and knowledge.”

CONTINUE SCROLLING DOWN PAGE FOR A FULL SCHEDULE OF PRESENTERS


 

 

 

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