Things that don’t change
“How did they know I was here?” I wondered as I looked at the address label on the publication in my mailbox. I had just started a joint appointment at the University of Hawai’i as an assistant professor in the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Medicine.
Out of more than 18,000 students on campus, I had been the only Seventh-day Adventist in my doctoral program. The program had been involving enough, but social and ethical pressures were even more difficult to navigate. Besides me, I knew of four other Adventists elsewhere on campus: an undergraduate biology major, a comparative religion master’s degree student, a young man doing doctoral research in plant pathology, and an older woman pursuing a doctorate in nursing.
On occasion, the five of us would meet under a spreading mimosa tree near the campus center to have lunch together — a tiny flock encircled by wolves of unbelief, secularism, and partying. During those years, I lost some cherished dreams and some close relationships. I learned a lot through the scholarly and cultural stimulation I encountered at the university, and this was good, but it also forced me to reevaluate my values and beliefs. This process of reevaluation, plus other personal strains and losses, was disorienting. Sometimes I felt completely alone. Nevertheless, I graduated on time and dove into the excitement of teaching and research at the university, glad to be earning a full paycheck and being called “Doctor.”
Up until this time, I had not subscribed to or even heard of Dialogue. The inaugural issue just appeared unbidden in my department mailbox with my name on the address label. What a surprise it was to find in that first issue an essay by Michael Pearson, who had been my teacher at Newbold College some 13 years earlier. It was like having an unexpected heart-to-heart conversation with a trusted friend.
Dialogue filled a niche in my academic and religious experience. It made me feel connected to the Seventh-day Adventist Church in a new way. The Sabbath School quarterly, other church publications, and even the friendly chats that I had with church members during potlucks all had their place. But here was a publication that understood what it meant for a person to be an Adventist academic and professional. I read all of volume 1, number 1, and have kept it these past 25 years. During this time, I never dreamed that I would one day serve as the journal’s editor-in-chief, but that’s my role now, and as such I have asked a few of those who wrote for the first issue to contribute to this year’s Silver Jubilee.
A lot has changed since my time at the University of Hawai’i. The Internet was brand new and, as one of the first to use it, my university e-mail address at that time was simply email@example.com. By now, digitization has revolutionized the academic enterprise. Today, we take for granted such things as remote access to bibliographic databases, high-powered computing resources, social networking, international collaboration, and GPS-enabled geographical information systems for epidemiological research — in real time. Distractions and moral compromises, however, are with us still and can be indulged in as never before. Every new generation of Adventist students in higher education will have to find a way to relate their discipline to faith and live an example of commitment to God. In doing this, they will inevitably feel the pressure to conform to secular norms and values.
However, if there are challenges that don’t change, there are also positive values that don’t change, and during Dialogue’s Silver Jubilee we want to celebrate some of these — like maintaining worthy goals and noble aspirations. Anyone in academia or the professional working world will have to be counter-cultural in order to maintain intellectual, ethical, and moral integrity. In that journey, Dialogue is still here to help. It endeavors now, as it did for me 25 years ago, to be a trustworthy friend to support you and build your confidence in God. It’s a forum where you can be as serious in your faith as you are in your profession.
— Lisa M. Beardsley-Hardy,
Lisa M. Beardsley-Hardy (Ph.D., University of Hawai’i at Manoa) is director of education, General Conference World Headquarters, Silver Spring, Maryland, USA. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.