Category: Stories

Staff Blog: The Pietist Ethos and the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus

A testament to North Park University’s distinct Christian identity and Professor Alice Iverson

This is a staff blog post written by Andy Meyer, C’06. Andy graduated from North Park in 2006 with degrees in math and biblical and theological studies. He’s currently Head of Electronic Resources and ILL at Brandel Library.

A testament to North Park University’s distinct Christian identity and to Professor Alice Iverson

North Park University recently hosted Dr. Chris Gehrz from Bethel University to deliver a lecture titled The Pietist Option for (Current and Former) Evangelicals. In this lecture, Dr. Gehrz reflected on how pietism, a historical movement and ethos central to the Evangelical Covenant Church, could renew Evangelical Christianity.

This lecture inspired me to look back at my own experiences as a North Park University undergraduate to see how this unique aspect of North Park’s Christian identity shaped my experience as a student. And in my reflecting, my thoughts have coalesced around a particular moment in the classroom that I see as embodying the Pietist ideals for higher education that define North Park’s mission.

As an undergraduate, I double-majored in mathematics and biblical and theology studies and eventually became interested in the intersection between the two fields. For some, the connections between mathematics and theology might seem laughable or even highly suspect. However, many Christian colleges and universities take these connections seriously. Within this realm, integrating faith and learning might look like understanding how Christian beliefs relate to mathematical axioms and truths. Another general approach would ask how Christian beliefs might guide the eventual application of this study—toward what end are you doing math? These are critical and important questions at Christian institutions. They are questions that I wrestled with as a North Park student. But, as I hope this story will illustrate, my experience as a student moved beyond these standard approaches and offered something unique.

The class was Real Analysis—a class that focused on abstract concepts and proofs. We started with a few simple axioms and progressed until we proved the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus. I remember one class period toward the end of the semester when the entire board was covered in what I thought to be a mess of unconnected thoughts. Then, in a powerful moment of surprise, Professor Alice Iverson connected the dots and I understood this otherwise incomprehensible mess.

I remember a profound feeling of awe and even gratitude that’s hard to put into words. In that moment, I remember Professor Iverson putting the cap back on the marker and telling us: “Somewhere it is written: ‘whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.’” And then, while gesturing to the board, she said: “And this is True. And this is Beautiful. And we should think about such things.”

At stake here was not our intellectual understanding of the subject matter or the proof on the board. The real lesson was that we should pursue the true and the beautiful in all areas of life. In this moment I was transfixed and transformed. Or, to borrow from language the Pietists, I was converted and reborn. This is a distinctive of North Park’s Christian identity. North Park focuses not only on forming correct opinions or on providing a Christian approach within a given discipline but also focuses on building a lifelong orientation toward the good, true, and beautiful.

And Professor Iverson’s concluding remark that “we should think about such things” was not a command from a teacher to a student. It was an exhortation that applied to us all—teacher and students—equally. Friendships with fellow math majors and my relationship with Professor Iverson embodied North Park’s focus on community-based Christian higher education.

This memory stays with me. The verses that Professor Iverson recited that day were read at my wedding and encapsulate much of what I learned as a student at North Park. In my current role in the Brandel Library, I work to support this educational missional by serving a community of students, faculty, and staff engaged not only in learning but also in transformation.

More about North Park’s Identity

(Alice Iverson, Left). Faculty Portrait (1972?) :: Historical Photograph Collection, CAHL 6812, (North Park University).
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Student Blog: Outside My Comfort Zone, BTS in Italy 1

Over my spring break, I traveled with a group of students and professors to Italy.

This is a student blog post submitted by Melanie Lofgren, C’18. Melanie is a psychology major, with a biblical and theological studies minor. She spent her spring break in Italy with a group of 12 students and two professors. On the trip, students considered the continuity between the life of the earliest Christians in their cities and present-day Christians in the city of Chicago.

Over my spring break, I traveled with a group of 11 other students and two professors, all of us ranging in academic and professional disciplines . . . and in prior knowledge of Rome and Christian history. Despite being a Junior and a BTS minor, I actually haven’t taken many Bible or theology classes. I also never learned much of Roman history in junior high or high school, so this trip was going to be a whole new world and wealth of knowledge for me. Before the trip we read some books to brush up, or in my case learn about Christian and Roman history (it was a lot of information that did not care to remain in my brain during the trip).

As soon as we arrived, we were herded to our first three sights of the trip: The Pantheon, the Church of the Gesu, and the Ara Pacis. It’s important to note “herding” is a very appropriate term. We walked everywhere, led (or shall I say shepherded) by our two professors; we probably looked like a herd of unusual American tourists, and this is exactly what we were.

Stepping outside of your comfort zone is one of the greatest gifts God has given us and that we can give to God.

Professors Willitts and Veeneman know how to travel. If there’s one thing I took away, it was how to be a traveler. We had free audio guides (courtesy of Rick Steve), and guide books that had enough information to spark conversation while not overwhelming us. I loved all the walking, and I chose to walk when given the option, even going on a mini “pilgrimage.” Walking is a great way to see the city. Walking through Rome made me take in more of the city, see the neighborhoods and their aesthetics change, experience the interactions between people, not look like a tourist (a huge plus for me), get great exercise (and not feel guilty about all the pizza and pasta I consumed!), and it helped me navigate and understand the city. Although taking a bus everywhere may have been less tiring, I wouldn’t have been able to grasp the immensity, extravagance, and culture nearly as well.

Let’s get back to what we did though. Every day we saw a few different places of significance to the Christian faith, to the Roman Empire, to western theology, and any combination of these. In this blog series, I’ll talk about the places that I found to be the most intriguing, the knowledge and relationships I gained, and the topics that still lurk in my mind all while relating it to my life back in Chicago.

Before I wrap up this first post, I want to encourage anyone reading this to a) continue to read the rest of my series, b) study abroad or travel to other countries, and c) go on this trip! Traveling and experiencing a new culture is daunting and nerve-wracking. It is a humbling experience if you let it be (please let it!), and although the cons may seem to outweigh the pros in foresight, you will never regret the experience in hindsight, no matter how unplanned, disorganized, chaotic, and scary it may turn it out be. You still learn things years afterward, and stepping outside of your comfort zone is one of the greatest gifts God has given us and that we can give to God.

Interested in traveling with BTS next spring break?


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Student Blog: North Branch Literary Journal Issue Release is Coming Soon

I am so excited for everyone on campus to see the best poems, prose, paintings, drawings, and photography that the North Park student body has to offer.

This is a student blog post submitted by Kelsey Wilp C’17. Kelsey is an English major with a concentration in Creative Writing. She is the Senior Editor of the North Branch Literary and Fine Arts Journal.

North Branch senior staff: Jonathan Love, Zoe Larson, and Kelsey Wilp.

Greetings from the Wilson Hall Computer Lab!

My name is Kelsey Wilp and I am the Senior Editor of the North Branch Literary and Fine Arts Journal. You may have seen me at one of our two incredible on campus events earlier this school year. I read alongside my fellow staff members from my cringe-worthy high school diary at “Mortified NPU” and read a piece detailing my hatred for Middle School dances at our Anti-Valentine’s Day Extravaganza “Stupid Cupid!” We like to laugh at our pain here at the North Branch.

This is my second and final year working on the recently-revived literary and fine arts journal and I have to brag that the North Branch has gone through a lot of changes. Since last year, our staff has grown from four to twenty-four and the number of submissions received was at an all-time high. We have been working hard to forge a stronger bond between the English and Art departments by including more art majors on staff and collaborating with our events and in the process of selecting pieces for the journal. There are also students from other majors on staff whose different perspectives and talents are welcomed.

Spring semester is the busiest time for the North Branch. We began advertising for submissions in the fall and Senior Lit Editor, Jonathan Love, and I made promotional videos that Professor Reinhold Dooley gave “Two thumbs way up!!!!” Those short films can be found on the North Branch Facebook page. We celebrated the end of the submissions process with our “Stupid Cupid!” event which drew a large crowd of lonely souls who needed a place to haunt on Valentine’s Day.

The literature admissions process began the week of February 20th and was directed by Jonathan Love. He kept the staff on track and was able to get us through the process in three evening meetings. The staff met on the second floor of Brandel Library and read each individual written piece aloud and took a vote on what should be included in the journal this year. The next week, the art admissions process began, directed by Senior Art Editor Zoe Larson who got us through one single meeting in Brandel to choose the artwork that will be included in this year’s journal.

Now that the admissions process is complete, my staff and I are beginning the process of designing the journal, which will be sent off to the printer soon. Zoe and Jonathan worked together to weave the art and literature in one cohesive order so that thematic elements of both will complement each other.

Once the copies return to campus, we will have a distribution celebration in the form of our highly-anticipated release party! Like last year, there will be readings, live music, snacks, laughs, and good times. Be there!

I am so excited for everyone on campus to see the best poems, prose, paintings, drawings, and photography that the North Park student body has to offer.

Questions? Email


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Student Blog: Platforms for Change at Stateville Prison

“You have an incredible opportunity to be a platform of change. That’s all I am. God is using me as His platform in here, but you can be a platform for the people on the outside.”

This is a student blog post submitted by Thomas Cellilli, C’17. Thomas is a Biblical & Theological Studies major.

Thomas Cellilli

“You have an incredible opportunity to be a platform of change. That’s all I am. God is using me as His platform in here, but you can be a platform for the people on the outside.”

I shook his hand at least four times during our short conversation after the North Park Gospel Choir sang for and with the men of Stateville Correctional Center. He was sitting down, and I stood hunched over to hear his raspy voice through the roar of dialogues going on around us. He poured his heart out to me, and we laughed at our little connection—his middle name is the same as my first name, Thomas. We didn’t talk about why he was in prison, or how long he had previously waited on death-row. We simply looked each other in the eye as human being to human being—no walls or prison bars separating us—and basked in the joy of connectedness we have in Jesus Christ our Lord who turns our Thomas-doubt into belief. He encouraged me with this: “It doesn’t matter where you start, even if its doubting. It only matters where you end up.”

This was my second visit to Stateville Correctional Center with the Gospel Choir, and I have been infinitely blessed by the love and encouragement of the inmates to which we have ministered. North Park’s Gospel Choir has visited the prison three times to sing for the inmates: once with the Touring Ensemble and twice with the larger choir. The Gospel Choir’s relationship with Stateville is largely indebted to the continued work of Dr. Michelle Clifton-Soderstrom who has been teaching classes to undergrads, graduate students, and inmates inside of the prison. Her class, Peace, Justice, and Restoration, “explores the theological and ethical foundations of justice ministries…[and] probes the grounds of the claim that ‘justice is central to biblical religion.’”

Thanks to the efforts of the North Park faculty, the Gospel Choir has been allowed to interact and sing with the inmates on multiple occasions. I am no singer, nor do I claim to be, but singing praises to our God with those who are in prison has been one of the most powerful experiences in my Christian walk to this day. Both last semester and this semester, I was moved to tears on several occasions as God’s Presence filled the theater at Stateville while we proclaimed the miracles and wonders of our One God.

I implore my brothers and sisters in Christ who had seen firsthand what powerful works God is doing behind bars and those who have been moved by this witness to continue praying for the men of Stateville. Hebrews 13:3 commands us, “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body” (ESV). Neither walls, nor bars, nor cells, fences, chains, nor isolation can divide the body of Christ. It is our job as brothers and sisters to use what platforms God has given us to speak out against injustice and pray for Heaven to come down to earth.

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Music Facility, Hanson Hall, to Undergo Comprehensive Renovation

Completely updated interior, with re-configurations of practice rooms and faculty studios, as well as an impressive vaulted concept in Hanson Hall 23.

In May through December of 2017, North Park University’s beloved music facility, Hanson Hall, will undergo a comprehensive renovation, and re-open for the spring semester 2018.

In addition to a completely updated interior, with re-configurations of practice rooms and faculty studios, as well as an impressive vaulted concept in Hanson Hall 23 (soon to be Hanson Hall 202), the project will include three key features:

  • climate control,
  • acoustical treatment of all rooms,
  • and an elevator, creating 100% accessibility for our students, faculty, staff, and guests.

The lead architect, Bill Ketchum of Stantec, also led the design efforts for North Park’s Johnson Center for Science and Community Life, as well as for the new building project at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago’s Lincoln Square neighborhood. He and his colleagues are bringing a breadth of expertise and creativity to the project. Carl Balsam, North Park’s Executive Vice President, is leading the project for the institution.

Craig Johnson, Dean of the School of Music, Art, and Theatre, states that the project will be a “huge boost for the music program, as well as recognition of the historical importance of music and the arts in the North Park community.”

In early spring 2018, a special event will take place to celebrate the Hanson re-opening.

Images by Stantec Architecture Inc.

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North Park University Hosts “You Be the Chemist” Local Challenge for Second Year

Students from Chicago Public Schools competed to qualify for the national challenge.

Students from Chicago Public Schools competed to qualify for the national challenge

CHICAGO, March 20, 2017 — For the second year in a row, North Park University hosted the Chicago Public Schools “You Be The Chemist” competition. Twenty-three schools from across Chicagoland competed for trophies and bragging rights. North Park’s own Dr. Jonathan Reinstra-Kiracofe facilitated the Quiz Bowl, with representatives from each school answering tough questions about chemical compounds and processes.

Allie Parker, Out-of-School Time Manager for Chicago Public Schools, was thrilled to partner with North Park: “I love the facilities and the fact that CPS kids visit such a beautiful campus.” This event gives North Park some insight into the future of cutting-edge discovery. “From what we can see the next generation of science rocks blue and green hair, isn’t afraid to get messy, and will go fearlessly where no adults have gone before,” commented Pamela Bozeman, North Park’s Senior Director of Career Development and Internships.

The You Be The Chemist Challenge® is an interactive academic contest that encourages students in grades 5-8 to explore chemistry concepts and their real-world applications. It provides the opportunity for CPS, North Park, and others to come together and show their support for STEM education.

North Park hosted a local challenge, which is a quiz bowl with several rounds of multiple choice questions. Students who score the highest will move on to the next level of competition with the top participant from each state advancing to the National Challenge in June.

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Diversity and Dialogue in Biblical and Theological Studies: Hannah Hawkinson C’17

Hannah Hawkinson C’17, a biblical and theological studies major, shares about her experience at North Park.

Hannah Hawkinson C’17, a biblical and theological studies major, shares about her experience at North Park.

Meeting so many people who challenge the way I think, and who are open and anxious to dialogue with each other; there are people who think so differently, but are willing to talk with each other in and outside the classroom.

I feel at home here, at North Park, seeing so many different people, and hearing so many different languages; I wanted to learn in an environment like that. Being around students who want to learn, are invested, and care about classes as much as I do is something that has been a positive surprise.

As I have refined my interest within theology, I’ve noticed I’m passionate about narrative, about who is speaking this narrative, and searching for the biases that contribute to this narrative. Being able to read literature provides a different way of looking at things, but it has been very helpful.

If you’re considering majoring in BTS, take a class or two on top of the required, and try to take them from as many different professors within the department as you can. Also ask other BTS students about their experiences, I promise we’re a nice bunch. There is no pressure to continue to pastoral duties if you choose it as your major, there are so many other tracks you can take. Hopefully, you’ll see that it’s a rigorous program, but I think that BTS is an important program, especially for this University.

What surprises me most at North Park is meeting so many people who challenge the way I think, and who are open and anxious to dialogue with each other; there are people who think so differently but are willing to talk with each other in and outside the classroom.

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“Hope Has a Home Here” at North Park

Hate has no home here. Hope has a home here.

North Park University held a candlelight vigil on the steps of Old Main on February 20, 2017.

President Parkyn welcomed students, faculty, staff, and the public to a candlelight vigil on February 20, 2017, called “Hope Has a Home Here.”  Held in response to the travel ban issued several weeks previously by President Trump, the vigil tapped into the movement “Hate Has No Home Here,” created by a North Park alumnus.

Candles were lit starting from the center candle, and the light moved through the crowd, each person giving light to the next. A series of litanies were performed by students and faculty, led by Professor Boaz Johnson and Student Body President Steve Smrt, with an audience response of “Hate has no home here” and “Hope has a home here.”

“We remember,” said Faith and Justice leader Jorie Dybcio, “our own immigrant origins, and the origin of North Park University as a Christian institution that, from the beginning of its existence, has sought to empower and give voice to all.”

“Hope has a home here!” the audience responded.

Dr. Helen Hudgens performed a rendition of “This Little Light of Mine” substituting some of the lyrics to reflect the current events, such as the DREAMers act, and calling out prominent political figures, letting them know that her light will continue to shine. This was followed by a multi-lingual reading—including in English, Spanish, German, Korean, Afrikaans—of Micah 6:8: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (NIV).

Although the night was windy, and multiple candles were blown out, there was always someone nearby to share their light. It characterized the attitude of those who attended: they were there to help re-light the candle that had been snuffed out in others’ lives.

“The Hope Candlelight Vigil was an attempt for us to follow the teaching and example of Christ, to love our neighbor—the widow, the orphan, the stranger, the Samaritan. . . . My hope and prayer is that we’ll continue to be a community which keeps doing this. In doing so, we will be more like Jesus, and truly a Christian community,” said Dr. Boaz Johnson.

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Student Blog: The Heart of Being Free as a Black Man

Remembering the Resurrected One is what will bring true reconciliation and freedom.

This is a student blog post submitted by Marcus Payne II, C’17. Marcus is a communications and biblical and theological studies major.

What is at the heart of being free as a black man?

That has been on my heart for a while. This passion to be more than a statistic started at the first college I attended, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE). There, for the first time in my life, I had a black male professor, and it was one of the most mind-blowing and enriching experiences I ever had. He constantly made us aware of our vulnerability as black men, and how the world expected us to fail. He made sure we were aware that all 25 of the black men in that class could be more than the next rapper and ball player.

These experiences led me to a phase in life where I want to pair racial reconciliation with the truth of the Gospel.

In America, oppression and marginalization exist even while people claim the country to be Christian. I feel that this is the direct opposite of how Christ envisioned the kingdom of God. Lupe Fiasco says in his song Strange Fruition: “Now I can’t pledge allegiance to your flag because I can’t find no reconciliation with your past / When there was nothing equal for my people in your math / You forced us in the ghetto and then you took our dads.”

As a black man, my life is honestly expendable to America. However, North Park showing a sign that they care for people who look like me, by hosting a Black Lives Matter rally—that was a step back into the realm of reconciliation and the Gospel’s true message of liberation.

In today’s society, there is an obvious lack of love and that is what is missing in the reality true freedom. For author and pastor Dwight Hopkins, love is freedom and allows oppressed and marginalized people to find their true image, which is the Imago Dei. For Hopkins, both love and freedom are keys to having a healthy theological anthropology that pushes us to the image of God and directs Christians towards God’s mission. “‘Freedom and justice for all’ isn’t a reality for people of color because there is a lack of love in society,” he writes.

So what is the solution? In his book A Black Theology of Liberation, James Cone uses the resurrection of Christ to show the need to liberate those who are oppressed. For Cone, Christ’s resurrection is the theme that shows the ultimate power over oppression. “To say no to oppression and yes to liberation is to encounter the existential significance of the Resurrected One.”

Easter is approaching and, from a Christian perspective, remembering the Resurrected One is what will bring true reconciliation and freedom.

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Dr. Gregor Thuswaldner Inaugurated into the European Academy of Sciences and Arts

Thuswaldner is dean of arts and sciences and professor of humanities at North Park University.

Thuswaldner is dean of arts and sciences and professor of humanities at North Park University.

He is now an active member of the Academy’s Class I (Humanities). The ceremony took place at the University of Salzburg, Austria. The European Academy of Sciences and Arts promotes excellence in fields such as the humanities, medicine, arts, sciences, economics, law, and religion.

The European Academy of Sciences and Arts’ 1,900 members include 29 Nobel Prize recipients and former Pope Benedict XVI. The members of the Academy have a distinguished academic publication record and an impeccable reputation in academia. The Academy’s nominating committee nominates potential members who are then voted on by the Senate of the Academy. Funded by the European Union, the Austrian State as well as by private donors, the European Academy of Sciences and Arts is one of the biggest academic think tanks in the world that is dedicated to interdisciplinary research and regularly discusses pressing issues in the academy and civic society.

Being voted into the European Academy of Sciences and Arts is regarded as a great honor.

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