The School of Theology and Christian Ministries at AU has helped shape the university’s foundation of faith. The professors in the department are crucial to shaping that strong foundation.
Dr. MaryAnn Hawkins is the AU dean of the School of Theology and Christian Ministries and has been on staff since 2006. When Hawkins first started, she was a faculty member who was later promoted to dean of seminary chapel, then assistant dean of seminary, to her current position as dean of the graduate and undergraduate program for the Department of Christian Ministries.
Hawkins loves her job and her students.
“I’m here from about 7:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. every day,” she said. “I teach classes like most deans on campus. That’s where we get our energy from is teaching.”
Before teaching, she was a missionary.
“It’s always been a fascination of mine, but my husband and our family were missionaries in Kenya and Tanzania for eight years,” said Hawkins. “We were very interested in cultures.”
Hawkins traveled to many places like Guam, Kenya and Thailand before settling down at AU.
Due to her experience and primary focus, Hawkins teaches classes based on culture, anthropology and world religions.
Hawkins believes the department’s main role on campus is “to help students be engaged and maintain a relationship with God.” Hawkins is also proud of the uniqueness of one of the many not-so-well-known things about AU.
“I like the fact that we have Miller chapel open, and people can come in to think, pray or work on homework,” she said. “I never ask what they are doing unless I see someone crying.”
The department is excited to share a new program that is being implemented called “4 Plus 1” as well as some new majors and minors to the curriculum.
The “4 Plus 1” program is for Christian ministry majors who plan on going to seminary after receiving their bachelor’s degree. This program is designed to help students take seminary level classes while still in undergraduate classes, so instead of four years of seminary, they are taking only one year.
“It is only for students that know they want to go to seminary, because you are putting in graduate level work. It’s tough and time consuming,” advises Hawkins.
A little-known fact is that every professor in the Department of Christian Ministries has their doctorate. One of those professors is Dr. Nathan Willowby.
Willowby once attended college at AU. He had no idea then that he would one day be teaching in the same classrooms where he was a student.
“When I first went to college, I felt theology was a sense of calling,” he said. “I still wanted to have good grades and play sports, and AU allowed me to do both. Later on, I felt like teaching was where God was calling me.
“After undergrad, I went to seminary here for a year and then the final three years at Duke University. It was there that I felt my ministry was to teach. I didn’t know what that would look like, and things didn’t start happening immediately.”
Willowby never lost faith that God was going to take care of him and his family. Three years ago, Willowby accepted the job as a professor and has loved being reunited with the AU community. Not only does he enjoy his time with his students, but also understands the importance of his colleagues.
“I like my colleagues a lot,” he said. “I like the breadth of experiences we bring.”
Willowby understands the impact his department has on campus, not only to students of Christian ministry, but also to the students who attend other classes at AU.
“We have two tasks,” said Willowby. “We have to train up specialists in our discipline. For us, it’s almost a profession-discipline, because we are training up future ministers. When our students are ready to graduate, they are expecting to be ready. It’s like a professional school for us.
“Our second task is our service to the school. We teach two classes for the liberal arts curriculum. For me, if we are doing our jobs properly, we provide some sort of coherence. I also think most of my colleagues think in some sort of Christian framing that goes beyond this course material.”