Click on the magazine cover image above to read or print this issue of Vision in full magazine format.
Q&A with Scott LaMascusVice President for Academic Affairs! You took the helm in January. After your first semester, are you settling into the role?
No question, but it is a big job. It really is a dream job for me, so I look forward to each day when I arrive on campus. It is exciting work to support and empower great teaching-scholars, chairs, deans, librarians, tech gurus, staff leaders, and others who wield deep knowledge and involvement in their fields, but whose highest priority is growing students’ faith and building exceptional learning environments. That is my idea of purposeful fun.
President John deSteiguer calls you “OC’s ideal chief academic leader for the future.” No doubt such words are humbling to you, but do they also give you confidence?
You stole my line. Humbling, indeed. Yes, who doesn’t like to hear someone say something nice about you? But I find compliments more than a little embarrassing. And President deSteiguer is a really generous person and sees the best in everyone. But I know I have a lot of growing to do in all areas of my life.
That’s why OC is such a great place to be – every day, I pray with friends who are students and faculty. Every day, I get to ask questions about things I need to learn. And every day, I try to contribute to a wonderful university that the world desperately needs.
Coming to this campus at age 18 has made a huge, huge difference in my life and I want others to experience that. Every day, someone talks to me about Christ or I talk to someone about Christ. Confidence worth anything really comes from all these activities in a faith community. I work with wonderful people.
You have been around campus for a long time – as an undergrad, at The Christian Chronicle and as a long-time faculty member – you know the shoes you’re filling: Dr. Stafford North. Dr. Bailey McBride (54), Dr. Jeanine (Baker 73) Varner, Dr. Allison (Dabbs 84) Garrett.
The many accomplishments of OC’s exceptional academic leaders really are the stuff of legend – Dr. North and Dr. McBride not only have been formally inducted into the Oklahoma Higher Education Hall of Fame, but our past chief academic officers are beloved by generations. So I try not to think about how large those proverbial “shoes” are that I am called to fill. It might freak me out a little. But I try to make myself remember all the ways these great academic leaders have taught and inspired me. OC is a teaching and learning place. Everyone teaches and everyone learns. That’s how it works.
And I’ll let you in on a little secret. It’s easy to live among legendary figures when they are like OC’s legends. No stuffed shirts here. Dr. North and Dr. McBride literally were the first and second people to come into my office to congratulate me on my appointment.
And then not long afterwards, a note came from each of them and Dr. McBride’s was tucked inside a book on “soul care” for academics. Isn’t that the OC Way? Yes.
As alumni, we might not appreciate the nuances of academic affairs, but we are planning for our children and grandchildren to go to college. And we want them to get the best academic, spiritual, career-launching, safe, amazing experience possible. What do you tell “us?”
I get it. Looking from the outside is very different … and the media is filled with reports of how impossible higher education has become. It has been such an education for me to sit with families to discuss the college choice.
- Will faculty really be disciples or will they be speaking clichés? Will they build my child’s biblical knowledge?
- Will my child learn biblical, grounded, and mature faith that launches a lifetime of walking in the Holy Spirit?
- Will the campus welcome my child and give them lifelong friends who make them better?
- How will my child’s professional training compare to what other campuses give?
These are my questions, too, as I help my own sons begin this process, but I’ll tell you that most parents understand that they need to find a special community of faith for their young people.
Do you have a chance to keep up with any of your friends from your student days at OC?
You mean other than Facebook and LinkedIn? Okay, seriously. My wife and I meet regularly with one of my OC classmates and his wife for coffee, prayer and fellowship. It’s one of the highlights of our week. And I try to stay in touch with Eagle Nation and my good friends as best I can – but we’re scattered from the Middle East to Washington, D.C., and from Brazil to Boston these days. So Facebook actually is a great way to stay in touch.
Another great way I’m staying in touch with my OC friends is when they bring their children back to campus to take a look at OC. Recently, Lynnette (Boyd 83) Rowlands brought her daughter for a campus visit and it was such fun. Kim (Stamper 84) Hancock was here with her husband, Randy, and their son. When that happens, I try to find a time when the “kids” are all busy taking tours and share a cup of coffee with my old college friends just to hear what life’s pathways have been like for them. Faith looks so different from age 50 than it did from age 18 or 21.
It is also great fun to attend Dallas or Tulsa alumni chapter activities. Recently, I was invited to speak to an OCWA luncheon run by a friend from my student days. Everywhere I go, I meet alumni who value what we’re trying to do and understand that we’re not perfect, but we’re focused on a worthy mission and that our commitment to Christ is real and is getting stronger. It’s at the heart of why OC is here in the first place.
What are some of your goals for our academic programs?
The OC vision is that “OC is home, OC grows, and OC is mission.” As we drill down into mission, consensus has emerged that OC become very focused and articulate about how faith informs learning, because the world isn’t dying for another great liberal arts college.
Of the thousands of universities, those genuinely committed to faith and intellect are rare in higher education, and those who are fresh and innovative are rarer still.
Tell us about college kids today. Are they the same? Are they smarter?
Tim Elmore has called today’s generation of incoming, traditional students the “iY” generation because they have had information technology in their lives from the very beginning. They are accustomed to living with almost too much information, so they are craving the skills of analysis, evaluation, synthesis, and critical thinking. These students love their friends and want to change the world. They really care about social justice and they believe in God’s fierce commitments to the vulnerable, the orphaned, and the weak or exploited.
Do you have a guiding scripture?
I suppose the first chapter of James is the one I repeat to myself as I drive on an errand or walk in the evening: “Consider it pure joy when you encounter various trials because ...”
Somehow, that chapter always provides a cool drink of hope without being Pollyanna or thinking of faith as being about me.