Thursday, December 17, 2015

A beautiful reason to rejoice!

As you prepare for Christmas, please allow me to draw your attention to this happy piece of news that the English majors and minors received today. I heard yesterday, but was waiting for the official email to announce it.

From the head of our English department:

"Dear Majors and Minors in English,
I am thankful to be able to report, on behalf of the English Department, that Dr. Martin received the good news yesterday from President Christy that he had been reinstated in his position teaching Creative Writing at NWC.  I have expressed our gratitude to Mr. Christy for considering our appeal and being willing to make this decision on our behalf.
Wishing you all the Joy of  Christmas,
Dr. Lundberg"

God is so good...thank you for praying, appealing, and giving us your support, my friends. Dr. Martin and the Writing and Rhetoric major will see another year at Northwestern.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Bathhouses are important. So is camp. Let's be generous.

Staff members and supporters of Haven on the Rock:

We've got 16 days left to raise $30,000 for the bathhouse. At the time that I am writing this post, we have $835. Many of you have shared this campaign, but few of you have actually given. Please reconsider that action.

It only takes 5 minutes, and a donation can equal the cost of a single time eating out with friends, or one week's worth of Starbucks. By giving up one or two special meals or cutting out caffeine and sugar from your daily routine for a week (which is actually good for you...), you can help Haven expand and mature as a camp. Crazy, right?

Some of you are aware that the cost of camp per child is cut from $375 to $150 (or even lower) because of donations. Donating to the bathhouse fund can happen at any time, so you might be wondering why it's even important to give now. For this Indiegogo campaign, a generous donor is matching every dollar we receive up to $30,000. This offer won't extend to donations outside of this specific project that ends on December 17. And that's why you should give now...to help us build the new bathhouse twice as quickly.

If you have a passion for the growth of Haven on the Rock, please don't hesitate to show your support for this project. You won't be any less of a Christian if you don't give, but the opportunity to help a ministry so near to many of our hearts doesn't come in this simple of a process too often. Show your support for Haven on the Rock. You know you want to do it. :)

Build a New Bathhouse for Haven on the Rock

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Letter to the Board of Directors from students and alum

Posted below is the compiled list of student and alum appeals we have received so far. I did not include the signatures in this blog, but if you are interested in adding to the list of appeals or signatures, please let me know by 7 p.m. on Wednesday, November 4.

Student Appeals
Justine Johnson
To the Board,
My name is Justine Johnson and I am a senior Writing and Rhetoric major with a Journalism minor. When I was a senior in high school, I didn’t want to attend college. My mother dragged me to a college fair and I arrived at the Northwestern table with a terrible attitude. The only initiative I had in mind was to find a school with a writing program. Most of the schools I had seen so far didn’t even have an English major, they just had an education major. Only Northwestern had a Writing and Rhetoric major (I didn’t even know what rhetoric was until I took a class on it here).
As a junior, I took all of the required rhetoric classes—three in the same semester, actually—and finally learned that rhetoric is, simply put, everything we do and say and write and wear. There is no way to avoid rhetoric, and the same could be said for writing. It is everywhere. Yet not everyone knows how to do it well. In fact, I have learned during my time at Northwestern that most people are quite poor writers. However, my writing classes have also taught me that writing is a skill to be improved, not a gift that can be given or taken away.
Yes, some people are better writers than others, and in that way, writing is a gift. But with the ability to type or to form words with our mouths or our pens comes the ability to improve a mechanical skill which eventually becomes a muscle. Without the Writing and Rhetoric major, I never would have learned to believe that every person I tutor in the Peer Learning Center has the potential to become a great writer.
So Writing and Rhetoric was what brought me to Orange City, Iowa. Not the science program, not the excellent community fostered in the dorms, not the general education classes that I was assigned my first semester. Well, I guess one of the gen-eds I took would be an exception. That was my Literary Contexts class with Dr. Martin. I walked into class and a bearded Canadian taught me how to properly cite poetry. Dr. Martin failed me on my first paragraph response, then told me to rewrite it and give the work some real, critical thought. We read authors from a variety of backgrounds and countries around the world, something to which I had never been exposed before college.
When Professor Sowienski left after my sophomore year, Dr. Martin became my adviser. I began taking more classes with him, learning how to write a decent short story and receiving feedback regularly through both in-class workshops and personal emails on my pieces. I read authors from multiple continents, most of whom did not write their original drafts in English, and this widened my perspective on writing and on the world. I learned to value a B+ from Dr. Martin after he explained that he gave A’s to students who showed remarkable progress in their second drafts. When I received my first A in a class with Dr. Martin, I knew I had finally learned how to revise my first drafts thoroughly and carefully.
As an upperclassman in the English department, I feel it is vital to the survival of this college to keep the Writing and Rhetoric major. Without this major, students will not be able to leave college with the best-rounded experience because they will be lacking the skill in writing that would carry them through jobs in all fields. Without Dr. Martin’s presence here, Northwestern would be lacking an intelligent, kind, talented professor who invests time, effort, and love into the lives of his students both inside and outside the classroom. Further, Dr. Martin’s influence on the English department and on the general education program here is irreplaceable.
Please consider the following thoughts of students and alum who feel passionate about keeping and strengthening the presence of the English department.


Nicole Montgomery
To whom it may concern:

My name is Nicole Montgomery, and I am a junior English Teaching Major. I am writing in hopes that you’ll listen to my opinion on the elimination of the Writing and Rhetoric major and Dr. Martin’s position. I would like to respectfully disagree with your decision and challenge you to reconsider your reasoning in eliminating this position. I completely understand our low enrollment issue and realize that as a result, we need to make sacrifices. However, I do not agree with the decision to sacrifice Dr. Martin’s position.

Since coming to college, Dr. Martin has continuously served as a professor who has challenged my thinking. When I was convinced I believed one thing, Dr. Martin asked me about another viewpoint, helping me to understand the bigger picture. This kind of thinking and dialogue has not occurred with any other professor on campus. In eliminating Dr. Martin’s position, we are losing the valuable thinking that Dr. Martin provokes in students.

Dr. Martin’s care clearly shows with his students. I remember having a workshop for a piece of writing that was difficult for me to share. It had told the story of a deep and personal struggle I had dealt with while in high school. My classmates did not receive the writing well and weren’t very gracious in their comments to me. After leaving class deeply hurt that day, I received an email from Dr. Martin making sure that I was okay. He reaffirmed the value in my story and commended me for telling such an important story, even if it was hard to tell. It’s not every day that we encounter this great care that students have for professors. Dr. Martin continues to serve as an example of the type of teacher I wish to be in caring for my students.

Through sacrificing the writing and rhetoric major, we are eliminating the entire reason so many students come to this college. The Modified English major simply cannot encompass the importance writing has on students. If we wish to create successful students to enter the working world, we must have effective communicators. Eliminating writing and rhetoric will weaken our ability to prepare students to communicate well. Furthermore, the emphasis on writing is appealing to a large number of students because not all want to focus on literature analysis. By breaking the English major into education, writing, and literature, students have the unique opportunity to specialize in one area and become especially skilled.

Finally, by eliminating Dr. Martin’s position, we will only be hurting other majors. A large number of students take literary context with Dr. Martin, and in that class, he really shows students how to think and communicate well. He sets up a space for respectful dialogue and shows students how to disagree with one another gracefully. By not having Dr. Martin teach this class, students are going to be losing a great opportunity to think at a deeper level. More specifically, our English teaching major will also be weakened in the elimination of Dr. Martin’s position. Our other English professors are wonderful, but are far more focused on the literature aspect of English. Without having an aspect of English tied to writing, English teaching majors are only going to be equipped to teach literature, which is a miniscule part of English education as a whole. If we wish to produce teachers who help educate the next generation well, we need to have Dr. Martin’s position, so English education students will be well-versed in literature AND writing effectively.


I hope you will reconsider the elimination of the Writing and Rhetoric major as well as Dr. Martin’s position. The value Dr. Martin has to a lot of students reaches far beyond what words can describe. Many of us would much rather be asked to live without the extra amenities we’ve been provided with for a while than to see our favorite professors leave. I hope that you will take these letters as a sign that we students are paying attention to the decisions being made and that we care about what you are doing. Thank you for your time.

Mallory Bjork
To the Board: 

This semester is the first time I have had Dr. Martin as a professor.  Being in his Intro to Narrative and Verse class has challenged me to think about my writing in ways I have not before.  I have been able to dig deep into my writing instead of feeling like I was only scratching the surface of what I can do.  Dr. Martin has also challenged me to write about things I have been scared to write about, to go against the norms and what I am comfortable with.  The faith discussions we have in his class are also thought provoking, especially learning to see faith from different perspectives and in different contexts.  

If Dr. Martin's position is eliminated, our English department will lack the unique writing courses that we English majors thrive on.  We will instead become a major that consists of standard English courses, much like a community college.  As a private liberal arts college, we should be known for our English department (and we are), but I fear what will become of it if his position is eliminated.  An already small major may become smaller yet due to prospective students choosing to go to a college with a complete and diverse English department.  

Allison Mulder
Dear Members of the Board,

I’m currently a senior participating in Chicago Semester and graduating in December, so most campus happenings seem very far away. However, one issue that remains very close to me—and fills me with dread—is the elimination of Dr. Martin’s position and the loss of the Writing and Rhetoric major.

From the beginning of my life at Northwestern, the Writing and Rhetoric major has been the curriculum I appreciate most. As an aspiring author, I loved that I was able to pursue and develop my creative interests alongside more academic and professional writing. The writing skills I learned in classes such as Short Fiction or Intro to Narrative and Verse transferred over to all my other areas of study. For example, I took a class on Fantasy writing early on, and struggled to express my imaginings on paper in a way that others could understand.  After several years studying under Dr. Martin and taking other writing classes, I’m now much better at making complex ideas understandable in writing. I was even able to draft a full novel for my Honors Research Project, and craft a presentation on my process. Throughout that project—and many others—Dr. Martin’s feedback, heartfelt encouragement, and support as a mentor has been crucial.

In the next few days, Crossed Genres—a fantasy and science fiction magazine paying professional rates, and a qualifying market for membership in the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America organization—will be publishing one of my short stories. It is my first professional sale, and I wrote that story during my time at Northwestern, while immersed in all things Writing and Rhetoric. With luck, dedication, and the skills I’ve developed at college, this will by no means be my last sale. My hope is that I will someday be an author with many short stories and novels in print, and young writers will ask where I went to college, and I will be able to point them to Northwestern with confidence in how much my alma mater values my art and field of study.

If that’s too ambitious (or optimistic) an argument, here’s a humbler one: while I worked as Spectrum’s copy editor during my sophomore and junior years, we staff members poured ourselves into our task—under Dr. Martin’s supervising role—because we wanted to build a stronger community for the writers on campus. Not simply those who want to become authors, but anyone with an interest in writing, in any capacity. We thought about the students beyond our own graduations. We tried to streamline things for the staff members who would come after us. As a writing and rhetoric major at Northwestern, I desperately wanted to strengthen a community for all the students who would come after us. I wanted more of a writing emphasis at Northwestern. Please, don’t deprive future students completely.

I request that you reconsider the elimination of Dr. Martin’s position and the loss of the Writing and Rhetoric major. I may be finishing my time at Northwestern, but this community must be preserved for those who will need it in the future.

Shannon Teske
Members of the Board,

    Hello, my name is Shannon Teske. I am a freshman this year and am an undecided major. This title stresses me out quite a bit though I was glad to know I didn't have to decide right away. However, this decision to drop the writing and rhetoric major is very distressing. I knew nothing of this major before coming here and I am extremely excited to learn about it, knowing it will match my interests well. I am considering majoring in writing and rhetoric once I have taken a few classes next semester, but if the major is being dropped, I have to decide very quickly with little to no knowledge on the topic. This is my current dilemma, but I fail to see why this would be the major to cut. 
    Writing and Rhetoric (to me) seems to be some of the most transferable skills one could ever learn. In a liberal arts college, I would suspect that to be taken very seriously. Writing is an important and beautiful skill that is applicable to nearly every occupation and major. Rhetoric is the art of persuasion, for crying out loud. Why doesn't everyone know this? We learn to write reviews and essays, to defend our views while attentively listening to those of others and understanding what we see in the world around us. This is what I have found Northwestern stresses most in the classes I have taken, so why would this major that fits so perfectly into Northwestern's fundamental beliefs be cut from the college? 
    Granted, I am not a Writing and Rhetoric major, I have never taken any of its classes, and I do not know Dr. Martin. Despite my setbacks, I still believe that this major is extremely important and we would be at a great loss if it were to be removed. As for Dr. Martin, he seems to be an amazing person and a great teacher from what I hear and I was very excited to be taking some of his classes. The idea of no longer having that opportunity depresses me. 
    I am still having a difficult time trying to figure out why it is this major that is to be cut. Does it not tie in and reflect every trait that the Northwestern community claims to be honorable and wise? I cannot imagine that it does not. I think this major and this professor are intrinsically important to this community and this college, despite the fact that they may not be pulling in as much money as the other major fields. I think we would be at a far greater loss than advantage if this major and professor were to be cut from the school. Once again, I have little experience in this area but somehow it is still obvious to me. Perhaps I am biased and unknowledgeable. Perhaps not. That is for you to decide. These are my thoughts for you to interpret.

Lydia Steenhoek
As for Dr. Martin,
In all my years of writing classes (we’re talking from 1st grade on), I really only remember two instructors:  my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Howell, and Dr. Martin.  True, he is my most recent instructor, but I have never seen a single teacher put so much time and effort and thought into the development of his students’ works, and it is this incredible passion for helping others do their best work that makes him so memorable.  I remember the first time I received a paper back in Narrative and Verse my freshman year.  I was absolutely stunned by all the notes in the margins – it had been several years since anyone wrote anything on my paper but ‘check spelling’ or ‘good job.’  Here was commentary on flow, style, metaphor choice, critical questions and incredibly specific praise of my successes.  I have never been so happy to receive a ‘B’ in my entire life.
That, I think, is what makes Dr. Martin special.  He is friendly, and cares deeply about life outside the classroom, but many professors here do that.  What Dr. Martin does is care so deeply about students that he pours his time not just into social niceties, but in serious academic and spiritual discussion, pushing boundaries, setting high standards, and investing his whole self into helping them be the best they can be.  He cares about art, God, and people, and has been an unbelievable influence for my approach to all three.
If we claim to be a Christian liberal arts institution, we need leaders and teachers like Dr. Martin, who are courageous and curious, persevering and playful, harboring both a holy hilarity and deeply empathetic eyes to encounter the pains of the world. We will never build a holistic Kingdom or really change the world if we stick to the studies and practices that are merely practical or safe.  My experience at Northwestern College would not be the same without this incredible professor, nor would my very being.  His loss is a fatal one to the English department and a critical one to the school, and I would urge you with all I have to preserve his position and the major that has meant such a great deal to students.

Carrie Bouwman
The main reason I came to this school was because of the fact that they had a Writing and Rhetoric major. I didn't really want to major in English teaching, and literature is simply not my thing. I've had a passion for creative writing for about as long as I can remember, and being able to work on my skills as a creative writer in classes solely focused on writing and improving your writing has made my life so much better. I hate to think that future students might not get the same experiences that I have.
As for Dr. Martin, he's my adviser and has been since I started school. He's helped me navigate what classes I need to take. I'm a junior this year and if he were to leave, I would have to get a new adviser for my final year. I don't think that's fair. Not to mention, he's a superb teacher. After taking his short fiction class, I saw a great improvement in my story telling. It may not be perfect, but with his encouragement and suggestions I can only get better. I hope that he can stick around for years to continue to inspire and help students of Northwestern. 

Abbie (Goldschmid) Amiotte (’15)
To Whom it May Concern:
As a recent graduate of the Writing and Rhetoric major, I am devastated to learn of the potential end to this major and the removal of Dr. Martin's position. Not only does this major benefit those students who study it, but it is vital to exposing the rest of campus to the benefits of writing, literature, and rhetoric. After serving as a student ambassador, it became clear to me how little the rest of the world outside of my department understood about rhetoric. Potential students as well as my friends around campus often misunderstood rhetoric as an evil form of mind-control. (One parent on a tour actually asked me how a Christian college could possibly teach rhetoric. Without the education from professors including Dr. Martin, I wouldn't have been able to answer her.) Unfortunately, there is very little discussion in gen-ed classes regarding that rhetoric is everywhere and impacts every facet of our lives. Sure, it's in politics and advertising. But it also in church, relationships, news, family communication, everywhere. It matters that students understand what rhetoric is and how it affects our lives in order that we can determine how arguments shape and alter our worldview. Gen-eds don't do this, and writing and rhetoric majors are necessary to explain rhetoric to their fellow students. And the major is necessary for future students to be exposed to rhetoric as well. Without it, young adults may never understand the necessity to think critically in all situations because they lack the understanding of how rhetoric works and how it permeates life. Northwestern prides itself on communal learning; removing the writing and rhetoric major will deprive the rest of campus of a vital learning opportunity. 

As for Dr. Martin and his impact on his students, I feel a bit lost for words. It seems ridiculous to me to need to defend the necessity of an individual whose teaching, mentoring, and friendship changed my entire NWC experience. I only took one class with Dr. Martin; a fiction writing class that utterly terrified me. I like research papers and non-fiction, and prior to entering his class, I had never finished a short story. Through his encouragement and critique, I was able to conquer my fear of writing fiction and ultimately create pieces I am proud of, two of which appeared in last year's Spectrum. But beyond just an educational experience, Dr. Martin challenged me to read and explore authors whose works demonstrate the importance of delving into darker topics through writing as a form of cathartic release. He would send me stories even after my semester in his class was over that he felt might impact my own writing for the better. He took the time to continue to invest in my writing far beyond what was required of him as a professor. And, as my writing is extremely personal, he demonstrated an investment in me as a person. He believes in my ability to produce good work, even when I don't, and as such, he has made me a more courageous writer. I firmly believe we need Christians to write about hard things (in my case, I often chose to write about infertility and miscarriage-issues widely ignored in many Christian circles); Martin also believes in the importance of this calling. He creates writers willing to do this, and without him, Northwestern would certainly lose a vital element in its pursuit of creating faithful and impactful individuals to work for Christ's redeeming work in the world.
Jordan Dykstra (’15)
My name is Jordan Dykstra, and I graduated from NWC last May. It pained me to hear the news early this fall about the writing program and in particular, Dr. Martin.
Last spring, during my last semester, I had an urge to take an elective course of something that would interest me. I approached Dr. Martin about the 300-level short fiction writing course, and he graciously let me into the class. This course put an exclamation point on my education, and I will always carry fond memories of not only an outstanding group of fellow writers (99% of whom were in the writing major), but a truly consummate professional in Dr. Martin.
While I was never a writing major (and much less talented than my peers who were), Dr. Martin instilled a confidence in my writing style and helped find my voice. He gave very detailed feedback, was extremely caring of his students and knew his medium inside and out. It was a class that I looked forward to coming to ever week.
In my opinion, losing Dr. Martin (and a writing major) would be an extreme disservice to the mission of Northwestern and its brand as a liberal arts institution. It's a disservice to higher learning.
Carissa Tavary
Members of the Board,
I think the writing and rhetoric major needs to be saved because of the diversity it adds to the English department. English is such a broad field of study that to get rid of specific degrees, such as Writing and Rhetoric, would be hurtful to the preparation of students for their careers. You cannot generalize English, just as you cannot generalize business or science. Imagine having General Biology, Microbiology, Genetics, and Environmental studies all under a vague Biology major and saying you have adequately prepared Northwestern college students for a career in Laboratory Science? Or for a career in clean energy research? You simply cannot force each of these topics under one name because they are too large and require too specific a curriculum. Such is the way with Writing and Rhetoric. We would be losing vital information and curriculum by combining these majors. Further, Northwestern College’s Vision for Learning reads: “A Northwestern education prepares students to: Engage ideas… [Students] add their voices to the wider conversation through disciplined and imaginative speech, writing, art, and performance.” How can students engage ideas in this wide conversation through imaginative speech and writing if they are being generalized and pushed under a vague field of study? I understand the English degree that would inhabit parts of the Writing and Rhetoric major would be rigorous and challenging, but to the extent that students feel encouraged to pursue their passion? Their gifts? Just as you cannot say all students learn the same or act the same, not all students share the same passions and gifts. They will not be pushed to further these for the kingdom of God if they are not supplied with the necessary tools to explore that interest. 
Trevor Delamater
As a senior, I have taken classes from many great teachers Northwestern, and few have challenged me to give my best like Dr. Martin has. No other professor at Northwestern can match him for pushing me to improve while also inspiring me with confidence in myself and a passion for learning.
I came to Northwestern with a lot of doubts myself, but Dr. Martin's encouragement, both in and out of the classroom, helped me to see myself as someone who could contribute value to the world. Without him, my Northwestern experience would not have caused me to dream boldly about the future.
Budget problems can be rectified with time and wise planning, but Dr. Martin is truly irreplaceable. Please consider how the loss of one of Northwestern's best professors will decrease the quality of education for future students. If Northwestern College sacrifices its excellence in academics and student development, its cost savings are wasted.
Abbey Slattery
To whom it may concern,

Earlier this semester, I, along with the other students in my major, received the news that Dr. Sam Martin’s position would be terminated after this year, and with him, the writing and rhetoric major. I’m writing to ask you, those who can do something about this situation, to please reconsider your choice. Dr. Martin is not only a favorite professor for many students on this campus, some not even in the major, but is also an indispensable member of the English department. If he leaves, so does an entire major. And if that major—my major— leaves, then what reason do I have to stay here? I have come to think of Northwestern as a home away from home. I have made lasting connections and relationships with the people here. I don’t want to have to leave. And I’m sure Dr. Martin doesn’t either. But if Northwestern becomes a place that no longer cares about the writing & rhetoric major and fires the professor that supplies it, then I don’t have much of a choice.  Dr. Martin deserves to stay. He’s a great professor. And if eliminating him eliminates an entire major, how is it logical to make him leave? There has to be a better way of accomplishing whatever “rightsizing” needs to be done without cutting a crucial member of Northwestern’s community out of the picture. By cutting Martin, you’ll be leaving us English students with a severely weakened curriculum. There might not be as many of us as there may be in other majors. Does that mean that our futures and our career paths should be valued less than those who majored in business? I came to this school so that I could experience a specialized writing program that would help me refine my skills. If you get rid of writing & rhetoric, then it would feel to me as if everything the people who are involved with the major have put into this school has just been ignored. I don’t mean to sound harsh or abrasive. I just care so much about the writing & rhetoric program, and Dr. Martin along with it, and I truly, truly believe that cutting both the man and the major is detrimental to the future of the college. I ask that you please remember not only how this cut will affect Dr. Martin’s life here, but also his family’s, and the lives of the students he advises. When—and depending on this decision, if—I say I graduated from Northwestern, I want to be able to say it proudly. Please don’t make the mistake of taking both a job away from a man who truly cares about this school and a major away from students who are passionate about their field of study. C’mon guys. We’re all just humans. There has to be a better way. 


Julia VanDyk
To the board:
I am a junior theater major (PR minor) from Ames, Iowa. When I told people as a high school senior of my decision to attend Northwestern, one of the questions I would most commonly receive in response was “Why didn’t you choose Iowa State?” This response makes sense, given the fact that my father works there, it’s right in my town, and Iowa State has its own successful theater program.
But I chose small, Christian, liberal arts Northwestern.
I came in as a double major in theater and PR, knowing I’d have the opportunity to complete classes in both of those areas along with a rich array of other liberal arts subjects. While I am also affected by the changes in the PR department, my small voice is just one in a sea of voices who will be even more greatly affected by the loss of a significant portion of our liberal arts school.
I am a student ambassador. I speak with prospective students on a regular basis, and I am familiar with many aspects of admissions. I know that while enrollment is down now, it will not be forever. Students are still looking for a place like Northwestern. They are looking for a Christian Writing and Rhetoric major. They are looking for specific things that they cannot get anywhere else, and will not be able to get at all if Northwestern ceases the existence of this major and one of its most important professors.
According to our most recent ambassador meeting, we’ve already had many more prospective visitors and more applications submitted that we usually do at this point in the year. Surely those numbers count for something.
I know these are difficult decisions to make. My intention is not to disregard the board or other affected departments. I am not a Writing and Rhetoric major; I have not yet taken a class with Dr. Martin. But I am looking forward to my class with him in the spring, and I hope my small voice may join that of the sea: past, present, and future students.

Thank you.

Lisa Bouwman
I was thrilled when Northwestern began offering the Writing and Rhetoric major during my time there. Although I had a love for reading and literature, my true passion was writing. The professors in the department and that time, primarily Joanna Trapp and Carl Vandermuelen (who have since moved on from Northwestern), were my absolute favorite teachers and taught the most meaningful and valuable classes I took while I attended. In particular, the classes on rhetoric impacted and helped me more as a young professional adult than my inexperienced college self could ever have predicted. The studies on rhetoric and writing together taught me not just how other people wrote (like my literature classes tended to do) but how to express my own opinion effectively. Since the primary form of communication in businesses is email, the ability to express what I wanted or needed in written form and in convincing manner that appealed to my given audience, contributed greatly to my success. Fifteen years later, I still use those skills every day.
When my niece, Carrie Bouwman, told me she was going to Northwestern and taking this same major, I could not have been more excited. Now she has informed me that the program is in serious danger of being cut. The study of the classics and the honing of writing are two of the most valuable skills a college student could graduate with and use to express themselves in the world. Don’t make the mistake of believing that students interested in these types of programs will settle for an English major instead. They are not and should not be considered to be an equal subject of study. I would implore any decision makers at Northwestern to reconsider cutting this program.

If you would like to contact me, I would be happy to discuss this in more detail or answer any questions. I can be reached at lisabouwman@gmail.com.

Theresa Larrabee
Martin is honestly one of the most engaging professors I've had. He made me excited to do work for his class. When I've taken his classes I've always felt valued as an individual, and he really encourages original, honest work. Sometimes in academic settings, creativity can be lost or pushed aside, but he always wanted us to strive for our own voices. I think he's one of the only professors I've ever sought out outside of class to get his opinion on my work and ask questions. And he's just so good at his job! He really knows what he's talking about and he makes class fun. I never dreaded going to his class, even when it was a night class. 

Friday, October 30, 2015

(UPDATE) Fight for Martin.

So it has come to my attention that my previous post may have been a little too unclear about what you as readers can do to help fight for the writing major and Dr. Martin. My apologies! Let me clear that up, as well as give you some new information I received yesterday.

We have a brief time to collect signatures and words from all of you, so please send any written statements about why the writing major/Dr. Martin are needed at Northwestern as well as personal testimonials about how one or both have influenced your life to justine.johnson@nwciowa.edu or nicole.montgomery@nwciowa.edu. If you are friends with one of us on Facebook, sending us a personal message there would also work.

Additionally, please consider giving us permission to put your name in the list of signatures at the end of the document. You can either include that in your message to us, or you can just comment here/on Facebook or Twitter/in a separate message (if you don't want to write a paragraph).

Now for more details.

I was informed yesterday that the Board of Trustees will be making their final decision on November 11, but we have until November 5 to send in our letter. If you would like to send your own letter, send it to the Board of Trustees c/o Marty Guthmiller (guthmilm@ochealthsystem.org) no later than November 5.

Time is running short, so please consider giving us your name to put on the letter! Even if you are not a Northwestern student currently, you can still voice your support. Parents and other family members/loved ones of Northwestern students, if you feel strongly about the English department here, please join us in fighting for the Writing and Rhetoric major and for Dr. Sam Martin.

I appreciate all of you and the response so far. People care about English. Let's tell the Board of Trustees.

#fightforMartin

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Fight for English. Fight for Martin.

Friends who have been impacted by the English department at Northwestern College (either in the past or the present), please read and consider joining me in a campaign.

As some of you know, the Writing and Rhetoric major is being terminated next year, as well as Dr. Sam Martin's position as a professor here. Many professors have protested these actions and have appealed, but students have never been asked to contribute their voices to the issue.

As the final decision is being discussed over a short period of time, we as writing majors have decided it is time to speak out before it is too late.

If you love English, if your time at Northwestern has been impacted by Dr. Martin, if you value this crucial puzzle piece to the picture we call liberal arts, if you believe that this country should be fighting for the continued study of English, writing, and rhetoric, this message is for you.

Over the next four or five days, Nicole Montgomery and I will be working towards crafting a letter to send to the decision makers of this institution. We believe that there has been a series of hasty decisions without any input from the people this college exists to educate: the students. We are unwilling to accept that a liberal arts college can exist without the study of writing and rhetoric, and we are unsatisfied with the explanations we have been given thus far.

Please, if you want Northwestern College to continue excelling as an institution of quality writing and language, join me in this fight.

Save the Writing and Rhetoric major. Fight for Martin.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Why being apathetic makes me afraid of you.

We joke all the time at Northwestern about the “education for your whole life” that we are supposed to be getting. Often I end up forgetting about that slogan not long after the joke is made, but I realized as I was preparing to write this post that it really is true when I think about what I’ve learned from my writing, rhetoric, and journalism courses. Most of all, rhetoric classes have educated me for the rest of my existence.

For those of you who don’t know what rhetoric actually encompasses (trust me, it’s a running joke in the English department), let me sum it up in a simple phrase: it touches everything you do. Every choice that you make, every sentence that you choose to speak or keep to yourself, every style of writing, speech, clothing, music…even your times of silence. All of it is part of your rhetorical footprint. It’s rather scary to think about life in terms of rhetoric sometimes because you quickly realize that no matter how hard you try, you can’t stop your rhetorical influence. As a writer and a filmmaker, I’ve begun analyzing what type of rhetoric statement I might be making with every piece of art that I produce…maybe even too much for my own good. But I digress.

I took all three rhetoric courses over the past two semesters, and our class discussions often turned to advocacy and ethics in rhetoric. It’s been a solid month since I sat in Kepp Hall with my fellow writing majors and I still remember the conversations we had about a specific topic: adjusting your rhetoric for your audience. We went back and forth about whether it is helpful to use strongly worded rhetoric for every audience, and we sometimes disagreed on the timing (kairos) of these strong words. Before I embraced my apathetic personality as beautiful rather than harmful, I wrestled with these ideas over and over, agonizing about my inability to get fired up when my classmates pointed out an injustice that isn’t fought enough at this point in history, or ever.

I’ve had a few months to mull over this now, and I think I’m ready to present a real thought. Once again, this is coming from an apathetic who loves Jesus and people…not from a critic of passionate individuals and their failures or gains.

I would like to gently suggest that strongly worded rhetoric is never going to win. Here’s where I’m getting this idea. I know—both from the response I received about my last post and from conversations I have had with people face to face—that I am not the only apathetic struggling to find my place in a world of excited advocates and passionate Facebook debaters. We hide in corners of the Internet and sit underneath tables or behind couches when the tension begins to rise. We are not simply afraid of conflict; we are terrified of it. Why? Because we can’t feel anything ourselves.

We tremble at the thought of anyone finding out that no anger boiled inside us after first finding out about Ferguson. We nearly have a breakdown when there is a chance that someone might find out we have never decided exactly where we stand on women in the church because we just can’t bear to tell anyone that they are completely wrong. We bury our heads in blankets when we realize that we are going to have to scroll past yet another article about the Duggars or Caitlyn Jenner—not because we want those people to be misrepresented, but because we cannot put into words our distaste for the fact that anyone has to disagree about those people’s private or public lives in the first place.

This is the part I don’t like…confrontation. I hate open letters, but this post is probably the closest I have gotten to writing one. I feel that it is important that you all know what is eating me from the inside out…and no, it does not have anything to do with a worship song.

Every single one of you who has ever shared a Facebook article about a current gossip topic or a social injustice has contributed to this fear. Every one of you who has chosen to call another person a name to label their ignorance about your side of a problem has laid another brick in this wall we apathetics hide behind. Each one of your posts on social media that spark controversy and debate because of your strong words for or against an action someone else has taken…yep, you were the wind that blew out our fire for advocacy.

Feminists, your words bite us when we realize that wanting women to be loved equally to men is much different than saying we want this.

Christians (conservative, liberal, and everyone else), your language shoves us back into our corners when you argue on freaking social media about what we should think about abortion, women in ministry, rape, or sexuality. None of you are going to change each other’s minds, so why do you have to do it so publicly? You frighten us with your judgmental and hateful words towards anyone who holds a different opinion.

Activists against and in favor of the peace-keeping system we have in America, you just frighten us in general. I don’t know how else to phrase it without crying or losing the courage to finish this post.

We love you. We care deeply about people and the things that need to be changed in order to help them live well and love better. But we hate it when your strong words cause us to feel guilt about something we cannot control. God made us apathetic for some reason that most of us still can’t figure out, and only a few of us have even made the first attempt to peek our white flags over the edge of the fort we call Fear. We want to spread the word about what needs to be changed too, but as long as angry or aggressive language litters the posts above and below ours, we will feel inadequate to show our support for a cause.

Being apathetic doesn’t mean we don’t want things to be better. It simply means we don’t know how to handle everyone else who feels the same way.

Back to rhetoric. Every good argument for a cause has a call to action. Here is mine: speak softly and carry a big stick. Guess what? Those aren’t even my words. President Theodore Roosevelt said that, and I happen to believe that his thought applies to far more than politics in the 20th century. Invite the apathetics to crawl out of hiding by taking our hands and beckoning us to join you. Don’t make us feel guiltier than we already do by shouting “This is wrong and it must change!” You say you are fighting for equality of man, woman, and beast. So include your apathetic neighbor.

“We love you,” we whisper. We just don’t know any other way to show it.

God loves all of us, and I pray we can all find His love to be enough.


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

I'm apathetic and I care about that.

Something has been slowly growing in my head and I'm not even close to figuring it out. I've processed it with people I trust for months, and tonight I decided it was time to let you in on what's been plaguing my brain.

I am here to confess that I am an apathetic, and I struggle to care about strong opinions and heated debates. I am probably about to offend at least one person with my words, which I would like to apologize for...but I am not going to apologize for the actual words. So depending on the grace of God to guide my thoughts and the grace of my neighbors to forgive me if I speak poorly, I will move forward with fear and trembling to share my heart.

May I speak terrible words for a moment? I don't care about your social justice issues or your articles about how we still live in a patriarchal society or your anger that Democrats or Republicans did something incredibly stupid in Congress yesterday. I don't give a single whatever about your Relevant Magazine articles or your post about how such-and-such politician is a white male with prejudice against the female population. If it's got aggressive or hurtful language, I don't care about it; in fact, I am more afraid of your angry words and strong opinions than I am upset by them.

Oof. I'm sorry for saying icky things...I did not enjoy saying them any more than you probably did reading them. If you haven't written me off as the worst person on Earth, please hear me out.

I said a few paragraphs back that I am an apathetic. What does that actually mean to me? I have come to the conclusion that I cannot feel strongly about 90% of the issues my friends and acquaintances find important. I care about people and I care about justice, don't get me wrong. But for some reason that has been tearing me apart for more than two years now, I am, for some reason, incapable of having strong feelings or opinions about nearly everything.

It's terrifying to admit this to anyone besides my closest friends. I'm so afraid that someone will think I'm a monster or a heartless freak because I am not burning with anger that police brutality and racial prejudice exist. My stomach twists in knots when I think that someone might call foul on this post because I share Facebook articles about Tourette's awareness and say that I am a liar. These words have absolutely no connection to my personal views of current issues and injustices because, to be honest, I have many opinions but very few feelings.

So is it possible to identify yourself as an apathetic who loves Jesus and people? Or am I failing as a follower of Jesus because the fire which burns in the bellies of other justice-loving disciples has somehow been permanently extinguished from my body?

I don't have any answers. That's why I changed the name of this blog and that's why I will be on the constant lookout for a better understanding of the way my brain is working. I'll still be updating about my life--camp is less than two weeks away and I am so, so excited about that. But I would also beg you to pray for me, to help me search for logical thoughts, to forgive me for my shortcomings and my mistakes.

Here's a song for the post because I think that's the only way I can end this one. "Stones" by Mike Mains & The Branches is just...well, listen to it.

God loves me, and God's love is enough.