Delineating Excellence

by Sharyn Kopf—Cedarville, Ohio

Math and science have taken their place at the vanguard of society.

    From shows like CSI and Numb3rs to a seemingly voracious interest in technological and scientific advancement, these vitally important disciplines are shedding their “smart kids only” status and becoming mainstream. People want to be a part, not only because that’s where the money is, but because sums and test tubes have—and will continue to have—an impact on culture.

    The whole world is progressing at an astonishing rate … and America is pushing forward, needing to not only keep up, but get ahead. With that in mind, it’s imperative that we produce college graduates who excel in these fields.

    Of course, this is nothing new to the science and mathematics department at Cedarville University. In many respects, it is ahead of the pack when it comes to educating the next generation. Not only is it a strong department in terms of enrollment and number of majors, but it boasts some topnotch professors. In fact, 22 of the 27 faculty members have doctorates, and three more are currently working on their PhDs.

    Fifty years ago, Cedarville chose an unconventional approach for a Christian college by making science and mathematics integral parts of its curriculum. Courses were included in the general education program and strong faculty were recruited. Rather than seeing such studies as secondary pursuits, even necessary “evils” for a quality education, the University has made a point of striving for excellence in these disciplines—providing superior classes, well-equipped labs and opportunities for students.

    The major areas of study hit the basics: math, chemistry, biology, and physics—but go beyond that to majors in molecular and cellular biology along with forensic science. According to department chair Dr. Dennis Flentge, there’s more to come. Besides anticipating board approval of a geology major, they are also planning to offer a degree in environmental science soon. Above all, the faculty are looking for programs that provide far more than a competitive, first-rate education.

    “We’re not just preparing students to be excellent scientists, teachers or doctors,” says Flentge, who has been with the University since 1980. “We are preparing them to use their knowledge of the creation and its Creator to make a difference as they live and work in a secular world.”

    Adding this biblical foundation to a solid learning experience takes Cedarville graduates to a level surpassing many other schools. Flentge says, “I think that’s what distinguishes us. We have very high academic standards and, of course, a well-qualified faculty.”

    One of the department’s most recent endeavors was helping to create the Cedarville University Center for Bioethics in October 2006. Led by biology professors Dr. Dennis Sullivan and Dr. John Silvius and nursing professor Dr. Susan Salladay, the Center exists to “articulate, integrate and defend a biblical view of ethics; educate others about this view; and engage and influence the broader American culture.”

    “A lot of what we do centers around human personhood,” says Sullivan. “What makes us human is biological. What makes us a person is philosophical. If ethics is how we treat one another, we’d better define what ‘one another’ means.”

    The discussion is especially poignant this month, when we remember the tragedy of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton during Sanctity of Human Life Week, January 20-27. 2008 marks the 35th anniversary of the Supreme Court decisions that legalized abortion in the United States.

    Answering the question of human personhood is, according to Sullivan, the key question that drives everything else in bioethics. “It’s defined by theology, certainly,” he says, “but also by biology and science.”

    As the world continues advancing ever forward in math and science, Cedarville determines to be a standard-setter, producing graduates who excel in knowledge and possess a biblically sound worldview. Graduates who are—and will continue—to make a difference in their fields.