Northwest University Blog

Beyond the Classroom

Beyond the Classroom

One of the most important pieces of the college experience is the professors. Ideally, your professors act as mentors who will invest in you and help you grow. When we hire faculty members, this is a prerequisite, and it’s evident in the educators our students are currently learning from. This is true of staff members on campus as well! Here are a few staff and faculty members who are doing an excellent job investing in our students, even outside the classroom:

Rick Engstrom | Dean, Student Development

One of the great joys in my 12 years of working with Christian college students has been living on campus. At Northwest University, the nearly 700 residential students also happen to be my neighbors. My wife, Shelley, and I love opening our home to students throughout the school year. Whether it be for a game night, movie night, awards show, “the big game,” Bible study, or simply to share a home-cooked meal together, we find plenty of opportunities to host Northwest students.

During the fall semester, my small group met at my house every Thursday morning. Each week, two ecstatic dogs and the smell of freshly brewed coffee would greet them at the door. Students were invited to kick off their shoes and make themselves at home. A sophomore in our group led us through a range of discussion questions, and together we reflected on a number of interesting topics. Personally, each Thursday morning was a practice in gratitude. As the small group talked, laughed, and connected, I would just sit back and look around the room. I would pray for each student individually and thank God for them—for their stories, journeys, and futures.

These are the meaningful opportunities that inspired me to pursue a career in student development all those years ago. Ultimately, I got into this line of work because I wanted to journey alongside Christian college students in their learning and formation. Thursday mornings this fall provided some of the best reminders of why I love this job and this university community.

My experience is not unusual on campus at Northwest University. Nearly 50 faculty and staff members live in apartments or houses around campus. Though it makes for a convenient commute to work, many of these educators choose to live on campus in order to more intentionally invest in students’ lives. Plenty of faculty and staff who commute to our Kirkland campus welcome students into their homes as well. It is not uncommon for them to share a meal in The Caf or a coffee, tea, or smoothie with students in the Aerie.

All of this contributes to a unique community, culture, and student learning experience. And it speaks to one of our primary goals: helping students find belonging and a home away from home. Even after students graduate from Northwest, we want this place to be remembered and cherished as a second home.

Eric Steinkamp | Professor, Life Sciences

I teach a two-week summer class called Northwest Ecology, where we study the geology and ecological recovery of Mount St. Helens. What’s great about the class are the students. They make it unique every year and are always a lot of fun to interact with.

Additionally, the topic is fantastic, because we’re taking something that’s difficult to study, and we’re examining it outside where you can actually see it. The first week of class is spent in class lecture, learning about how Mount St. Helens has rebounded since it erupted in 1980. The second week is then spent camping at Mount St. Helens and interacting with the exact location that we’ve been studying. I think this kind of interaction is really beneficial for the students. People who enjoy hands-on learning, like I do, really enjoy the class.

Renee Bourdeaux | Assistant Professor, Communication

I love being a faculty member at Northwest University. I work with some of the best people I have ever encountered—they are top notch across the board. Beyond that, the students who gravitate to Northwest to pursue their education have a unique combination of love for the Lord and His Kingdom and a passion for equipping themselves for what God desires them to do in the future. I genuinely want to be around students because their zeal for their education is so inspiring.

I believe it is important to invest in students inside and outside the classroom for two reasons. One, as a relational scholar, I research and teach about the importance of communication in relationships. Therefore, I know relationships take work. By talking to students in class and outside of class, I model the importance of communicating in diverse ways when creating connections with others. Two, we are called to be in community with one another. A great way to create community is to spend time together. Sharing a meal is one of my favorite ways to do that, so I love to invite students over for meals at my house. These meals allow us to pray together and continue to strengthen the web of the NU community.

Ben Sterciuc | Instructor, Nursing

Each year, the Buntain School of Nursing sends its students to another country for a 30-day, full immersion experience. In the past, I’ve taken students to Kazakhstan, and in the last five years, I’ve been taking students to Kenya.

One of the most unique aspects of this trip is spending a full month with the students. As a nursing faculty member and as a pastor, this is a very special opportunity to pour into the lives of students outside of a couple hours in the classroom or on Sundays at church.

I see teaching as a privilege because I get to inform and influence young people’s futures. Talking with students outside of the classroom opens up opportunities for the students to ask different questions, and it gives me an opportunity to provide more direct answers to specific people and their situations.