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April 12, 2019

“Where are the cracks in the secular?” Dr. James K.A. Smith asked the crowd in Asbury University’s Student Center Thursday afternoon. “Where are the openings and opportunities? If we meet people in the messiness of our secular age, that’s where I think you see these openings and opportunities to actually speak to the enduring hungers.”

These are the questions that were posed at Asbury University’s annual academic symposium SEARCH, as a faculty panel discussion opened the 2019 symposium’s events. View a photo gallery below! 

SEARCH serves to advance scholarship at Asbury through a student research competition and poster presentation each spring semester. This year, the evening also featured a keynote address and Chapel lecture from Smith, a leading philosopher, writer, cultural critic and professor at Calvin College.

“The SEARCH program is designed to support the life of the mind as crucial to the Christian faith,” said Academic Dean Tim Campbell. “The fruit of which is to advance faculty and students towards a mutual illumination of faith and scholarship. The program is realized through engagement, conversation and written word.”

This year’s SEARCH faculty panel included Dr. Kevin Brown (Business) and Dr. Claire Peterson (Philosophy), as well as SEARCH keynote speaker Smith. The discussion centered more specifically on “The Cracks in Secularism,” and was moderated by Dr. Cheryll Johnson (Mathematics). The panel explored the widening cultural chasm we find ourselves in in this current moment in time during a fascinating discussion.

This year’s SEARCH did not shy away from asking the tough questions as students, faculty and guests were invited to close the supposed gap between faith and scholarship.

Smith gave a keynote address in Jameson Recital Hall Thursday evening, prior to the student poster presentations. The topic for his keynote address was “Curiosity, Enlightenment and Faith Seeking Understanding.” Smith spoke at large about Saint Augustine’s search for enlightenment and his arrival at the Christian faith. He will also be releasing a book on the topic, entitled “On the Road with Saint Augustine,” in October of this year.

“Thank you so much for your warm introduction and just a warm day of hospitality and intellectual feasting,” Smith said. “I’ve enjoyed it already here at Asbury.”

The Kinlaw Library board room was abuzz Thursday night as people took in the research and hard work of students from a variety of disciplines. Poster presentations covered 15 disciplines including English, music, biology, psychology, art, mathematics, communication and history with 52 students presenting their research.

Psychology major Noelle Peace ’19 presented three presentations during Thursday night’s event. Her research papers centered largely on social media, emotional health and gaming. Over the course of the three projects, Peace was challenged to reconsider her initial expectations and ultimately strengthen her skills as a researcher.

“There’s a lot of things to think about when you’re running an experiment,” Peace said. “You’re not going to find everything that you expect, and you might find something very new.”

Peace found SEARCH to be an embodiment of Asbury’s community and scholarship.

“It fosters academic excellence because this is a place where you can celebrate learning,” Peace said. “You can do research on something that you love and then bring it to SEARCH and say, ‘See what I found. Can you be interested with me?’ And then you get to go see what other people have found and encourage your peers pursuing curiosity. This is a great place of building each other up.”

For Katherine Sheets ’20, SEARCH encouraged her to step out of her comfort zone and challenged her to do every aspect of her research with excellence. Sheets presented research in the musicology field with a paper entitled “Mazeppa: Liszt’s Development of a Tense Symphonic Poem.”

During the student poster presentations, history major Josiah Barkdoll ’19 presented a fascinating analysis on the development of evangelical political identity at Asbury during the 1950s-1980s. His research was entitled “Before Reagan: The Origins of the Religious Right at Asbury College.”

For Barkdoll, SEARCH was an opportunity to be academically challenged and truly lean into Asbury’s environment of academic excellence and spiritual vitality.

“It allows students to connect their academic work and apply it to Asbury as a community, to really understand themselves and understand the world in complex ways,” Barkdoll said. 

SEARCH will culminate in a Friday night Faculty-Scholars dinner at Windsor Manor, where several faculty members will be honored for outstanding academic leadership and independent scholarship.

SEARCH student award winners will be announced at the Honors Convocation in Hughes Auditorium on April 29.

Learn more about Asbury University’s SEARCH.