Paul Chamberlain: Professor Embraces the Lessons that Can Be Learned Abroad

By Anna Dirkse

When I first walked into Paul Chamberlain’s office three years ago, I was struck by the abundance of souvenirs on the bookshelves that line the walls. They’re filled with everything from miniature Moroccan “tagine” dishes to ornate Tibetan prayer scrolls to a Hard Rock Café glass from Sydney, Australia. Mixed among the old chemistry textbooks from Paul’s years of teaching are dozens of Lonely Planet travel guides from cities and countries all over the world. On the wall are pictures of sunburned, beaming students on white sand beaches, as well as old photos of George Fox science faculty.

There are stories behind everything in the office, and Paul’s good at telling them. I recently asked about a photo on his wall and was regaled with a story about the time Paul’s entire Juniors Abroad group got massages on a beach in Zanzibar. Paul laughed as he told the story, his eyes twinkling behind his wire-rim glasses.

He says he has too many favorite stories to count, but he’s pleased to share them with anyone who asks. I’ve been working for Paul for years, and every time I walk through his door to ask him to sign a document for a student or to ask his opinion on a flier I’m working on, he’s happy to tell the stories and share memories of his travels.

Paul’s office is a reflection of his time at George Fox University. Starting as an organic chemistry professor in 1976, he’s been in charge of coordinating all of the university’s Juniors Abroad trips since he took over as director of the program 20 years ago. He eventually became director of the Center for Study Abroad in 2014, when Juniors Abroad and the semester abroad office joined together. The office has changed significantly over the last four years: His old chemistry books have started gathering dust as the shiny new travel guides take over the shelves.

Paul’s work at the Center for Study Abroad led to the growth of many of the programs offered. “When we took over there were 26 students per year who studied abroad due to budget limitations,” Paul says. Now there are close to 60 a year – and many pay the same to study abroad as they do for a semester at George Fox. Paul hopes to see even more students studying abroad in the years to come – a goal that seems attainable as application numbers continue to rise.

Paul would argue that traveling abroad, and getting to experience a culture different than your own, is one of the most valuable things you could do as an undergraduate student. He says that traveling abroad “will be one of the greatest experiences of your life. Take time to reach out to the local population and get to know local folks, or at least students from other countries.”

Many George Fox students who travel abroad agree, and one of Paul’s favorite parts of the job is traveling with students on Juniors Abroad trips. Often students’ first time overseas, they are deeply impacted by the cultures they experience. Paul’s love for travel and his knowledge from his many trips are imparted to his students through their shared experiences abroad. When I asked some of his former students what they learned on their trips, two repeated Paul’s infamous motto: “Nothing ever goes quite as planned.”

“Embracing different cultures takes on a whole new meaning when you are physically in those cultures,” says student Bailey Sauls. This sentiment is echoed in other students’ statements and stories. Both Cayla Smith and Hannah Love say they are much more likely to travel after their experience on Juniors Abroad, and that Paul’s attitude and stories have impacted the way they think about international travel. “[Juniors Abroad] made me want to go seek out every other country in the world and see what amazing things they have to offer,” Cayla says.

Paul’s expertise and enthusiasm have impacted many George Fox students over the years, and I am glad that I’ve been one of them. Paul values traveling and studying abroad, something that has already greatly impacted my life. The chance to experience other cultures has changed the way I think about my own culture and about my place in the world.

I’m grateful to attend a university that promotes international experiences; I’m also grateful that George Fox has hired Paul to run the Center for Study Abroad. He hopes to make international travel accessible to more students, allowing more people to be changed by the world before they change the world themselves.

Someday, there will be a generation of George Fox alumni whose bookshelves also have souvenirs from around the world – all thanks to Paul Chamberlain.

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Alumna Mikaela Easterlin: Building Relationships and Trust at Portland’s Harriet Tubman Middle School

By Hannah Dugan

It’s Friday afternoon, the last period of the day, and the gym at Harriet Tubman Middle School is nothing short of organized chaos. Basketballs hit the floor in a constant thunder as Shakira blasts from a large speaker. Some kids chat with their friends by the wall, others are locked in intense games of 1-on-1. Swirling at the center of it all is the school’s first and only physical education teacher, Mikaela Easterlin. It’d be easy to feel sorry for her, alone with 30 antsy seventh-graders with the weekend on their minds, if it weren’t so obvious she was having a blast.

This is Easterlin’s first time teaching, period. But watching her drift around the gym during class in her ’80s-esque-thrifted George Fox windbreaker, galactic sloth tee and backwards snapback, you wouldn’t guess it. She is both at home and in command.

“Yeah, Ms. E’s cool,” says one of her students. “She taught me how to do this.” He dribbles once, pulls up at the three-point line and lets one fly.

“That’s right,” Ms. E herself says as she walks past, stopping to give him a high five.

A Love of Athletics and Mentorship

Easterlin is an athlete through and through. A varsity player in basketball, lacrosse and soccer in high school, she played the former two as an undergraduate at George Fox University. When it came time to decide on a career path, two things were clear: her love of athletics and her love of mentorship.

Throughout high school and college, Easterlin had a penchant for taking younger kids under her wing and mentoring them. I would know; I was one of them.

For me, this looked like drives to practices with Taylor Swift blasting, coffee dates and a surprising amount of ridiculous singing and dancing in public. If you found it embarrassing you soon got tired of being embarrassed, or just forgot to be embarrassed altogether, and you just joined in. Which was, of course, her objective all along.

Easterlin’s mom recognized her daughter’s natural ability for leadership on and off the field. One day she suggested, “You should be a PE teacher because that’s the perfect combination of those two things.”

And that sealed the deal.

The Challenge of Racial Reconciliation in a Diverse Middle School

As Easterlin puts it, “Middle school is tough. I don’t know many people who had a good experience in middle school. I just really want to be there for them as well as teach them how to live a healthy life, enjoying sports and athletics.”

Five years later, with her master’s degree in hand, she was ready to do just that. But it was her calling to inner-city schools that led Easterlin to Harriet Tubman in particular. Harriet Tubman wasn’t a school when she applied for the PE teacher position there. She couldn’t visit or see a PE class in action beforehand. There was an interview with Natasha Butler, the principal.

“She was fantastic. We got along really well, and after that I really wanted the job,” Easterlin says.

When Harriet Tubman opened its doors for the first time this fall, Mikaela Easterlin was the school’s new PE teacher.

The inception of Harriet Tubman Middle School reads like a math problem: The student body is 50 percent black, 50 percent white. The students are taken from four Portland feeder schools that were K-8 and are now just K-5. Two of those feeder schools are from very high-income areas, and two are from very low-income areas. Each kid knows only a quarter of the school. Add the difficulties of middle school and mix. What do you get? “Lots of fights” is the answer, according to Easterlin.

“We have at least one fight every day,” she says. In fact, just a half-hour prior she had had to diffuse a potential fight in her class.

It’s no secret that Portland has a racist past; the black community has largely been pushed out by gentrification and a law forbidding realtors to sell houses to people of color. This was only 20 to 30 years ago.

“This school is like the last hurrah of bringing the black community back to Portland,” says Easterlin. “But because of that the whole community is watching us like a hawk. We’ve got to be careful and make sure we’re doing the best we can.” 

It’s a tall order any way you look at it. Only about 30 percent of the faculty at Harriet Tubman is white. These kids “don’t want another white lady yelling at them,” as Easterlin puts it. Getting more black role models, especially male ones, is a huge priority. The community has stepped in to make this happen, from parents monitoring hallways to the involvement of the Maurice Lucas Foundation, which offers, among other support, two full-ride scholarships to any college, eligible to kids who stick with the program and maintain good academic standing.

On top of that, a lot of the kids come from very troubled pasts. They come with a boatload of triggers that many adults aren’t even conscious of. It didn’t take long before Easterlin started wondering how many of these triggers she was unconsciously playing into.

Easterlin grew up in a decidedly nondiverse southwest Portland neighborhood and attended a nearly all-white high school and college. Stepping into the halls of her new school was something akin to culture shock.

“There’s this whole environment and community that I don’t understand. I’m learning how my whiteness affects people around me, and that’s a huge thing that I’ve never had to deal with before,” she says.

She’s had to apologize to a number of middle schoolers this year. One time she heard a girl calling another the n-word. The student got defensive when she tried to correct her language.

“She got all up in my face and was talking back, saying how that’s my philosophy, and her philosophy is that it’s a positive thing and she can say that; it means they’re friends and family,” Easterlin recalls.

Easterlin then called the girl’s mom, prefacing the discussion by letting her know she was a white person, that she didn’t entirely understand this, but nevertheless this was what she was feeling.

“Yeah, we use that all the time at home, and I really don’t think that’s a problem,” said the mom. “But I will let her know that she needs to be aware of what she’s saying at school.”

That got Easterlin thinking. “OK,” she thought, “so this is something that I need to change my frame of mind about.” She consulted one of her black colleagues about the matter.

“It’s none of your business,” the colleague told her. “If they say that word it is none of your business.”

Building Relationships … and Trust

Easterlin knows that, in order to build the relationships that she wants, she has to build trust. To build trust, she has to bridge the gap of understanding between the cultures in her classroom.

“I’m still on that journey, and I think I’ll continue that journey my whole life. It’s really been eye-opening,” she says.

They always say the first year of teaching is the hardest. But it’s safe to say that Easterlin’s learning curve has been steeper on every front than anything she was expecting.

She made her lesson plans from scratch. For the first four weeks she had no equipment. She can’t even discipline her students with detention because there is no detention yet. She is completely new to them, and they are all new to each other.

And she’s had accusations from kids who have insinuated that she is racist. “It really sucks to hear that,” she says. “It’s making me think, ‘Am I treating kids differently?’” 

While this thought is always in the back of her head, signs of the fruit of her labor have been cropping up of late. Students give her drawings, hugs, or come up to her to show her a new secret handshake. They follow instructions without her having to repeat them a million times.

And if she’s not seeing victories, she’s learned that often means it’s time to change her frame of mind. “There’s little victories that happen every day that sometimes I don’t realize are victories because they might not be up to my standards,” she says.

For instance, one of her students has Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Anything she asks for is met with a “no,” backtalk and cussing. After one such episode, Easterlin presented him with a form to fill out. It was an “express yourself” form.

“All right,” she told him. “Please just sit on the bleacher and fill this out. I just want you to take a minute and try and reflect.”

“I’m not upset, I don’t need to do this!” the student raged.

“Please, just write it down, fill it out.”

“Fine!”

He grabbed the sheet and wrote down “nothing” as the answer to everything. Easterlin was upset; he wasn’t taking it seriously. But then she talked to another teacher about it.

“She was like, ‘You know what Mikaela, in this case, nothing is something. The fact that he was writing that down gave him two minutes to calm down. It took him out of the situation,’” Easterlin says.

“True,” she thought. He wrote it down. He didn’t just chuck it on the ground. He wrote “nothing.”

“And that is a win. That’s a little tiny victory. So nothing is something,” she laughs.

In the small gym the bell rings and the seventh-graders flood out of the doors and into the weekend. A few turn to shout goodbye to Ms. E, and two boys hang around to shoot hoops while she cleans up.

This wouldn’t have happened a few weeks ago.

In a few years maybe she’ll be teaching the less-intensive high school PE. Maybe she’ll move more into coaching. But Easterlin’s goal right now, right here, is to build relationships with her students and earn their trust.

“I really wanna earn it,” she says. “That’s my goal. And having them come back next year, step into my gym and know what my expectations are . . .”

She smiles blissfully at the thought.

“I’m excited for that.”

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Our Students: The Inspiration Behind My Book, ‘Worthy’

By Melanie Springer Mock
Professor of English

The epiphany happened early in my teaching career, during a spring semester finals week. As a thank you for being my assistant for several years, I took a graduating senior to lunch, and together we talked about her experience at George Fox University. Even though Rose was a wicked-smart student, an academic success, one of the best assistants I’d ever have, and a talented singer and actor in musical theatre, she admitted during our lunch that she felt like she was graduating a failure. Her reasoning? She hadn’t found ”The One” to whom she could commit life-long marital fidelity.

At that moment, I realized how potent the “ring by spring” mythology can be at many Christian universities, where young people – women especially – assume getting engaged is a true mark of collegiate success. I also recognized, for the first time, that I was not alone: that my own experience at a Christian college was not unlike Rose’s, because I also graduated with a strong sense that there was something wrong with me, since God had not blessed me with a partner who would ostensibly make my life complete. (more…)

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Lucatero Uses Position at Microsoft to Give Back

Arturo Lucatero recalls the day his world suddenly changed – when a session with his counselor at Tigard High School altered the direction of his life.

A recent emigrant from Mexico, Lucatero had long dreamed of working in the computer industry, specifically with Microsoft. The initial plan was to continue working at his fast food job, graduate from high school and attend community college part time before transferring to a four-year institution.

It was then that his counselor suggested he look into scholarships. “I’d never heard of George Fox at that point,” he says. “But I was told about this Act Six program they had, and I thought, ‘Why not apply?’ I had nothing to lose.”
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A Long Hike Finished

A son’s tribute to the sacrifice and dedication it took for his father to earn his college degree

By Conor Walsh
 
Late night, in a dark room with a bright screen, he sits with the light bouncing off of his eyes. He wipes his hands over his face trying to shake off the tiredness and ignore the call of the bed, where his wife is fast asleep. It’s just another late night before an early morning, one in a long string of days that lead him toward his goal at a sloth-like pace. Sleep must be sacrificed. Sacrifice is something he is used to, though this one is different. This one is for him.
 
Patrick Walsh graduated from George Fox’s Adult Degree Program at the age of 50 with a bachelor’s degree in management and organizational leadership. The scene above is a small part of his college experience. His path reminds us that the journey of students is as unique as the students themselves. These journeys are filled with obstacles, detours, ups and downs, sacrifices and many late nights.
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Curriculum Choices and the Be Known Promise

By Melanie Springer Mock, Professor of English

As the end of another semester swiftly approaches, I’ve been reflecting on my first months ever at George Fox, back in 1986, when I was a college freshman. That fall was a horrible one, and after folks had told me college would be the best years of my life, I silently suffered, because I couldn’t figure out what had gone wrong and why I felt especially miserable.

Conflicts with my roommate had made my dorm room almost uninhabitable, and I didn’t have the skills to navigate our different communication styles or sleeping schedules. The transition to college academics was also rough, and because I lacked the tools to succeed in classes, I maintained only a tenuous grasp on passing grades. Though I came to George Fox to run cross country and track, a serious medical condition, a major operation, and one week in the hospital that fall signaled the end of my season and my connection to teammates, the only friends I had made on campus.

Lonely, depressed, unmoored: I thought seriously of transferring. Only inertia kept me from cutting ties with George Fox altogether. I’m incredibly grateful that I decided to stay, because my college experience was ultimately amazing; and now, 18 years into my teaching career at George Fox, I can’t imagine anywhere else I would rather be.
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Lost and Found

How Mike Arzie’s time at George Fox altered his perceptions about Christianity and redirected the course of his life

By Isaac Bruns, junior English major

Stepping onto the stage in Bauman Auditorium, Mike Arzie found it difficult to believe he was returning to chapel at his alma mater. Confronted with an audience of distracted students and “a sea of glowing Apples” from open laptops, he vividly remembered the time he had spent in their seats.

“It never crossed my mind during chapel to think, ‘I’ll bet someday I’ll come back to do one of these,’” he says. But as he took the podium that day, he began to tell the story of how he had learned of salvation in that very room 21 years before.

Arzie is now in his 17th year of ministry at Southwest Bible Church, a sizeable church in Beaverton. As the student and children’s ministries pastor, he interacts with a number of George Fox students, but his connection to the university runs much deeper. After all, it was at George Fox that he began the two most important relationships of his life.
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When Being Known Means Sad Goodbyes

Professor Melanie Springer Mock with senior English majors Ryan Lackey and Julia Howell.
Professor Melanie Springer Mock with senior English majors Ryan Lackey and Julia Howell.
By Melanie Springer Mock, Professor of English

Over 25 years ago this week, I celebrated my first George Fox graduation, as a student. Just days before our processional into an already-overheated Wheeler gymnasium, I stopped by Minthorn Hall to say goodbye to a favorite professor. Yet as I stood at his office door, trying to tell him how much his mentorship had changed me, my professor refused to engage, keeping his head focused on his desk and the papers he needed to grade.

I couldn’t understand why this usually warm, friendly man had suddenly turned distant, and I left his office that day feeling perplexed and a little hurt. It only took me about one decade to figure out why my old professor had acted so disconnected: he couldn’t say goodbye. Or, more pointedly, he couldn’t say goodbye without crying.

Turns out, graduation can be emotionally difficult for faculty members, something I discovered my very first commencement as a professor at George Fox University, and rediscover every April, when graduation rolls around again. (more…)

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Reflections on Easter: A New Orientation

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IMG_0303-2By Brian Doak, Associate Professor of Biblical Studies

As a way of reflecting on the core Christian message and connecting that message to a learning process, I often suggest to students that we can think of our journey in terms of three phases: Orientation, Disorientation and New Orientation. I picked up these exact terms from the eminent biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann, but others have used them before. For example, the philosopher Paul Ricoeur spoke of “first naïveté,” “critical distance” and “second naiveté” to describe something of the same journey.
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Herrera Discovers Passion for Bringing Stories to the Stage

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By Emily Lund, Class of 2015

Cambria Herrera sits back in her chair. Listening, thinking. Her arms and legs are crossed as she watches the scene in front of her unfold, pauses and all. Her eyes move from actor to actor, then stare out into the rehearsal room. Every once in a while, a slight smile appears on her face, then fades before reappearing.

It’s five weeks into rehearsals for David Auburn’s Proof, last fall’s production at Valley Repertory Theatre in Newberg, Ore. Tonight is the first night the four actors are off-book – no scripts in hand – and such a transition inevitably means some pauses, some “ummmms,” some exasperated laughs and calls for “line.”

The scene reaches its end. Herrera stretches her arms out to the ceiling. “Great!” she says, and sits up straight. “How did you guys feel about it?”

They answer, laughing, groaning. Herrera nods in agreement, leans forward in her chair and asks questions. “How did that go for you guys? The last bit?” “Did you feel good sitting there for that long?”

They’re good questions, and the actors know it. “She’s never dismissive, never impatient,” says Nicole Greene, one of the four actors Herrera directed in Proof. “She’s creative, she’s highly intelligent, and most of all, she’s deeply talented.”

She’s also 20 years old.
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