By Abbey Doyle
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
For years, numerous books have discussed ways to integrate faith and learning.
However, it was rare to find an in-depth look at viewing academic administration through the eyes of faith.
To correct some of that, Anderson University Provost Marie Morris has contributed to two recent books.
Morris said two of her colleagues — Harold Heie and Mark Sargent — conceived the idea contacting others in academic administration at Christian colleges throughout the country to tackle separate chapters for the book “Soul Care.”
For Morris’ chapter — “Evaluation of Faculty Performance and Fit” — she drew from Micah 6:8.
“I talked about how do you, as you are working with evaluating faculty and developing faculty and determining whether they are a good fit for the institution, do it with justice, love and mercy and walk humbly in that process,” she said.
Too frequently, administrators are tempted to focus on the overall good of the institution at the expense of the individual, she noted.
Instead, Morris suggests that administrators balance care for both the institution and the individual.
The second book was created by a group of higher education administrators who have been working together for years in conferences such as the Women’s Leadership Development Institute.
That book, “Thriving in Leadership: Strategies for Making a Difference in Christian Higher Education,” was written by 15 contributors and edited by Morris’ friend and colleague, Karen Longman at Azusa Pacific University in California.
“We wanted to pull together our collective wisdom for a book on thriving leadership and developing emerging leaders,” Morris said. “We conceptualized the book into three sections — internal life of a leader, social intelligence and how leaders can shape organizational culture. We got together a group of our colleagues in the trenches of higher education to each write a chapter.”
Morris contributed to a section on organizational culture — “Metaphors Matter: Organizational Culture Shaped by Image,” where she explains the impact leaders have on the organizational structure of the environment they lead.
The experience was a positive one for Morris, and she said the books are important for people in higher education. Both books are available at Amazon.com.
“For those of us who have chosen to be in this section of higher education that is faith-based, I don’t think you compartmentalize and separate,” she said. “Anyone’s work is informed by their values and faith. We wanted to think more deeply and transparently about how our faith informs how we go about higher education and leading.”
Morris said she hopes to write more in the future, although it was challenging as an administrator to carve out time to write. She has published journal articles in the past but these were her first contributions to books.
“We teach our students all the time that you need to learn to write well, that it is a way to communicate,” Morris said.
“It also helps you to be a better thinker. I don’t think you can write well without being a good thinker. To discipline myself to do what we ask students to do is really important. I have certainly learned from reading other leaders write their stories and their experiences.”
Morris has been the chief academic officer at AU for four years. She began her career as a nurse, taught nursing, became chair of a nursing department, then associate dean and vice president of undergraduates at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va.
She and her husband of 34 years, Keith Morris, have two sons — Jesse and Alex, a senior at AU studying history.
“AU is a remarkable school,” Morris said. “I’m so delighted to be here. Our students have the opportunity to think for themselves and learn deeply. We have free and open inquiry and discovery, something different for Christian colleges.”