Written by: Jonathan Clayton
Oklahoma Wesleyan University knows its President and First Lady, Dr. Jim and Wendy Dunn, as two friendly faces working hard to help our community succeed. This semester, it knows them in another way, as Professors! The Dunns are both back in the classroom this semester teaching students in the School of Ministry and the School of Education. Dr. Jim Dunn is teaching Christian Spiritual Formation, a Ministry class that is both a requirement for Ministry Majors and an elective, while Wendy Dunn is teaching Learner Development, a major requirement for some Education majors. The Dunns’ love sharing their wisdom and experience with students and are glad they can expand their impact on campus into the classroom.
Wendy got into Education in 2007, when she started her teaching career after completing the requirements for her teaching license at Washburn University. She said that “My children were young, and I wanted a child-friendly career, so I got my teaching license after completing my degree in Psychology.”
Dr. Jim Dunn got into Education by teaching Ordination Classes for the Wesleyan Church. He was asked to do this due to his experience and his completion of his master’s degree.
The Dunns enjoy teaching in the classroom for many reasons. Wendy’s reason is the impact that she can have in the lives of students as she teaches them, whether they are in Elementary School, sitting in her office for counseling, or in a college classroom. Dr. Dunn said that it is because he can “inspire development and help someone learn something, perhaps for the first time, and helping them to see their capacity so they can be confident in what they know and how they can apply that in their everyday life.” They both see the classroom as a setting for meaningful Ministry as the Holy Spirit opens the hearts of students to His Truth.
The Dunns encourage students to pursue excellence this semester. Wendy’s advice is to, “Apply yourself and do your best in everything that you do. Producing the best you, requires effort and working as unto Christ in every area of your life.” Dr. Dunn said to continue to work hard through the external pressures that students have must deal with this year. He also encouraged rest, especially during a semester without breaks.
Education has changed in many ways over the years of the Dunns’ teaching. Wendy said that, “My personal experience has taken me from so many different grade levels in thirteen years. People in education say that the same theories cycle through every twenty-five to thirty years. I can see that this happens”. She said that technology has changed how she teaches and can give a teacher an advantage in their methods. She is also grateful that, “No one is licking the furniture”, something that she dealt with as a Kindergarten teacher. Dr. Dunn joked that furniture licking would nice because the faces of students could be seen, as communication requires things other than facial expressions this year. Communication has truly changed this year. Dr. Dunn has seen teaching “[go] from books to screens; paper to a learning management system; lecture to discussion and sharing of experiences”. Education has become a lot more participatory since he began teaching.
Education has had a profound impact on our First Family. Wendy was a first-generation college graduate and has seen its value in bettering her life and the lives of her children. She said, “Education helps to level the playing field regardless of background”. Dr. Dunn has seen Education develop his whole person, as his Professors believed in him and pushed him to succeed beyond what he thought he could do. He has also seen many opportunities come about because of his advanced education, from teaching Ordination classes, to the Presidency here at OKWU, to many other doors that have opened since he earned all three of his degrees. “The opportunities that you have because you have invested in your education, your development, and maturation will provide opportunities to serve the Lord,” Dr. Dunn said.
Dr. Dunn understands the struggles that college students go through, especially at OKWU. His message to those who are struggling in our community is that “The doors that you won’t know about will come because of your education. Yes, it’s expensive, yes, it’s hard, yes it will stretch you. But it really needs to be seen as an investment.” He pointed out data proves that going to a Liberal Arts University will increase your earning power by $5,000 per year over attending a non-Liberal Arts University. He reminded students that this cannot be guaranteed, but that it shows that it is an investment. “It’s more than a career, more than getting the right kind of education, it really is the development of the whole person.” He also remarked that God will use that investment in many powerful ways.
The Dunns have been mentored by several truly special educators during their lives. Dr. Dunn talked about Melba Crain, a Speech teacher here at OKWU, who pushed him to see the potential in him come out and truly “hone the craft of public speaking.” He also specifically highlighted Dr. Mark Weeter, OKWU’s Provost, who inspired him to love God’s Word and proclaim it powerfully. Wendy talked also talked about Melba Crain, her Work-Study Employer, and that, “She saw what your strength was, and she tried to use that strength. She didn’t just give you an assignment, but she tried to help people work in their strengths.” She helped Wendy to understand how to teach people in their strengths. Additionally, she talked about Professor Loretta Arnholt, a former Psychology Professor here at OKWU, who helped her to see her gift in Psychology and inspired her to do more. Dr. Mike Fullingim, OKWU’s Missions Professor, helped her to understand Cultural Anthropology through his own life experience in Papua New Guinea. She reminded our campus community, “You never know what effect you will have on someone’s life.”
The Dunns have different experiences with incorporating the Bible and the Christian Worldview into Education, as Wendy has not been able to do this before, and Dr. Dunn has taught faith-based classes throughout his career. Wendy said, “I was educated that way here and in my master’s degree at Liberty University, but this is the first time that I have taught outside of a public-school environment. The textbook is written from a Christian point of view, which is exciting and helps me to do this exciting ways.” She loves to take prayer requests and pray for students in class as well! Dr. Dunn said, “Being a pastor, that kind of integration is very simple, very normal for me. I am usually teaching a Ministry class, or a Ministry related class so that is something that allows me to take Scriptural examples and fit them into the content of the class.” Helping students follow Christ more deeply is something that he does through teaching in every class. “You let the Christ in you ooze out into the classroom every way you can.” For him, this includes public and private prayer and tough conversations.
Dr. Jim Dunn sees teaching in the classroom as an extension of his job as our President. He said, “I love being with students, and there is some much that does not directly deal with students. Every decision I make affects students. Being in the classroom puts me on another level with our students that I would not normally get. Being able to help them develop in the classroom is a natural outflow of that. It helps me to develop the relationships that I value with our student body.”
Wendy Dunn sees teaching in the classroom as something that gives her a second role on campus, alongside her role as our First Lady. “Some students call me momma Dunn. With my class, I get to know them more deeply. This is a benefit that I enjoy in the classroom.” She loves to have deep conversations with students on a regular basis.
The Dunns’ challenge to our campus community this semester is to strive to be more and to enjoy the time as students. Wendy loves the diversity that our campus has and loves to see our community grow through this! Dr. Dunn loves watching God work here through the relationships that are built during the college years. They both hope to see Spiritual Growth continue throughout the semester, even with the many factors that cause students’ stress.
We truly have a special First Family! God has called Dr. Jim and Wendy Dunn here to serve in many roles, from President and First Lady, and now as Professors! They have much wisdom to share and love to do so through teaching in the classroom! As they work hard for our campus community, they love to do this is in any role that they can!