Interviewing Ethics


This last Friday I had the privilege of sitting down to lunch with Dr. Mic Bollenbaugh for an interview. The cafeteria was loud and crowded like it always is on Friday after chapel, especially with it being Pasta Bar, but our brief chat lead to some really great answers and insights from Dr. Bollenbaugh.

Question: What made you decide to be a college professor?

Bollenbaugh: I was in the ministry for about ten years. The thing I liked the most about it was the teaching part. And I sort of got… fed up is not the right word. I felt like I was getting pulled into stuff that I wasn’t very good at and doing less and less of things I felt that I was better at and more fit to do, like the teaching. So it lead me up to, how could I teach more regularly

Joe: What made you decide on Philosophy?

B: Early on I started reading books by Francis J Perk, and not that I would agree with all that much of what that paper talks about, he sort of turned me in a philosophical direction. Some of his books are more journalistic and meant for mass media. But they had a certain kind of language to it. And from there I took an interest in Philosophy because of the kinds of things he was talking about. I probably didn’t realize early on what that would entail in terms of getting a degree, or degrees in philosophy.

J: Very exciting, and do you have a favorite philosopher?

B: It has to be Kierkagaard, Soren Kierkagaard

J: What made you decide on a small Christian university?

B: Early in my teaching career I was still in the pastorate, I taught at a couple of different small places, and I’d been a little bit in the larger university setting, but sort of now by way of a natural comparison, if I was going teach in one of these settings, it would be this arrangement. I liked it because it gave me contact with students in a way that a large university didn’t. That got confirmed later after I finished up my doctorate. I taught at Oregon State for a little while and also taught here simultaneously, I was a part timer there and a part timer here. And so as a part of a natural comparison that came with this I decided this was a better setting. It was probably because of the students.

The noise in the cafeteria swells for a while and so we pause briefly to enjoy our food.

J: Alright now that that’s passed. What do you enjoy most about working here at NCU?

B: Well, at the risk of repeating myself, just the lifelong connections you make with students. I mean, I still have students, former students now that send Christmas cards and occasional letters in the mail, happy birthday wishes. I never established those in the larger universities. You see a group of students come in and after they leave the class you never see them again. They were on to other courses, but here, I’m sitting in the cafeteria chatting over these kinds of questions. This is the kind of program that would never happen at a larger university setting. People tend to become faceless and the image of the crowd takes over. So just the fact that you develop these lifelong connections, at least that’s been my experience.

J: Is there anything you wished you had done during your undergrad that you didn’t’?

B: Study harder

J: Study harder?

B: I was probably a very average student in my undergrad days. If I could get the “B” by doing this level of work and then spending time with my friends, or take a little bit of effort to get the “A” I would pass on the “A” and take the “B”. And I mean it was just sort of this, at least early on this acceptance of some degree of mediocrity. And that’s something that I probably need to continue to repent of, I should have worked harder. Fortunately my spouse came along, we were married just at the start of my senior year of college, and it’s not something I would recommend for everybody. We’ve been married almost 41 years and she’s the one who inspired me to work harder. She’d say to me “you have the intellect, you can do this. You have the capacity to do better” and low and behold If you could graph out my GPA from freshmen to senior year It would probably go like that (he makes a climbing slant gesture) It just got better and better and better and largely I would say that was because of her.

J: Just a side question, how did you and your wife meet?

B: I met her at the start of my junior year at San Jose Bible College. She’s Canadian, she had come down from Canada because the president of San Jose Bible College, who had a brother who was a minister at a local church who agreed to pay her tuition for a year if she would come down. I was just ending another relationship when I met Helen, who’s my wife, in the dorm one day and inquired about whether she was otherwise spoken for. Found out she wasn’t and so I found a way to ask her out on some dates.

J: That’s really cool, I’m kind of a sap for hearing about first meeting stories.

B: It was sappy but good. She was a very, I would say that just in terms of native intelligence, kind of what you’re hardwired with, she’s smarter than me. Certainly better organized than I am. She in some ways would have been the better candidate to go on and get a PHD and go be the professor rather than me. She’s just basically smarter than me. I have the advantage of some academic training which has probably put me ahead of her a little bit in certain areas, but in terms of raw ability she’s well ahead of me. A very smart women.

J: So the last question I have for you is what advice do you have for current students to help them finish out the year or their years in college?

B: Several things. I would say, see their education as a matter of stewardship so that if God expects the best of us, that being a good steward of the resources that are required to get your education. This means that you have to develop a strong work ethic, so that you can get to the highest level you can possibly get in your education experience. That’s how I would develop it theologically along the lines of stewardship, so that you don’t leave any cards on the table so to speak when the time comes so that you’ve done everything you can. Develop a work ethic, but do it for the glory of God. The work ethic isn’t nearly for self-gratification or self-satisfaction, that piece might be there, but that’s not the main motivation. And I think that’s what NCU probably has a sort of culture for. It’s a little subtle I guess but if you were to talk to the professors here they would say that it’s absolutely essential. Living in this community and getting your education, it’s essential.

After talking with Dr. Bollenbaugh I couldn’t help but feel inspired to work harder in school. He is a man filled with knowledge and wisdom. His life has been one dedicated to Christ and education and you can see it in the way he teaches and how much he cares for the students here at NCU. It is an honor to have him here and I know that I have become a better student after having classes with him. His love of teaching and his love of students is evident in everything does. Thank you on behalf of the Beacon Bolt and myself. Dr. Bollenbaugh for taking the time out of your day to sit and chat with me. It was an inspiring and enlightening experience.