Campus News: Dirksen Named CCCU Senior Fellow

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Dirksen Named CCCU Senior Fellow
Merritt Jenkins - 8/16/2021

Dirksen Named CCCU Senior Fellow


Dr. Carolyn Dirksen, distinguished professor emeritus of English, was recently named a Senior Fellow for the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU), where she facilitates programs between the CCCU, Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC), and Bridging the Gap organizations.


Dirksen became involved with the CCCU through Lee's partnership with the organization during her time at the university. According to Dirksen, she always took advantage of what the CCCU had to offer in terms of academic workshops and leadership training. When she was chief academic officer (CAO) at Lee, Dirksen was on the CAO Commission and enjoyed her work with Christian colleagues. After her retirement from Lee, she served as interim vice president for academic programs at the CCCU office in Washington, D.C., so was on their radar when they were looking for someone to help with several projects.


The first project Dirksen is working on is called "Faith in the Vaccine." "There is a lot of research indicating that vaccination hesitancy is prevalent in Evangelical circles and that hesitancy is best addressed by people from inside a given community," said Dirksen. The Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) solicited the help of the CCCU to help make contacts through Evangelical colleges. Colleges received small grants to prepare students to conduct informational workshops on the vaccine in their local churches or neighborhoods. Lee has one of these teams, led by Dr. Charlotte Webb in the School of Nursing. 


The second project is called "Christian Leadership in a Multi-faith World." Again, IFYC was interested in working with Evangelical colleges, so they asked Bethel University, a Christ-centered institution in Minneapolis, to develop a curriculum that could be inserted into an existing course to help Christian students learn how to listen to the perspectives of others without sacrificing their own beliefs and commitments. "These techniques and attitudes will help prepare students to interact meaningfully and respectfully in a workplace or community where diverse faith perspectives are represented," said Dirksen.


"Bridging the Gap," another project Dirksen is spearheading, is a further extension of the ideas of the "Christian Leadership" course. In this program, an Evangelical college will team up with a college that is not Christ-centered and represents a different demographic. Each college recruits up to 10 students to participate in an intensive exercise in problem solving across ideological differences.


Two of the projects originated with the IFYC and are based on grant funding. According to Dirksen, the IFYC wanted to interface with Evangelical young people through the CCCU, so the CCCU invited her and another colleague to help find partner schools and work with them in the development and implementation of the projects.


"I really believe in Christian higher education as a force for good in a pluralistic society," said Dirksen. "I served at Lee for 50 years, working to make that a reality for our students, so I am very happy to be engaged with Christian higher education in a wider context that builds on my experience at Lee. Projects like these strengthen what these institutions can offer their students and help prepare students to live as faithful Christians in a pluralistic culture."


Dirksen came to Lee in 1968 as an instructor in English. While at Lee, she served as the chair of the Department of Language and Literature, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and vice president for academic affairs. She also served as co-chair of the Core Revision Task Force in 1995, leading the way for a dramatically revised general education requirement that included an extensive cross-cultural experience for every student. She retired from full-time service in 2018.


Dirksen was the recipient of Lee's first Excellence in Teaching Award and has also received the Excellence in Scholarship Award. She was also awarded the 2018 Dr. Charles W. Conn Servant Leadership Award, given for exemplary work in service learning. In addition to her work at Lee, Dirksen served on the World Missions Board of the Church of God and has been named honorary professor at both Henan University and Sias University in the People's Republic of China.


The CCCU is a higher education association. Its mission is to advance the cause of Christ-centered higher education and to help institutions transform lives by faithfully relating scholarship and service to biblical truth.


Interfaith Youth Core is a national nonprofit that equips the next generation of citizens and professionals with the knowledge and skills needed for leadership in a religiously diverse world.


Bridging the Gap was founded by Simon Greer, host of Courageous Conversations. The goal of the organization is to prepare students to engage honestly with people from different backgrounds.


For more information about the CCCU, visit

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