It’s not often one finds students excited to learn about fractals from a faculty member outside of the classroom. But for Chris Goree’s monthly dinners for faculty and undergraduate students, this is common. Chris is an undergraduate staff worker for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and, together with his wife Laurie, they bring together Christian faculty and Christian students from the University of Oklahoma.
Beginning the connection between students and faculty members on campus took gumption and strategy. Chris realized early on that there was a wide gulf between the two populations, and that his undergraduate students were quite timid in engaging their professors in conversations about faith and God. Chris worked, and continues to work, with his students to catch God’s vision for the University of Oklahoma by studying InterVarsity’s mission statement. Through the mission statement, students begin to engage a God who cares for them as students as well as their professors as they seek to build witnessing communities for Christ. Through these interactions, Chris and his students found that there were a number of professors on campus who loved God, loved InterVarsity, and were seeking Christian connections.
Chris’ monthly faculty dinners are student run and student led. Students find faculty members who they believe are Christians, ask them to the dinner, and facilitate discussions during the dinner. Chris often finds that faculty present on topics they’re passionate about and connect their disciplines with God and their faith. Many faculty members express gratitude for not only the opportunity to connect with their students in this unique way, but also for the opportunity to connect with other Christian faculty members. The students are also able to see the connection between their own majors and how their studies and passions relate to God.
Because of the monthly dinners, the students have also hosted a faculty dinner for just faculty members. During this time, faculty members were able to bring their spouses and children and connect with each other holistically as humans who are continuously balancing work and family life. They were also able to help resource each other with suggestions for churches and other Christian communities. Chris and Laurie continue to see the fruit from this endeavor and hope to continue a dinner for just faculty as well.
Chris describes the University of Oklahoma as a campus ripe for these discussions between faculty and their students and between faculty members themselves. Beginning next year, the monthly dinners will be held every other month and Chris and his students can't wait to see what God will do next. Truly God is blessing the campus with undergraduate students who are passionate about seeking God’s kingdom on campus and Christian faculty who are eager to join the cause.