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An Engaging Aspiration

January 22, 2008

"I knew I wanted to teach in a university context," said the native Texan. "I believe teaching is my calling, and in the liberal arts setting. I love to learn, and I love to communicate."" />

He knew he wanted to be a teacher when he was an undergraduate student. At 31, Dr. Justin Hardin is fulfilling his aspirations.

"I knew I wanted to teach in a university context," said the native Texan. "I believe teaching is my calling, and in the liberal arts setting. I love to learn, and I love to communicate."

Hardin, OBU's Rowena Strickland assistant professor of religion, is in his third year on the faculty. He received the 2007 Promising Teacher Award, which included the opportunity to deliver the University's winter Commencement address.

"If our students graduate from OBU without learning how to think critically and creatively, they will certainly be incapable of living a virtuous life in the world," he said to the graduates on Dec. 14. "If this is the case we might as well close the doors. Jesus stated that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your hearts, souls, and minds. This is transformative thinking."

Hardin believes he has been enlightened since becoming a member of the OBU faculty. The setting OBU provides has helped him enhance his educational philosophy.

"Where I've grown since I've been here is I've learned to appreciate liberal arts more than I've ever appreciated it," he said.

Hardin has put into practice his challenge of engaging a diverse world through academic pursuits. After completing a bachelor's degree from Ouachita Baptist University and a master's degree from Samford University's Beeson Divinity School, he went to the University of Cambridge. He earned two degrees at the internationally renowned English institution.

While working on a second master's degree in philosophy, Hardin also played varsity basketball at Cambridge. He earned the prestigious Cambridge Blue, which is awarded to athletes competing in the highest level of university sport.

Hardin recently completed his requirements for a Ph.D. degree in New Testament. His thesis on the Book of Galatians will be included in an international publication next year.

Publishing is a current avenue Hardin is using to engage the world. He has approximately 10 articles in print.

"Many of these publications are peer-reviewed all over the world. The publishing aspect is what people hear the most, in terms of engaging," he said. "You're not going to public forum debates. You're building credibility among a watching world. They're going to quote you and do their own research. From a professor's mind, this is part of engaging a diverse world."

During his first two years at OBU, Hardin had a unique living arrangement many professors rarely experience. His wife, Jill, served as resident director of Kerr Dorm.

Justin and their young sons, Ethan and Drew, were the only male residents of the dorm for two years. He believes living in the dorm and having a campus life connection helped him gain a better understanding of his students.

"I was able to see how area affects the faculty and students. I am able to interact better than I would have normally," Hardin said. "It's been an advantage for me in the classroom because I knew what students were experiencing on campus."