A New Man on Campus

3 weeks ago Triangle 0

Written by: Nathan Ecarma, Editor-in-Chief

The cafeteria bustled with activity, as students ate before the next conference session and as faculty and staff prepared for a college-wide meeting. Everyone went about getting their food, finding their friends—some new, some old.

Amidst the old who dressed in polos and T-shirts, stood someone new. He wore a full suit.

Rumors soon spread of seriousness. “I think he’s going to make changes,” remarked one student. Another explained how he thought he will bolster the academics.

Professors soon saw changes such as a need for quicker action, stricter formalities or free coffee in the Academic Office. Syllabus day seemed to be updated to help integrate faith within the class, one student explained, but he was not positive where the change came from.  

Then, he addressed the school at an all campus meeting, where he gave out his own cell phone number after having won over the audience with humor.

And that’s what everyone knows of Bryan College’s new academic provost, Douglas F. Mann, Ph.D.

But what everyone might not know is that Dr. Mann’s favorite ice cream from the cafeteria is mint chocolate chip. That, and also that his drive, his focus, is the students, getting to know them and wanting them to be fully engaged as he was when he went to Bryan.

During his time at Bryan (1988-1992), Mann spent his time majoring in Bible and history, playing on the soccer team, serving in SGA and as an RA, and acting in a play.

“My memory of Bryan is as an idyllic place,” Mann said.

His time at Bryan prepared him in a holistic way for life. “Wherever the Lord took me, I felt prepared for different challenges. Academically, I was prepared, and spiritually, because men and women poured their lives into me, so I was prepared to step forward.”

Even on the social level, Mann was prepared, having served as an RA. “[I learned] the interpersonal pieces of college life, and how you interact with your friends and with those in authority, and so, now that I’ve had a career in higher education where all of those skills are necessary, I’m able to now bring those back to the College.”

As a student, he said, “I wanted my fellow students to have that same experience. It disappointed me when I didn’t sense that my peers were transformed like I was.” His broad experience at Bryan served to form a foundation for his life, and he wants to bring this experience to Bryan for its future.

For Bryan’s future, Mann will pursue programmatic growth. He said, “I want to see new offerings that correspond with where the world is today, whether it’s in communication studies, IT, STEM fields, allied health, the helping fields, psychology, social work, and counseling. We can’t do it all at once, but I’d like to see us step forward in some of those areas.”

But he wants to pursue programmatic growth “while retaining the distinctive liberal arts education, [because] the liberal arts are crucial to a well-rounded, well-educated person.” Mann sees a basis for a liberal arts education in Genesis from the Cultural Mandate: “Subdue the earth” (Gen. 1:28).

The distinctiveness of the liberal arts education does not only find basis for Mann from a standpoint of principle but of practicality.

Mann pointed how out often millennials are said to change jobs. The Gallup poll reported that, “21% of millennials say they’ve changed jobs within the past year, which is more than three times the number of non-millennials who report the same.”

With all the change, the liberal arts education is practical because it helps students transition into the world well. Mann said, “The individual who is able to think, the individual who is able to write clearly, and the individual who is able to communicate well, those are the individuals who will be able to transition well.”

He further explained how there will be jobs in the next decade that are popular but unknown right now, so a well-rounded, well-educated person will be better equipped for whatever that job may be.

Another aspect of Mann’s well-rounded experience at Bryan came from mentoring relationships. The student-faculty mentorship is an organic part of Bryan, Mann said, “It’s a part of who we are as Bryan College. It’s a distinctiveness about the College.”

From this mentoring relationship, Mann learned something about the importance of upholding the standard. He shared how he sat in the final exam of his favorite class which was taught by his mentor.

“The exam was two essay questions, and I took the entire period to write on the first one. I wrote, and I wrote, and I wrote, thinking I had as much time as I needed to write on the second question.” But he didn’t. His professor had them hand in their exams when the period ended. “I got a 48 on that exam. That was my only B in my history major,” Mann said. “That taught me a lesson that while he was obviously mentoring me, there were still standards that I had to meet.”

In sum, Mann wants to maintain the core of Bryan—the liberal arts and standards, while broadening and deepening other programs. If that’s the what for the future of Bryan, then what’s the why?

The why is because “at the core, we are about students, because without students, why are we here?” said Mann. “One of the reasons I came to Bryan was so I could be closer to students.”

Mann has either been a student or been teaching students for most of his life. After he graduated from Bryan (1992), he took up a teaching and coaching position at Providence Christian Academy in Lilburn, Ga. After three years there, he went on to Trinity International University where he earned his M.A. in Church history and Christian thought (1997), and then he continued to earn a Ph.D. in history from the University of Georgia (2005). Mann has taught at the high school, undergraduate and graduate level.

He did all of this because he loved interacting with students. “I enjoy those moments when it clicks for a student, where they are engaged, where they see the world in a different way, where they see themselves in a different way,” Mann said.

While he appreciated the depth allowed for in graduate classes, he favored teaching at the freshman level. He explained the diversity of engagement, those who are and those who are not. “For me the challenge was, even if it was just for one class period, to find out what it was that engaged that individual.”

He shared a story about one individual: “Sometimes he was there, sometimes he wasn’t. But one of the days he perked up. He engaged, and he asked questions. That was a good day. That was fun.”

While he has been teaching or involved in academics for almost 30 years, Mann transitioned to the administrative side of academics in 2010 at Liberty University, becoming the Dean of the graduate school and then eventually to the Vice Provost. Continuing in an administrative position, Mann will carry his skills reaped from his years of teaching and learning to Bryan College.

Nathan Ecarma is a senior studying Bible, language and journalism.