Chowan University, a small Baptist school in northeastern North Carolina, is experiencing a revival on more fronts than one. Since taking office as interim president in 2003 — and being named permanent president in 2004 — Chris White has led the school to a position of financial strength and increased enrollments. Instead of recruiting only the brightest students, Chowan embraces its focus on “students of promise,” to borrow White’s words, average students who can mature and grow into successful people.
Chowan has also ramped up efforts to promote the school as a Christian environment for education. A group called the Chowan Christian Service Organization was formed to provide scholarships to students who feel called into ministry, and some of those students are making a difference on campus.
In addition to minister to the university Mari Wiles, Chowan recently hired Craig and Jennifer Janney to serve as associate campus ministers.
Faith is promoted as integral to the enterprise. Faculty and others have been urged to pray for the school (that’s J Brabban, chair of the religion department, in the photo).
When a student came to Wiles before the semester began and wanted help organizing a prayer meeting for students, she helped him put together a midnight meeting in “Squirrel Park,” a central green space with many large trees.
My understanding is that the prayer meetings have continued, and a spiritual awakening is blossoming in a variety of ways.
The revival, alas, has been too much for at least one student. While I was on campus for a recent visit, vice-president for development John Tayloe told me a student had come in to indicate that he was withdrawing from school. “There’s just too much Jesus talk and too much praying on this campus,” he said.
Colleges don’t like losing students, but Chowan takes pride in being a place where both Jesus and prayer are ubiquitous. The school’s new marketing slogan is “Faith in your future.” Stories like this give cause for faith in Chowan’s future, as well.