First Year Seminar Fall 2013

First Year Seminar (FYS) is designed to assist first-year students in becoming engaged members of the George Fox University community. All first-year students select a seminar-style topical course for the first 10 weeks of the fall semester, meeting weekly with an instructor and two peer advisors.

This course is required of all first-time students and is a pass/fail course.


“Spiritual but not Religious?” - An Invitation to “SpiL” at Fox (GEED 130 A 2463)

Rusty St CyrStephanie St CyrRusty & Stephanie St. Cyr

“Spiritual but not religious.” More than one-fifth of Americans describe themselves with this phrase. What do we mean when we speak about “spiritual life?” Is it even possible to be “heavenly minded” and yet still be of some “earthly good” at the same time? And what does it have to do with figuring out vocation or what I'm supposed to do with my “one wild and precious life?” With this seminar, you will be invited to risk and experiment together, in the laboratory of real life, and explore what Jesus both modeled and taught about how we might set out to live lives to the fullest as God intended.

Rusty St. Cyr serves as the associate pastor for ministry and service at Fox, and Stephanie has coordinated Welcome Weekend for the past four years. They have been married for 14 years, and together they are stoked to share life with 4-year-old Ella Sophia, 2-year-old Matea Frances, and a Jack Russell Terrorist named “Woody.” They arrived at the “SpiL (Spiritual Life) House” in 2009 after 10 years of student ministry in Missouri, Scotland and Santa Cruz, Calif. They especially appreciate cultural immersion and experiential ministry/education. Rusty will be pursuing a doctor of ministry degree in global perspectives and is known to occasionally bang on drums. Stephanie is a regular at the Portland Zoo (with two of her favorite little girls in tow).

The Sacred Rights on Conscience: Religious Liberty and Church-State Relations in the American Founding (GEED 130 B 2464)

Mark HallMark David Hall

“Did America have a Christian Founding? What role did the state play in supporting Christianity in early America? Did this support help or hinder Christianity? How were religious minorities treated in early America? Did America’s founders intend the First Amendment to separate church and state? Are the founders’ views on these issues relevant today?” 

In addition to exploring these questions, we will consider what it takes to flourish in college. Seminar leader Mark David Hall has been in higher education since 1984, so hopefully he has picked up a few tricks along the way.

Mark is the Herbert Hoover Distinguished Professor of Politics at George Fox University. He has written or coedited nine books, including the text used for this seminar. His main research and teaching interests center on the relationship between Christianity, politics and law in America. He is currently president of the national organization Christians in Political Science. 

Christianity and “Cell” Culture:  Christian Wisdom & the Emerging Power of 21st Century Biology (GEED 130 C 2465)

Jeff DuerrJeff Duerr

The aim of this seminar is to address the broad impacts of biological science on contemporary society. Topics will focus on the relationship between biology and the Christian faith. Discussions will include the role of the life sciences as a way of learning about God and how one may foster a concurrent study of nature and the Bible. Further discussion will apply Christian morality to bioethical cases raised by recent advances in biological research: cloning, stem cells, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), use of animal models in research, etc.

Another equally important component to the seminar is to help students adjust to their first year at George Fox. The course will provide a forum for sharing common experiences among new freshmen and act as a support group. Hopefully, students will gain an increased awareness of their academic strengths and weaknesses, learn about university resources that are available to them, and enjoy a productive first year of college.

Jeff Duerr received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biology and chemistry in 1989 from Whitworth University; an MS degree in comparative physiology from Portland State University in 1991; and a PhD in cell physiology from the University of Hawai’i in 1997.

Jeff maintains an active research program at George Fox in which undergraduate student collaboration is actively encouraged. Professor Duerr lives in Newberg with his wife and three daughters. He enjoys cooking, live jazz and bookstores.

Discovering Your Strengths (GEED 130 D 2466)

Kathi NewtonKathi Gatlin

This seminar is designed to help facilitate your transition to college life as you embark on this new adventure at Fox. You will get an opportunity to learn about what you bring through the StrengthsQuest assessment and then discover how to apply those strengths to various areas of your life: academic, relational and vocational. In addition, you will learn what tools and information you need to navigate this first year at Fox.

Kathi Gatlin works with students who either have no clue what to major in or are questioning their first thought of major. As we learn more about ourselves and the areas we’re most interested in, we can start to determine the direction we want to go. 

Science and Christianity: No Final Conflict (GEED 130 E 2468)

Paul ChamberlainPaul Chamberlain

This course will look at the interaction between science and Christianity. Topics to be studied will include creation-evolution, the big bang theory, quantum mechanics, and origins of life. We will look at the interaction of science and the Bible, and how this affects our view of the creation and maintenance of our world. We will also discuss why ultimately there cannot be any conflict between God’s Word and His creation. Students will read, write, and discuss, as well as take part in other learning exercises in the classroom and outside of the classroom.

Paul Chamberlain has been teaching chemistry at George Fox since 1977. In addition to teaching, Paul serves as director of the Juniors Abroad program that sends hundreds of students around the world each May. His First Year Seminar courses consistently receive high ratings from his students.

Community: Adventures in Miscommunication (GEED 130 F 2469)

Dave JohnstoneDave Johnstone

The transition into college is a mixture of thrill and trepidation. However, this adventure is not pursued alone and everything experienced can be part of your education. Our focus is the many ways that communication happens in community. Realizing that our families, our communities and our culture help define how we communicate will help us figure out this adventure called college. The hope of this seminar is to provide tools, skills and relationships that will allow you to navigate through this world of college life.

Dave Johnstone is a context geek, believing that where we are, who we are and what shapes us affects how we interact in our communities. Figuring out the questions to ask is part of the adventure. As an immigrant to the U.S., Dave’s ability to communicate has led to some interesting (and fun) situations. He is currently the associate dean of students, and his family lives about a mile from campus. 

Creating Depth in the Shallows (GEED 130 G 2470)

Matt DymentMatt and Carla Dyment

The pace of our lives, the burdens we carry, and the way we use technology all form us to be shallow. In this First Year Seminar class we will explore how to create depth in our identity, friendships, community, and faith during the collegiate years.

Carla Dyment received her doctorate in ministry from George Fox University, Masters of Divinity from North Park University, and BA in communications from Linfield College. She enjoys photography, hiking, playing with Ava, and wearing her newly attained black belt in Kenpo Karate.

Matt Dyment completed his doctorate in ministry from George Fox University, earned MDiv, MM, MBA and MHEA degrees from North Park University, and a BS in business from Linfield College. He enjoys hiking in the mountains and along the beach, playing with Ava, and attempting to spar with Carla.

The Mystery of Infinity (GEED 130 H 2471)

Nick WillisNick Willis

Students will read and discuss the book The Mystery of the Aleph by Amir Aczel. The book gives an overview of the nature of infinity, how to understand that there are different sizes of infinity, and what we can learn about God from better understanding the infinite. Students will also learn about several mathematicians who have grappled with the paradoxes that surround the infinite. Finally, we will discuss the ability to know that something is true and how the completeness theorems show us that not everything mathematical can be proved.

Nick Willis is a full-time faculty member in George Fox’s mathematics department.  His fields of study in mathematics include algebraic geometry, topology, probability, and the integration of faith and mathematics. Outside of mathematics, Nick has a passion for Bible memorization, board games and time with his family.

Tales from Tolkien: Your Story in the Larger Story (GEED 130 I 2472)

Brad LauBrad and Pam Lau

In The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien offers a captivating journey of discovery and faith that parallels the Christian story in significant ways. It is a powerful tale of courage, redemption, sacrifice, temptation, friendship, and the search for identity and purpose. This seminar will explore several major themes in Tolkien’s epic series that will inform our own lives as we grapple with the difficult moral and ethical issues that we all face. In addition, you will leave this class equipped with basic tools to be a successful student and get the most out of your George Fox experience.

Brad and Pam Lau will be team-teaching this seminar. They moved to Oregon from Pennsylvania 13 years ago. They have three teenage daughters, two dogs and a cat. Brad serves as vice president for student life at George Fox, and Pam has her own business as an editor/writer/speaker as well as teaching as an adjunct faculty member. 

The Laus both love working with college students and seeing God do amazing things in their lives. Reading is also a passion for both of them, and Pam loves running and hiking while Brad plays tennis every chance he gets (and is a huge Denver Broncos fan!). We are excited to explore The Lord of the Rings together!

How to Survive, Thrive and Be Alive at GFU (GEED 130 J 2473)

John KnoxJohn S. Knox

Want to do more than just survive in college? Want to avoid the pitfalls of first-year academics? Want to look forward to grade reports and not be filled with dread? Want to be part of the community and not on the fringe? Then this class is for you! A wide variety of aspects of college life are examined – academic, residential, culinary, mental health, exercise, and spirituality, to name a few – all for the goal of helping students survive and thrive in their sometimes hectic, confusing, and stressful first year in college. This is definitely a hands-on, realistic, relevant survival course based on the university experiences of the professor and his peer advisors. Plus, there is food at every session and maybe a hockey game at the end!

John Knox has a PhD in theology and religion from the University of Birmingham (UK, 2009); a MATS in Christian history and thought from George Fox University, (2002); and a BA in history (minor in English) from Oregon State University (1991). He is married to Brenda and has two sons, Jacob and Joseph, and a mini-Australian shepherd named “Sallie.” He has been published a few times and has been writing a historical-fiction novel in his spare time. John has enjoyed teaching traditional classes (and online) for several universities for over a decade. He loves teaching on church history and the Bible! His PhD concerned the sociology of religion, and it was so intriguing studying how/why people believe what they do, theologically.

Philosophy & Theology in C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters (GEED 130 K 2474)

Phil SmithPhil Smith

Philosophy and theology – does that sound imposing? These disciplines really are nothing more than thinking carefully and well about important questions. The ideas we will explore in this seminar come from C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters.

Phil Smith has taught philosophy at George Fox for more than 20 years. He is a baseball fan (go Mariners!) and a jogger. He also writes fantasy and science fiction novels.

Bittersweet: Thriving in Transition (GEED 130 L 2475)

Mark PothoffMark & Olivia Pothoff

How do you navigate the intricacies of change and transition? We’ll use digital media, excerpts from Shauna Niequist’s book Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way, and interactive class activities and discussions to explore both the challenges and gifts that accompany change – especially as it pertains to the college experience. We’ll discuss what it means to not simply survive, but thrive during this pivotal time of growth in decision-making, prioritizing, new relationships, and your academic endeavors.

Hearing God’s Call (GEED 130 M 2476)

Brent WeaverBrent Weaver

We'll be looking at ways to understand and find our vocation: God’s will for our lives. We’ll do this through reading, discussion and by viewing some films together about how exceptional musicians have found their calling.

Brent Weaver teaches music theory and composition in the university’s music department, as well as a course on Music and Christian Faith. As a composer, his works have been performed in 30 U.S. states and four continents. Some samples of Weaver's musical work are available at He lives in Newberg near the George Fox campus with his wife, son and a neurotic cat.

Where am I going? How will I get there? And Other Essential Questions (GEED 130 N 2477)

Kris KaysKristina Kays

Does life sometimes happen to you? Would you like more say in the direction you are going? Have you thought about how your spiritual faith may be challenged and shaped during your college years? Have you wondered about what your faith really is? 

Questions can be overwhelming, and yet, finding answers is often empowering. In addition to exploring the resources and skills necessary for success at George Fox, this course will examine the challenges and possibilities of living an intentional and successful life.

Kris Kays teaches clinical psychology and other fun courses in the undergrad psychology department. She enjoys challenges, good coffee, Diet Dr. Pepper, a great joke, and spending time with her husband, son and two daughters. When you have the chance, ask her why she has so many cacti in her window – and when she will be getting her teacup pig.

What the Best College Students Do (GEED 130 O 2478)

Rick MuthiahRick Muthiah

Is success in college just about book-smarts and good grades? Too often, students focus on elements that might not be most important to learning, growing, and thriving as a student – and beyond. We’ll use ideas from the book What the Best College Students Do to guide discussions about what really matters as you pursue success as a college student. We’ll also look beyond college as we explore the fullness of who God made you to be through our conversations, activities and explorations.

Rick Muthiah thrives by helping students thrive! His education and work have centered around helping students develop into faithful and fulfilled stewards of God’s gifts in their lives. Rick has been at George Fox since 2003; he directs the Academic Resource Center (the ARC), the Disability Services Office, the First Year Seminar program and the Academic Success Program. In his spare time, he and his wife (Beth) coach, cheer, play with, chase and fully delight in their three sons and one daughter (Caleb, 12; Corban, 10; Malachi, 7; and Esther, 5).

Mother Teresa, Teaching and Technology: “These are a few of my Favorite Things” (GEED 130 P 2479)

Debby EspinorDebby Espinor

Mother Teresa is a well-known “saint,” but did you know she was a teacher? Whether you want to teach or not, let’s explore together the life of a learner. Teaching, technology and spirituality are not mutually exclusive – the God of creation created the minds of those who have transformed our world into the digital age. Let’s use our own minds to find connections. “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”- Mother Teresa

Debby Espinor is chair of undergraduate teacher education at George Fox. She directs the non-traditional program with adult learners and teaches in a variety of formats, online, hybrid and face-to-face. She loves music, travel and reading.

The Journey

Debbie BerhoDebbie Berhó

"Life is a Journey" ... "Strangers in a Strange Land" ... "Culture Shock" ... How do these well-worn phrases apply to college? This First Year Seminar class will help students map out new territory, identify old skills and develop news ones, discover our own personal culture and adjust to living in a new one. This will include necessary college survival skills (such as decision making, time management and coping with stress) while learning about available university resources. Students will connect with one another through discussion and small-group activities, and the instructor will share tales of foreign travel along with biblical principles for the college "journey."

Debbie Berhó joined the faculty of George Fox in 1997. Prior to this, she owned a translation agency, providing services for state and federal courts, insurance companies, and numerous other groups including the Greater Portland Oregon Billy Graham Crusade. She has been recognized by the American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages as speaking Spanish at the Superior level. She has broad-ranging interests, from sociolinguistics, the scholarship of teaching including service learning and assessment, higher education strategic planning and curricular development, immigrants and their religious practices, to Christian higher education in Latin America. 

Prelude to an Epic: The Hobbit and Life at the University (GEED 130 R 2481)

Gary TandyGary Tandy

In The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien tells the story of the unassuming and ordinary hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, who is called to participate in an unexpected adventure. With a little help from his friends and a wise wizard, he successfully completes his perilous journey, learning a great deal about himself and his gifts in the process. We’ll use Tolkien’s work as a starting point to anticipate and explore the adventure that awaits each of us as we seek to become faithful people equipped with a robust liberal arts education. Through this seminar, you’ll not only be equipped with the skills you need to navigate college, you’ll be better prepared to enjoy the ongoing release of Tolkien's classic tale on the big screen.

Born and raised in America’s heartland, Gary Tandy has taught writing and literature at three different Christian universities. He enjoys teaching courses in British literature and Shakespeare and professional and technical writing. He also enjoys researching and writing about C. S. Lewis and the Inklings, writing on his blog, "Standing by Words" (, and trying to be a positive force for goodness, peace, and social justice in his church, community and world.

Life and Learning - the Great Balancing Act (GEED 130 S 2482)

Mark TerryLauri SmithMark Terry & Lauri Smith

This seminar is designed to introduce students interested in art and design to the liberal arts experience at George Fox in a holistic sense. Topics will cover a broad range of subjects including learning styles and study skills, integrating faith into college life, and finding pathways to a healthy balance while in pursuit of excellence.   Most class meetings will take place off campus, and at least one will be out of town for First Thursday gallery openings in Portland. Students will need to budget a few dollars each evening for refreshments on the road or at meeting sites.

Mark Terry is a ceramic artist and studio potter who teaches ceramics, art history and humanities seminars abroad in Europe. He is also a master mentoring teacher along with his department head duties. Mark is married to Missy (who works in the president’s office) and has two daughters who graduated from Fox.

Lauri Smith is a California Certified Interior Designer and has owned and operated her own interior design business for more than 25 years. She teaches Interior Design I & II, Drafting, Textiles, Historical Architecture, Color Theory, and prepares seniors for the work world. Brent and Lauri have two daughters that are Fox alumni.

Why Common Sense Might be Common, but Doesn’t Always Make Sense: College as Re-minding – There’s Always More to Learn and Room to Grow (GEED 130 T 2483)

Clint BaldwinTyler AmyClint Baldwin & Tyler Amy

We each come to university with many ideas, hopes and uncertainties. Integrating past understanding with new understanding (part of which entails developing new networks of relationality) is both an exceptionally daunting and fabulously exciting endeavor! This First Year Seminar will use a combination of discussion, film, short readings, field trips and self-assessment exercises to assist initial navigation of collegiate life. An emphasis will be placed on interpersonal and intercultural competency, community engagement and the reality of the following quote from Martin Luther King Jr.: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

Clint Baldwin (director) and Tyler Amy (coordinator) both work in the university’s Center for Global Studies and the Center for Peace and Justice, which are part of the Academic Affairs Office. As well, Clint is assistant professor of international studies with the Department of History, Politics & International Studies.

Between the Lines: Telling Stories through Sports (GEED 130 W 2486)

Jamie JohnsonJamie Johnson

This section is geared toward athletes - those who play on teams and those who play for fun. In this course we will explore how truth is conveyed through sports. We tell our own stories of playing sports and examine other stories as we look for ways to better understand life and faith.

Jamie Johnson loves sports. He played baseball and soccer while a student at George Fox and manages his kids’ sports teams throughout the year. An avid runner, he is also a serious fantasy sports player, especially baseball and football. Jamie graduated from George Fox in 2000 and has recently completed his PhD in Christian education.

Holism and the College Experience (GEED 130 X)

Jennifer FarlandJennifer Farland

Each of us consists of mind, body and spirit. College is a time to focus on the mind but not at the exclusion of body and spirit. In this course we will examine ways to nurture the whole self and find school/work/life balance.

Jennifer Farland grew up in the Great Plains state of South Dakota and obtained her undergraduate degree from the University of South Dakota. It was during this time that she embraced Christianity for herself and felt whole for the first time. Before coming to George Fox to work in international admissions she lived in Kalamazoo, Mich., for 13 years. While working at Western Michigan University, she obtained a graduate certificate in holistic health. She is passionate about living a holistic life and enjoys helping others to do so as well.

Seeing the World Through a Wide-Angle Lens (GEED 130 Z)

Polly PetersonPolly Peterson

George Fox offers students many opportunities to experience different cultures, not only through travel abroad, but also through interactions here on campus. Sharpen your cultural intelligence and learn about cross-cultural differences and issues. Understand how cultures vary and ask and answer questions about how culture affects the way people interact with each other. Become a savvy world traveler by seeking first to understand. Along the way, enjoy diverse foods and cultures while learning a lot about yourself and others.

Polly Peterson has been a writing teacher at George Fox for more than 10 years. Recently, she has begun working intensively with Second Language Learners, and in 2012 she led a group of George Fox students on a trip to China. She loves writing, reading, cooking, eating out, British TV shows, interacting with interesting people and travel.

Indiana Jones and the Quest for Knowledge (GEED 130 Y)

Matt MeyerMatt Meyer

"Everything I needed to know to succeed in college, I learned from Indiana Jones."

College is an adventure, fraught with peril. Around every corner lie dangerous booby traps, unexpected discoveries, attractive members of the opposite sex, gnarly insects … and a priceless prize at the end. In this class, we’ll look to Raiders of the Lost Ark and snippets from the other Indiana Jones films to find clues to successfully completing the adventure that is college.

Prior to becoming a professor, Matt Meyer was a sound editor and mixer for feature films, TV shows and more radio ads than he cares to remember. In addition to high-class documentaries and the international versions of Disney classics, Matt was chagrined to realize he mixed the overseas version of Troll 2, now gaining cult status as the worst movie of all time.

Lagniappe (GEED 130 AA 2565)

Cliff RosenbohmCliff Rosenbohm

"Lagniappe" is the topic of this seminar. This first-year seminar will explore society in general and how we are influenced by broader society. We will discuss views of society, service, different worldviews, sex, religion, spirituality and, of course, politics. Expect to have fun and laugh as you get to know peers and interact with both silly and serious issues facing our society.

Cliff was born and raised in New Orleans and loves New Orleans cuisine. He has 25-plus years of experience with Young Life as a leader, urban area director, board member and volunteer. He lived in Alaska for 10 years, Kentucky for 10 years, and has been in Oregon for 11 years. That makes him 31 years old. He has five kids, three cats, a dog, a piranha-like gold fish named Darwin (It used to be 3, then 1 and now it is 10), a serial killer raccoon, a dead hamster known as Hannibal “Bitsy” Lector, and a "Cody."

Learn more about us through the George Fox University Vimeo channel.