Written by: Kedrick Nettleton, Staff Writer
OKWU has been blessed with high-level faculty members who take a deep interest in the holistic development of students’ heads, hearts, hands, and habits.
In an effort to highlight the tremendous work that they do, we’ve asked three of the longest-serving faculty currently at OKWU three questions about their time here.
1. How’d you get to OKWU, and what made you stay?
For Charissa Dunn, an Assistant Professor of Education who’s worked at OKWU for a total of 31 years, that question is easy to answer. Growing up, her father was the Wesleyan District Superintendent. “I came as a student,” she said. “It was kind of expected that we would all come here.”
After spending two years in the classroom, Dunn joined the staff. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I started working here,” she said.
Eventually, she received her four year degree debt free, and after some high school teaching experience, joined OKWU again, this time as a faculty member. She stayed because it seemed to fit.
For Dr. Mark Weeter, University Provost and Professor of Ministry and Christian Thought, joining OKWU was definitely not a foregone conclusion. After working as a full-time pastor to gain experience for teaching, Weeter made a list of the schools he was interested in working for. “Bottom two on the list were Bartlesville Wesleyan College and Bethany Bible College,” he said.
Of course, BWC (which later became OKWU) offered Weeter the job, and he took it, even though his long term plans were cloudy. “In all honesty, I never envisioned in a million years that I’d still be here,” he said. “I wanted to come out here, get my doctorate, get established… and then I’d get a job closer to where all my family was.”
Fast forward 33 years, and Weeter is helping to guide the university into an exciting new era, with grandchildren close by. It’s a good thing, he said, that God didn’t go along with his plan. “God has a sense of humor, you know? [He] had other plans, and I don’t regret it one bit.”
Dr. Mike Fullingim, a Professor of Religion with an emphasis in Linguistics and Intercultural Studies, has a similar story to Dr. Weeter in that he came to OKWU with no clear commitment to be there long-term. When he was first asked to teach as an adjunct in 1987, he was back from the mission field in Papua New Guinea and was waiting for a chance to go back.
“We only signed one-year contracts, so I thought, ‘Okay,'” he said. “Always hoping that we’ll go back.”
A quote attributed to Dwight L. Moody had a profound impact on Fullinghim’s decision to stay in Bartlesville: “It’s better to train ten people than to do the work of ten people.”
With this perspective in mind, he effectively closed the door on going back to Papua New Guinea. “To turn my back on that was really challenging,” Fullingim said. “[But] I said, ‘Okay, Lord. I’m still involved in your work.’ I’ll train people, rather than doing the work of ten people.”
“God has a sense of humor, you know? He had other plans, and I don’t regret it one bit.”
2. What have you learned during your time here?
Of course, all three professors have learned much during their time teaching, but it’s interesting to see what lessons stood out to them the most. For Charissa Dunn, that lesson is providence.
“God provides,” she said. “It’s just been amazing how we’ve had needs and He’s taken care of them. Institutionally, as well as individually. That’s a wonderful thing.”
Dr. Weeter is quick to point out how much things have changed during his 33 years at OKWU, even though the foundation hasn’t. “The methods change, but the message can’t,” Weeter said. “The world is a very, very different place [than when I got here]. You can’t reach people today the way that you did forty years ago. But the message can’t be compromised.”
And that message is personal; Dr. Fullingim has learned that the best teachers are the ones who make a connection with their students.
“I don’t teach a topic. I teach students,” he said. “Somehow it’s about relationships. The teachers that are effective are going to be involved in your life in someway.”
3. Where do you see yourself in ten years? Where you do hope to see OKWU in ten years?
Short answer? No one knows what the future holds. “I’m not sure I have ten more years to go!” Dr. Fullingim joked. “I do hope that I finish well. I hope we still have a desire for ministry. This is the Lord’s work.”
Dunn acknowledges that she doesn’t know what the rest of her time at OKWU will look like, but she’s praying that the school will continue to expand the impact that it’s been blessed with. “I do hope that, in some form, we’re still having that voice in the Christian world, that we’re still accepting students and bringing them to maturity in Christ as well as knowledge of whatever field they’re wanting to go into. That’s what I hope for the institution.”
As for Dr. Weeter? “I’m presuming I’ll be retiring in ten years,” he said, although he’s quick to point out that he’s not anxious for that day to come.
“I love my job. I love what I do, I love who I work with,” he said. “I’ve got a great team. [And] I’m more energized and more excited than I’ve been in decades. We are definitely turning in the right direction.”
It’s a feeling all three shared, their excitement a testament to the high calling they continue to obey. “I’m just very, very optimistic,” Weeter said.
“I do hope that, in some form, we’re still having that voice in the Christian world, that we’re still accepting students and bringing them to maturity in Christ as well as knowledge of whatever field they’re wanting to go into. That’s what I hope for the institution.”