Academy Newsletter Spring 2022

Greetings, friends of the Academy at Houston Christian University!

This Lenten season, I’ve been meditating on this prayer from St. Ephraim the Syrian: “O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, faintheartedness, lust of power, and idle talk. But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love to your servant. Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own sin and not to judge my brother, for You are blessed from all ages to all ages. Amen.” St. Ephraim models here for us what it means to give something up so that we can receive something better. Further, he models how we are to live in relation to others and in relation to God, all the while acknowledging that it is God himself who enables us to live this way. The lessons that St. Ephraim offers here are exactly those that we hope the Academy students are learning in their classes as they seek, together, to discover what is true, good, and beautiful. Won’t you join me in praying this prayer?

I’d like to invite you also to join me in person on April 5 at 6:00 pm for our Academy Open House and Awards Ceremony. This event is an opportunity for returning and prospective students and parents to learn more about Academy course offerings, class structure, and college credit. I’m very excited to share with you at this event some exciting changes coming up next year! Additionally, at this event we will recognize our Academy academic award winners and our junior high essay contest award winners. Dr. Emily Stelzer, Associate Professor of English and Chair of English, Modern Languages, and Communication–and erstwhile Academy director and faculty member–will give a short talk on friendship, our theme this year. This event will be a great time to gather as a community to celebrate the good work our Academy students are doing this year and look forward to next year.

In addition to our Great Books classes, this year students had the option to enroll in a film class called The Art of Cinema and New Media. The students in this course have been hard at work all year learning the nuts and bolts of the video production process start to finish, and I’m eager to share with you a small taste of what they’ve learned. For this newsletter’s “Student Spotlight,” one of these Academy film students, Safiyah Ahmed, answers questions about her experience as a first-year Academy student. Then for the “Faculty Spotlight,” Professor Chris Hartwell, who teaches this popular cinema course, sat down with his students for a video interview, inviting the students to take charge of the camera, the lighting, the microphone, and all the elements of shooting the interview. What a treat to see how much these students have learned!


Julianna Leachman
Director, The Academy
Houston Christian University

Featured in this issue of the Academy Newsletter

Student Spotlight: Safiyah Ahmed

How long have you been part of the Academy at HCU, and how did you first discover the Academy?

This is my first year of being a part of the Academy. I found out about the Academy last year when COVID-19 was at its peak. My sister was taking Great Books 1 there, and hearing my sister talking about the class discussions at the dinner table when she got home made me more interested.

What has the adjustment to college-level classes been like for you?

I was actually surprised when I started these college-level classes. I had expected to be overloaded with difficult assignments, however, the amount of work has been just the right amount of challenge, and I am learning so many new things every moment of class. I love the organization and systems of the classes, which are different (and much better) than the systems of normal schools. By this, I mean Socratic Discussions and all the hands-on work that we do both in Cinema and in Great Books. The content of the things we read (Yeah, I’m talking about you, Ovid) has been quite different than what I am used to, but I feel like I have mentally matured through the Academy.

You’re enrolled in a Great Books class and the Art of Cinema and New Media class. What do you like about these two very different classes? 

The very first thing on the list for what I love about my two classes is my peers. Everyone at HCU is so nice, friendly, and open- both the students and professors. I am a “people person” so I have found myself discussing things with my peers and making new friends. Another thing that I enjoy about my two classes is that there is a lot of interactive work and activities. My professors design the lessons to accommodate everyone, and I appreciate everyone’s hard work in making this Academy happen.

What have you learned about yourself as a student and a person through your experiences in the Academy?

I have learned through my experiences here that this is where my identity is decided, but it can still change over time. HCU has helped shape who I am, by expanding my view of the past, enriching my understanding of the world, and enabling me to view the gorgeous world that God created through a different lens (literally and figuratively.)

What is your favorite book that you’ve read during your time in the Academy and why?

My favorite book that I have read here at the Academy is definitely The Odyssey. I like to see a change of setting, adventure, and lots of riveting moments. I have read different translations of The Odyssey when I was younger, and sitting down to discuss the adventures of Odysseus with my classmates has been so memorable and constructive.

What advice can you offer for brand-new Academy students? What encouragement can you offer for prospective Academy students?

Here is my advice for new Academy students: Being in the Academy at HCU requires the three Ds: Determination, Dedication, and Devotion. Never give up when the reading gets hard. Don’t sit back and slack off when your classmates are struggling to set up the softbox or c-stands. Always contribute to the discussions- and the first step to contributing is to understand the text. Something else that really helps is staying in touch with your classmates. Create a group chat and talk with your peers outside of school, help each other with assignments, ask each other questions, etc. 

How do you think the Academy has prepared you for the future?

I think the Academy has prepared me for my future by letting me uncover what I truly want to achieve in life, the complexity of the world, and helping me implement important elements in my writing.

Faculty Feature: Chris Hartwell

Note from the Academy director: Instead of our usual written interview, I asked Professor Chris Hartwell if he might like to sit for a video interview conducted by his students. He jumped at the chance and guided his students through all the steps of setting up and using the camera, microphone, lighting, etc. You can watch the full video interview here

Academy Open House and Awards Ceremony

I invite you to join us for any or all of the following university events that may be of interest to our Academy students, families, and friends!

Hinton Center

On March 26 from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm, HCU is hosting an Apologetics Conference at The Woodlands Methodist Church. Dr. Michael Ward, Dr. Louis Markos, and Dr. Jerry Walls will offer keynote addresses, and several other HCU faculty members will host breakout sessions, including a special teen track and parent track. 

On March 28 at 7:00 pm, Dr. Michael Ward will give a lecture, “C. S. Lewis on Mortality and Hope,” about C. S. Lewis’s final Narnia chronicle, The Last Battle. Seats are limited, so please RSVP no later than 5 pm on March 25.

On April 5 at 6:00 pm in Dillon II, The Academy will host an Open House and Awards Ceremony.

On April 5 at 7:00 pm in HCU’s Belin Chapel, Dr. Steven Jones will present a lecture on the Roman Catiline as part of an ongoing Law and Liberty Lecture Series called Traitors and Turncoats. No RSVP required, but seats are limited.

On April 7 at 4:00 pm in HCU’s Belin Chapel, former presidential candidate and U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Dr. Ben Carson will present a public lecture. This event is hosted by the Morris Family Center for Law and Liberty at HCU. No RSVP required, but seats are limited.

Visit The Academy

You’re invited to visit HCU and The Academy! Please email to schedule a visit. When you email, please indicate whether or not you would like to sit in on one of our classes.

Submit Your News!

Academy students, alums, and faculty: we want to hear from you! Let us know what you’re up to outside the Academy classroom. Email with your news.

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