Conyers Scholars Program

The Conyers Scholars program grew out of the vision of Jennifer A. Howell, who served as a graduate student with Dr. Scales for a few years, beginning in 2009.  Forming a partnership between the Graduate School and Institute for Faith and Learning, the Conyers Scholars program was launched in 2010 and “convenes dinners and seminars in an effort to foster intellectually rich discussions about faith and scholarly inquiry”

Scales and Howell describe the early Conyers gatherings in the introduction to their edited volume, Christian Faith and University Life: Stewards of the Academy, which includes several Conyers authors.

(Excerpt from pp. 7-8)

By the Fall of 2010, we held our first gathering in Laine’s home of 14 Conyers Scholars and leaders.  We began our practices of praying together, sharing a meal, enjoying conversation, and discussing a common reading. This group would meet faithfully each month to carry out these practices for the next two years. If we were successful, our Conyers community would take root and bear fruit in the graduate student years, but it would not stop there.  Our scholars would take the seeds of this experience with them to their new academic positions after graduation and plant them in new soil.

      Gathering a group to explore the idea of Christian scholarship and teaching also appealed to our desire for intellectual community, a notion put forth by the CID as an essential component of a robust doctoral experience.  If these communities are multigenerational, so much the better, argues the CID.[i] Our group of students and faculty was indeed multigenerational and multidisciplinary, which required each of us to practice clarifying our ideas for one another patiently and charitably. We still, however, shared much in common with one another as we each drew our primary identities from beyond the academy. That is, we were all part of a faith community expressed in the church universal.  Honoring that common commitment, we thought it was important to invite pastors into the conversation as well.  Our goal was to develop both an intellectual and a faith community to explore three essential areas: scholarship, teaching, and church-academy relationships. Employing the stewardship framework and expanding upon it to include our responsibilities to shepherd both field and faith became the scaffolding we used to organize our process. … ( p. 13) The life of a doctoral student or a new faculty member, at its worst, can be isolating, competitive, and soul- crushing.  As we have seen through the Conyers program, however, these early years of joining the academy can provide an opportunity for Christians to prepare, within a caring community, for long term commitments to their disciplines and to their faith. Christian academics must pay particular attention to this opportunity for creating communities and cultivating practices that will point to God as the source of our gifts.

[i] Walker et al., The Formation of Scholars Rethinking Doctoral Education for the Twenty-First Century.