Major Grant Supports Summer Academy for Faith, Science, and Ethics

The Lilly Endowment Inc. will continue to support the week-long summer academy that explores the intersection of faith, science, and ethics.
Posted on November 25th, 2019 by

Students and mentors from the 2019 Gustavus Academy for Faith, Science, and Ethics.

Students and mentors from the 2019 Gustavus Academy for Faith, Science, and Ethics.

Gustavus Adolphus College has received a major grant from the Lilly Endowment Inc. to support the Gustavus Academy for Faith, Science, and Ethics. The grant of $294,730 will fund the summer program for high school students over the next five years.

Since its founding in 2016, the Gustavus Academy for Faith, Science, and Ethics has given high school students a venue to discuss important theological questions relating to faith, science, and service. “I think students are longing to have the opportunity to have these conversations,” said Academy director and Chaplain of the College Rev. Siri Erickson. “High school students can become really good theologians if you empower them with basic theological frameworks, mentors and role models, and the space to ask questions and explore ideas without feeling pressured to arrive at the same answers as their peers or pastors.”

The Gustavus Academy consists of a mix of classroom, lab, and outdoor learning opportunities that explore the intersections of faith, science, and ethics.

The Gustavus Academy consists of a mix of classroom, lab, and outdoor learning opportunities that explore the intersections of faith, science, and ethics.

The week-long summer intensive is designed to provide this kind of space for questions and exploration. Students read a range of biblical and theological texts. They are also able to interact with visiting theologians and scientists who lead the Academy’s daily sessions. An important role is played by Gustavus students who serve as mentors and by past Academy participants who return as senior fellows. These college and high school students are trained for their leadership roles in the weeks leading up to the summer intensive. A number of Gustavus students who served as Academy mentors have started or are planning to study in seminary.

Fellows in past summer programs have come from multiple states and Canadian provinces. Most belong to ELCA congregations, with other denominations represented as well. A primary aim of the Academy is to prepare leaders within the church who can cultivate new relationships between science and faith. The curriculum is intended to help student fellows speak more confidently about their values, faith commitments, and ethical concerns.

Based on feedback she has received, Erickson sees the Academy as being successful in these goals. “Pastors and parents have shared with us that the Gustavus Academy has equipped their students with self-confidence, leadership and communication skills, and a greater enthusiasm for their faith and congregational engagement,” she said. One pastor of a small-town congregation reported that two students who attended the Academy set the topics and provided resources for a sermon series on faith and science. “In the same way it’s produced in our young people the thirst for more exploration of these big topics and questions,” the pastor reported to Erickson, “it’s done the same for the rest of the congregation.”

The Academy has also influenced campus ministry at Gustavus. Ten former participants in the Academy, who are now enrolled at the College, work in the chaplains’ office. “They lead worship, theological discussion groups, and help us continue strengthening the Academy,” Erickson said. “Having these Academy students as part of our campus ministries team generates deep and meaningful Christian student communities on campus.”

The new grant from the Lilly Endowment is an extension of an initial grant made in 2015 that helped establish the Gustavus Academy for Faith, Science, and Ethics. Founded in 1937, Lilly Endowment Inc. is a private philanthropic foundation based in Indianapolis. The endowment supports projects related to community development, education, and religion.

The theme of the 2020 Gustavus Academy for Faith, Science, and Ethics is the ethics of cancer and its treatment, corresponding with the subject of next year’s Nobel Conference. Students can apply for the program at the Gustavus Academy website.

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Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin
jakin@gustavus.edu
507-933-7510

 

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