The Stewardship of
Academic Ministry


“LeTourneau University is a special institution. By ‘special’ I mean two main things. First and foremost, our institutional commitment to Jesus and the gospel is becoming increasingly rare. We are a place that is decisively devoted to both the practice and proclamation of the gospel through the integration of Christian faith and learning and living. Customary patterns of life at LeTourneau are atypical within higher education, such as an extra five minutes added to each class period for prayer and a devotional moment; an annual faculty commissioning service that is similar to sending missionaries off to the mission field; and 'all campus chapel' every week, where both faculty and staff are invited to close their offices to join the students in a community gathering of worship and Christian fellowship. And these are just a few of the ways we hope to reflect a thoroughly Christian academic ministry. LeTourneau University is a special institution in this way, and as we stay the course, we will continue to grow in these distinctives.” —As excerpted from the recent white paper titled LeTourneau University as the Christian Polytechnic University: Embracing the Saga of Our Unique Organizational Calling, by Steven D. Mason, Ph.D., President, LeTourneau University

To some, "academic ministry" may sound like a buzzword sort of phrase. One that’s thrown around in a way that feels like jargon. An intellectualized, stuffy concept that eventually loses most of its meaning because a subset of people or institutions who employ it do so in an empty way. But if you listen to these individuals talk about academic ministry, you'll realize it's less about the words they use to describe it. In fact, you don’t have to just listen with your ears. Listen with your eyes. The whole of your senses. Feel the rhythm of patterns on campus—a combination of sacred long-standing practices and organic moments that surface by way of God-connected nudges. Encounter in-class devotionals, prayers in hallways, conversations in labs that point to something bigger and deeper, focused engagement between staff and student that addresses both the practical and the personal needs that present, and perhaps you’ll experience academic ministry in the way students have been experiencing it at The Christian Polytechnic University for 76 years and counting: the way of embodiment. Here, academic ministry travels from head to heart, and lives and breathes on campus and beyond.

This embodiment presents as presence. And that’s something the three individuals teaming up to steward the academic ministry of LeTourneau University have in spades. Meet the Office of the Provost, and you’ll get a sense for how they model a specific type of ministry and presence that can only happen in a place like this.

Ben Caldwell, Ph.D.Ben Caldwell, Ph.D.

Provost & Vice President for Academic Affairs
Professor of Mechanical Engineering

Dr. Caldwell was named Provost & Vice President for Academic Affairs in 2021 after serving LeTourneau University since 2012 as professor, TFO president, Associate Provost for Academic Administration, and most recently as Interim Provost and Vice-President for Academic Affairs. As a mechanical engineer and published scholar, Dr. Caldwell’s classroom teaching evaluations perennially score in the top percentile of the faculty body. He has procured two National Science Foundation grants and has mentored a number of graduate students over the years. His administrative leadership has focused on faculty formation and development as well as facilitating interdisciplinary and collaborative projects across the university.

Dr. Caldwell earned a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering, a Master of Science degree, and a Bachelor of Science degree, all from Clemson University. His research interests have included mechanical engineering design methodology, creativity and ideation in engineering design, and engineering education.

He and his wife, Amanda, recently celebrated their 15th wedding anniversary, and they have four children, Evelyn, Lucy, Charlotte, and Beatrice. They are members of One Hope Presbyterian Church in Longview, where Dr. Caldwell serves as a deacon. In his spare time, Dr. Caldwell enjoys mountain biking, tennis, and cheering on the Clemson Tigers football team.

Education as Ministry
Education or teaching is very much a ministry. We’ve been given so much as teachers. We’ve gone through so much. We’ve learned. We’ve earned master’s degrees and Ph.D.’s in the process. We’re studying very deeply in our own discipline, and at the end of that we decide, "Hey, I want to share that with others." There are a lot of other things faculty could be doing, or that they do or have done—some have had full careers as they’ve come into it. But they decided that this is how they’re going to share God’s gifts that they’ve been given with the next generation and one another. So, to me, that’s ministry. That’s what Jesus did for us. He continued to give of himself, to the point of death.

Our faculty are pouring into students all the time, and it’s not just in the classroom. When you think about it, that baseline is the job. That’s the expectation, to go teach your class effectively. That above and beyond engagement, during office hours, in homes... that’s not required when we hire faculty, but the type of people we hire tend to do that.

They’ll have students over for dinner or dessert, for game or movie night. They’re always interacting with students. Many faculty lead life groups as well, so they may have a deeper dive on a bible study or engage with students through their churches. I know my family has personally connected with students at our church, had them over for lunch and built relationships that way. Our students are being spiritually developed by some of "our" people and some of the broader Longview community as well. Devos, life groups, church life... all of that becomes hallway conversations, office conversations, the academic advising conversations in which we’re talking about students’ futures, what they feel called to, what God is up to in their life, how they’re growing, all of that. We hope and pray it points them in the right direction.

So, this is assuming, often, that students are believers. But there are non-believers right alongside them. They get to see and experience the way that faculty are pouring into their students, they get to hear and experience the Gospel, they get to see and benefit from that consistent behavior that we hope is a strong witness to them.

Pour in, so Students Can Pour Out
To me, that really shows that it’s a ministry. They’re pouring into them in all aspects of life, and even staying connected after graduation. They have graduates’ phone numbers. They keep up and know when they get married and have kids. It’s connecting with these people and helping them mature in their faith and in their professional development so they can go make not just a professional impact, but so much more.

It's not that they have to go out and be a missionary to minister. This goes back to R.G.’s story. I love the fact that we foster that in many ways. This is the orientation of our faculty, and we foster it in our students with extraordinary intention: Go be a professional and do that well and minister to the people around you. Engage in your church where you go. Land somewhere and serve the people around you.

The Development of Academic Ministry Culture
I think hiring is a big part of stewarding the academic ministry culture. Hiring people that are like-minded in that sense. The type of people that are attracted to LeTourneau see what’s going on, and they want to connect with students in a different way. Many faculty are seeking that opportunity.

We are explicit with faculty that this extravagant outside-the-classroom investment in students is not required but is rather encouraged and welcomed. Part of our annual evaluations gives space for this recognition. We want to recognize their contributions to the university in the ways they connect with our students and our community—an acknowledgement and a thanks that these things are happening, that they’re pouring a lot of work into this, that this is important. This is what we do, what makes us who we are. So, we take the opportunity to recognize that. To formalize it, I think, would take away from it. Some of it’s just our organic culture, and we certainly want to receive and affirm it as the gift that it is.

A Culture of Interdisciplinary Connections
All of our new faculty get paired with a mentor, and it’s generally one outside of their discipline. They’ll naturally hang out with fellow faculty in their discipline, so they’ll see what their peers are doing within their area. They get course notes and things like that from people near them, but we try to get someone outside to help them integrate into LeTourneau in a different way. These are good things to see others do outside their discipline and ask questions, like "what might that look like for my life?" Everyone has their own strengths and ways of connecting, and some people may choose to lead a life group or bible study. Others are going to hang out or fix a car together. For them to see what others are doing and begin to find their own place to contribute and connect with students is meaningful. It’s intentional, and it works.

The Construction of Care
I see the Provost Office's role as caring for and equipping faculty so that they can care for and equip the students. If we can care for them deeply, set them up for success, equip them in the right ways, and create an environment in which they can connect with students, then that’s ultimately our goal—everything we do is for faculty, and what they do is for students. So, bottom line, everything we do is for them.

Within Christian higher education, there are, thankfully, a lot of schools doing student care really well. Like us, they connect very closely with their students. I suspect it’s unique for students to have this level of meaningful, lifelong relationships with faculty and staff, especially in higher education as whole. So, there is already an uncommon relationship that our faculty have with our students. But what makes us unique in Christian higher education is the environment in which that care exists.

As the white paper points out, to dig deep in personal relationships with students in an engineering or aviation environment is going to be unique. Other schools have the connection, but they don’t have the polytechnic culture alongside it. It’s a very unique position that we’re in—to do life with faculty who are techy. We’re building go-karts, we’re building trebuchets, we’re building robots for fun, on the side, for or on top of a class. To pair it together, it’s rare.

We’re doing something alongside one another, we’re building things. We’re in the machine shop together. We’re welding. As I imagine what LeTourneau was like 30 years ago or 60 years ago, I think those might be some of the things that are true today just like they were back then. When you build something together, it just feels different.

The Role of Chief Academic Steward
So, this relationship between students and faculty is a distinctive. It is critical to who we are. If we lose that, we lose our identity. I see my role as making sure that remains—that we lean into that. As we care for faculty, I want to make sure that space still exists—that capacity still exists—in each of our faculty members, to do those things. We equip them to teach, but we need to create the time and space and culture that allows that margin for care to continue. It’s been going on for years as part of LeTourneau’s culture, and as chief academic steward, I want to assure that doesn’t go away.

There are a lot of day-to-day commitments we must continually execute to ensure that it persists, of course. We need to make sure we maintain quality academic programs and compliance with all these external entities. We need to continually improve. We need to make sure students are healthy and our faculty and staff are healthy, that they have a good experience and retain. My role is making sure the environment exists where these things can all happen. So students can continue to enroll, graduate, and experience the value in their education—including the intangibles, namely, their spiritual development.

The Deeper Meaning of Faculty "Orientation"
Higher education is perpetually evolving, ever stimulating, and active. Faculty are busy. Our students are busy with demands and distractions. It’s easy to lose sight of what’s most important during the day-to-day juggling act of classes, labs and activities. But there are things we do as faculty at LeTourneau that help us reorient ourselves toward The Main Thing, over and over again.

When I think about things like faculty-led devotions at the start of class, it’s clear to me that the five minutes or so of actual devotional material at the beginning of class isn’t the most important piece. The most important piece is setting the tone. It makes a difference. Even just a prayer sets the tone. To take a breath. To let go of any restlessness. It orients us toward our "why." For students to see their faculty do that in every class period, to orient themselves and orient the class, that’s huge.

The Time Quotient
Our faculty teach a typical load of four courses per semester. You’re teaching a lot of classes, and you might teach some sophomore, and junior, and senior level classes. You get a broad range. You get to see students in your major, two, three, four, five times. So, by the time you see them that third or fourth time, you’ve seen them grow and struggle and succeed and seen them mature in ways. If you’re teaching at a large state school you may see a student once, maybe twice. If they liked you and they seek you out, maybe a little more, but it’s limited. It gives a chance to connect with students over a longer period to maintain those relationships, and to mentor spiritually. It’s for the long-term, not just one semester.

Speaking of time, it’s encouraging that some of the ways LeTourneau has been the "most LeTourneau" over time are the very things we’re leaning into as an evolving university. Dr. Mason’s vision as cast in the white paper is bringing in people that believe in it, and it’s starting to snowball. As compelling as our history has been, I think we’re just getting started.


Sandra Mayo, Ph.D.Sandra Mayo, Ph.D.

Associate Provost for Student Success & Dean of Nontraditional Education
Professor of Education

Dr. Sandra Mayo joined LeTourneau University in July 2022 as Associate Provost for Student Success and Dean of Nontraditional Education. In this dual role, she facilitates the student academic experience and retention for both traditional and nontraditional students and leads the operational side of LETU’s online academic programs. Dr. Mayo has a strong background in adult education and academic leadership within the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities in a variety of roles and at multiple institutions having served as a faculty member, program director, and associate dean. Most recently, she served as vice provost at Seattle Pacific University.

Dr. Mayo holds a dual bachelor’s degree in English and sociology from Rutgers College, Rutgers University; a master’s degree in student personnel administration from Teacher’s College, Columbia University; and a doctorate in education from Claremont Graduate University. Her publications appear in the Journal of Higher Education and The International Christian Community for Teacher Education Journal. She is also a contributor to The Pedagogy of Shalom: Theory and Contemporary Issues of Faith-Based Education.

Outside of work, she enjoys hiking and cycling with her husband, Jon, and visiting their two adult children and four grandchildren in Colorado Springs.

The Draw
I’ve been in higher education my entire professional career, and in Christian education for the second half of that career. This is my third Christian institution, and I wanted to stay in Christian higher education. I’ve been on the academic leadership and academic operations side for a good portion of my career. I had stepped out to do some work on diversity on the academic side as well, and wanted to return to my first love for engaging students, being on the academic side, overseeing programs, providing oversight for curriculum and those kinds of things. But I really was just looking for a place that I could continue to contribute to Christian higher education. I had questioned whether that was where God would have me still, and wasn’t sure what that might look like. A priority for me was finding a place focused on the integration of faith and learning, a place with supportive leadership, and a place where I felt had the potential to really be an example for what Christian higher education can and should be in this moment in time.

I honestly didn’t know much about LeTourneau, but my husband and I were really considering moving to Texas for a number of reasons—closer to family, the climate was a draw—and came across the associate provost position and started to read about LeTourneau. It was interesting; I submitted my application, and then was at a CCCU conference in Texas, and Dr. Mason and several others from LeTourneau were actually presenting on the white paper. I had read it prior to that, but I was also at the session and had the opportunity to really hear about the mission of LeTourneau. I was just drawn to the clarity of the mission. I was drawn to that commitment to preparing students for the workforce, so really seeing that combination of the liberal arts and vocation, and faith at the heart of that. I thought this was a really fresh but really understated example of what Christian higher education could be. It piqued my interest even more. I then had the chance to interview, and as I was interviewing, I was even more intrigued by the people. There was a humility that I was really drawn to and the clarity of where the institution was going.

I’ll be honest; I had almost given up on Christian higher education. I found myself inspired and had this renewed sense of hope when I interviewed at LeTourneau. And I think all of that has been true from what I’ve experienced so far. It’s a neat place. It’s such a gem, where you feel like you’re part of something bigger. And it’s a place where I simply want to be able to serve. I’m so drawn to the institution, and I want to be able to serve here and use my gifts.

Builder as Utility Player
When I look back on my career in higher education, I have typically stepped into a new role or an emerging role— something that had been in existence but they’re rethinking it and asking me to come in and help them think about what it looks like. From my first position to this position, that’s kind of been a common feature. I’ve always described myself as a utility player. I have not had a real linear career path. But it’s always been, "Here’s a need. Are you willing to step in?" And I’ve always found that exciting because it does allow for some creative aspects to the work.

I feel like it’s very similar at LeTourneau. I feel I’m coming in at an exciting time because we have a long history in nontraditional education at LeTourneau. It’s gone through a lot of changes. It’s seen some great successes, and it’s had some moments where there are definitely opportunities for growth. I’m getting a chance to learn about every facet of nontraditional education and collaborate with departments across campus to really better understand what nontraditional education has looked like.

It’s given me the opportunity to work with a smaller team, dive into some of those areas, and think about where LeTourneau can meaningfully contribute uniquely in this space, which has become crowded in higher education. Most campuses are doing some form of nontraditional education or online learning, but we are committed to what our unique mission can contribute to that work. I think that’s the area of exploration and opportunity that I’m most excited about stepping into and being able to be a part of that larger conversation.

I’ve always enjoyed the creative aspect of building out a role, to hopefully build out something that will be lasting as an institution. Things will always change, but it’s nice when you establish a foundation that can be built upon. I enjoy problem-solving. I enjoy being collaborative, to really think about what is most needed to support students where the institution’s strength and mission really align.

The Redemptive Arc in Christian Higher Ed
I think that is what I find so lovely about Christian higher education. We are literally walking out that biblical narrative, that redemptive arc, and so even in the movement of our professional lives, we see that opportunity of God creating, God calling us, God moving us through brokenness, and God finding ways to redeem and to utilize the very gifts that He has given us. What I’m excited about is the opportunity to step into this role and hand it back to God and ask, "How do you want to use me in this? How can I be a vessel?" I’m learning to shift from focusing less exclusively on the job and more on "How can I be a vessel that God can do something with?"

So what that means in terms of reorienting my workday is to make sure that I’m tuning into Him, being attentive to how He’s speaking to me, how He’s moving, and the people He’s surrounded me with. I can be a very task-oriented person, but I have a deep love for people. I’m usually better one-on-one or in small groups. But the people that He brings around me, I know it’s intentional, so I want to pay attention to that. When you’re moved to your next assignment you don’t want to miss those pieces. LeTourneau is the place that is allowing me to sit in His presence and in His grace, to hopefully be obedient to the calling in this particular assignment, whatever that looks like. The assignment might change, but your calling is your calling.

Academic Ministry
I felt like it was a lot easier, in my discipline, in the classroom... that felt like academic ministry, because I was engaged directly with students in their learning, their professional development, and their spiritual formation. That translated really well. As an academic administrator I do see my role as the stewarding of resources to serve LeTourneau’s mission. And I do enjoy the fact that I get to be in conversations in which we are helping to define and shape the types of experiences students will encounter at LeTourneau—experiences that will bring them into direct relationship with God and help them identify their own vocation, their own calling, and ability to go out and be of service to God.

There are so many aspects of academic ministry. I think one of the main ones is stewarding resources to contribute meaningfully to the mission of LeTourneau in service to God. It's a gift to be in conversations with colleagues that will create the learning environment for students to flourish, and for faculty and staff to be able to flourish in their roles as well.

It is the stewardship piece, primarily, that I see in my role, navigating so many practical things that don’t necessarily feel like academic ministry, but get at the essence of it in their own way. I’m always thinking about how we can better resource and serve our staff and faculty—always thinking about how we care for people in real, tangible ways so that they can flourish. I love to think about professional development for staff and how to better serve them in their roles so they can grow professionally and not only continue to hone their skills but also find clarity in their own callings.


Shane Mountjoy, Ph.D.Shane Mountjoy, Ph.D.

Associate Provost for Academic Administration & Dean of Faculty
Professor of History

Dr. Mountjoy joined LeTourneau University in July 2022 as Associate Provost for Academic Administration & Dean of Faculty. He has a Ph.D. in Higher and Adult Education / Educational Leadership from the University of Missouri, as well as a Master of Arts in History from the University of Nebraska, and a Bachelor of Arts in History from Lubbock Christian University. He has taught undergraduate history and graduate leadership, served in student life and academic administration, participated in accreditation, and mentored college students for many years.

Dr. Mountjoy enjoys American History, especially 19th Century American History, including the rise of technology. He grew up in Northern Wisconsin and feels right at home in the Piney Woods of East Texas. He and his wife, Vivian, have been married for over 33 years and have four grown daughters. They enjoy the outdoors, have taken students on backpacking trips, worked at Christian camps, and love traveling to new places together. Their most recent hobby is beekeeping.

The Draw
With a background in the humanities, I’ve not historically worked closely with engineers or the especially technically minded folks, at least not large numbers of them. I think the challenge for that, the difference in that, is something I found appealing. I love problem-solving, and I like new challenges, so the unique character, the make-up of our faculty, that’s exciting to me. It still is. Really, the central part of the mission is everything. For me, everything flows from the mission. And the opportunity to engage in an interdenominational effort is an exceptional gift. To assist, support, and encourage the outstanding faculty and staff who bring it to life is even more of one.

The Balance of Being TCPU
There is a beautiful, healthy tension at a place like LeTourneau. Balance is what we’re seeking. Many working in the more technical programs in higher education, they struggle with what it means to be a university. They may not inherently champion the liberal arts, the general education, the "why do I need to take English comp and literature?" and "what value is a music or history or speech course?" sort of thinking. But our faculty get it. They do know that when engaging with industry employers who seek to hire our STEM students, one of the requests is, "Can your graduates communicate?"

I think they see the value in it even though it can often be overshadowed by some of the technical demands of the field. On the flip side—the liberal arts and humanities side—our faculty increasingly see great benefit in engaging students in their discipline in an environment where STEM, tech, and our flagship programs inform culture, questions, and industry-preparedness.

Embracing the Saga
My background is in history, so the fact that an institution has a story, that resonates with me. I believe that about any organization, that they’ve got a story to tell—a lived experience that tells where they’ve been and points where they’re headed. If there’s no reflection on it, there are no rudder changes. Which means you’re going to continue along on a particular path, on autopilot.

Some institutions will turn their back on their past; they’re ashamed of it. So, the white paper, the fact that it’s an embracing of our heritage, that story, speaks to the character of R.G. LeTourneau—as we all know him in some way, if we work here, and live out his dream here.

I think that speaks to R.G.'s character and to his vision. I like to think about some of things we do here in the context of his possible reactions. If he were alive today, what would he say? Maybe "Ah, that’s great, now why don’t we...?" He’d probably have some other innovative thought that he would want to add or tweak, to kick it up a notch.

Toward the end of the white paper, one of the things that President Mason writes about is what The Christian Polytechnic University means for the humanities and the liberal arts—the non-technical fields. I think it’s two-fold. He spends time looking at this in terms of how those fields interact with technology in today’s world, what it means to be technologically responsible. But the other question posed is, "What about hands-on?" If we’re going to live out R.G.’s mission and dream as he charted here, what does "hands-on" look like in history, or in government, or in English? Because that’s going to look different than in a science class or engineering lab. It’s really easy to "see" hands-on in those fields. It’s a little more difficult to get your hands on in the humanities. LeTourneau is doing that in those fields, and as we affirm these experiences, we are trying to adopt more shared language as we live it out. This is our contribution to the legacy of R.G. LeTourneau.

The Ministry of Faculty Formation
One of my roles is working with new faculty, including through our faculty formation programming. This involves meeting with the theology dean and chair throughout the spring semester and engaging in a course with assigned readings. This is essentially an abridged biblical theology class. If we are teaching our students about vocation and what that means in their fields, we must equip faculty with same language as students, so they can have those conversations for themselves and think through and try to live out vocation in their roles here. I’m so drawn to the concept of academic ministry, as I believe in this idea that we’re all ministers. We’re all engaged in a ministry. This is larger than any one of us, or one office, one program, one department. I love that; otherwise, it’s easy to get big-headed about what you’re doing. It helps everybody stay grounded and focused on the overall point of why we’re here.

Builders with Hearts of Humility
It will come as no surprise, as drawn as I am to LeTourneau University, that I’m hands-on in my role. Being boots-on-the-ground is in my nature. I manage that way, I lead that way, and I try to build relationships that way—and what a joy it is. The humility that I’ve experienced on campus is genuine. It’s something I picked up on during the interview. There is an abundance of critical thinking here, but not a critical spirit. Without humility there’s no real transparency, first of all, and I think most of us can sense when it’s not genuine.

The Authenticity of Academic Ministry
I think it’s important to live out and be your authentic self. Each of us has our own personality and different things. I led a life group this semester, and I did coffee pour overs for students each week, as a way of communing. I never want to lose connection with students, and that requires intentionally building connections with them, just as we invest in new faculty.

Part of that ministry, as it’s described in military chaplaincy, is a "ministry of presence." If you’re not there, then you can’t minister. I look at the ministry of Jesus, and how many times something comes up because he’s there, and because he stops everything to engage in that moment. He’s very present. And it’s not just physically being present, although you have to do that too, but it’s also being emotionally present in the lives of people.

It’s the approach I tried to take in my years overseeing student life. It’s what I always challenged our residence life folks to be: present. A resident assistant can’t make much of a difference if they’re never in the hall. A resident director loses impact if they’re never there. But it applies to any position.

For me, the student experience is everything. When we vet institutional priorities and decisions, we have to assure they are consistent with the mission, and then the next big check box in my mind is whether they improve the student experience. In areas that directly report to me, the library and registrar’s office, the work has to be about the student experience. That’s why we’re here, right? We pray for them, for God to send them here. He brings them here, and we want to be good stewards of that opportunity.

The Ultimate Opportunity
When I went to college, I fell in love with Christian higher education. It’s where I knew I wanted to be. All I could see then was that I wanted to teach, but after I’d been teaching for a few years, I decided I might be interested in doing more. The president at the institution where I worked at the time was an encouraging voice about continuing my education and developing the skillsets needed to bless people in this space. That’s why in higher ed, I wanted to get equipped to do more than just teach in a classroom, which is critical, but I really wanted to work with people and help them maximize the opportunities they have as faculty. Getting the opportunity to bring that dream to fruition is a life-giving way to pour into others for the betterment of God’s kingdom—in a way that has an unknowable ripple effect.