Bull Looks to Connect with, Listen to, Learn from Students
Dr. Bernard Bull is beginning his second year as CUNE’s President. In this Q&A he talks about his hopes and vision for CUNE and offers a little advice for students.
Q: What do you look forward to most as CUNE students return to campus for the fall semester?
A: I look forward to those first days and weeks of chapel, which is our daily campus family devotion time. I enjoy coming together to sing hymns and the common Doxology, gather around God’s Word, and pray for and with one another. As a wise pastor explained to me, “A Lutheran education community is one where all roads lead to the nave,” and that is certainly true at Concordia. It is the place where we gather daily and invite one another to “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Having been nourished in God’s Word during this family devotion time, we then joyfully embrace the work that God has placed before each of us.
Q: What can students expect from you this year?
A: They can expect me to continue my journey of listening and learning about the joys, challenges, and promising possibilities for the future of Concordia. An important part of that includes finding new ways to connect with, listen to, and learn from students. They can expect me to prayerfully strive to challenge and invite our community to continue to lean into our mission – the same mission that inspired the launch of our school in 1894 with one president-professor and 13 students. They can expect me to seek ways to invite our community to gather and learn together, specifically related to challenging one another to see the significance and relevance of Jesus Christ amid modern life, thought, trends, and events. They can also expect me to continue to lead and work toward the launch of a new strategic plan, something that they will likely learn more about this year.
Q: Looking back at your own collegiate career, what advice can you give to both incoming freshmen and seniors entering their final undergraduate year at CUNE?
A: Embrace a mindset of learning over simply trying to earn a desired grade. Learning is about so much more than earning grades, credits, and a piece of paper that you put on the wall after graduation. Education, at its best, is something that challenges, stretches, inspires, shapes, and equips us to embrace present and future callings. Use this as a time to embrace deep thinking and learning. Ask challenging questions and put in the effort to seek wisdom and truth that offers answers. Learn about God’s Word and God’s world with humility, curiosity, and the discipline that comes from knowing that some of the grandest moments of learning only come after putting in focused time and effort over months, even years. With that in mind, heed the wisdom of one of my favorite G.K. Chesterton quotes: “You cannot grow a beard in a moment of passion.” A vocation is a calling from God to love our neighbors in a given setting or context.
As such, I challenge students to explore and learn what it means to fully embrace and enjoy the vocation of “student” during their time here. How can I love my neighbor through this course, this reading, this sport, this performance, this extracurricular, this assignment? How might I love the neighbor who is the author of the book that I’m reading; the roommate, teammate, or classmate sitting next to me; the professor or staff member with whom I’m interacting? How can my discipline and habits as a student equip me to more fully love neighbors that God will place in my path at some point in the future?
Q: Tell us about this year’s Academic Theme: Ephesians 4:15 – “Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.”
A: We have the entire year to learn from and explore this verse and the surrounding passage together. Dr. Coe so graciously assisted the University in establishing theme verses for five years, including this one, each connected to our strategic plan. As such, I defer to him when he wrote the following: “Ephesians 4:15 piggybacks on 1 Corinthians 12:12, connecting the Body of Christ to her Head. In an era when words are regularly used to puff ourselves up and put others down, Concordia University is a distinct place to grow up into Christ our Head, where students learn how to speak the truth in love, balancing fact and tact, building up the whole body of Christ. Speaking the truth in love permeates Our Promises of a Lutheran Education and distinguishes our expertise. Concordia University is distinct not only because she professes the truth but also because she professes the truth in love for the church and world. Truth AND Love – Fact AND Tact – Concordia, Nebraska!”