The first thing you notice is the smell: chemicals and latex gloves, something sharp and sterile. As you venture deeper into Hanneman Hall, you notice anatomy charts on the walls and cases of geological samples and neatly pinned insects. You’ve reached the Department of Applied Science at Maranatha Baptist University.
Here, you won’t find separate medical, chemical, and biological buildings like you’d see at a state school. MBU’s science classrooms are all contained within Hanneman Hall and the small neighboring science building.
But MBU offers something a public university doesn’t: the opportunity to study science through a biblical worldview.
Preparing for a Purpose
As Department Chair Dr. Timothy Veenstra explains, Maranatha’s science department isn’t content to merely graduate future doctors and researchers and scientists, although it certainly does seek “to prepare students for effective careers in medicine, medical research and science.”
But at Maranatha, these callings have a higher goal than a research fellowship or a six-figure salary. The science department exists for the purpose of “demonstrating the wisdom of God through the intricate design of living things and nature.”
Alumnus Kevin Mayes (Biology: Pre-Medical), the Outstanding Science Student of MBU’s class of 2016, recognizes the value of such a focus. “Science is a way of thinking, first and foremost,” he says. “If you have a biblical view of the world, man, and society, it will inform the way you look at all of the ‘–ology things’ and the way you make your observations and decisions.”
From the school’s foundation, Dr. Cedarholm’s vision for Maranatha was that its students would graduate grounded in their faith and prepared for service in any field—including science. Even in the first year of its existence, Maranatha was already offering science courses.
In 1975, Dr. Claude Linder joined the Maranatha family as the first full-time science teacher. At the time, his resources were incredibly limited. “He started the science department . . . with five microscopes and no running water,” shares Susan Turcotte (‘81), who now teaches science for Maranatha on both the college and high school level.
But under Linder’s direction, the department continued to grow. Within two years, two more professors were added to the science faculty—Dr. John Cunningham and Dr. Ralph Stewart.
All three of these pioneering teachers have long since completed their time here, but their vision for Maranatha’s future laid the foundation for the science department of today.
Qualified to Serve
Since the department’s humble beginnings, the science faculty has now doubled in size. Six professors currently serve in the Department of Applied Science, teaching both science and math. Currently MBU offers two biology tracks (General and Pre-Medical) as well as a math minor.
While six professors may seem like too few, their qualifications are abundant. “Maranatha’s Applied Science faculty has a combined total of more than 60 years of experience outside of academia and almost 70 years of teaching experience,” Veenstra says. “Altogether they have authored or co-authored nearly 400 peer-reviewed publications.”
In addition to Veenstra and Turcotte, faculty members include Jodi Herbert, Marcos Garza-Madrid, Marvin Stephens, and Phil Price. All have worked in secular scientific fields, enabling them to incorporate real-life examples into their lessons. The department also hosts special seminars with guest speakers, including Dr. Jeremy Johnson, pharmacology professor at University of Illinois, and Ken Ham, founder and president of Answers in Genesis. These guests provide real-life context for the ideas learned in class. Science has many facets, and the professors here want their students to see as many of those facets as possible.
Teaching the Future
The faculty are of course essential for a good department, and so are the students. Though they arrive at MBU interested in every field from medicine to zoology, they are all eager to study these subjects through a biblical lens. In addition to typical courses such as ecology and biochemistry, science students at MBU also take Modern Creationary Thought and Apologetics—classes that help them articulate and defend their faith.
Rather than undermining their faith, their science education gives glory to the God who created the subject in the first place. Guided by the dedicated faculty, the students are able to both refine their worldview and grow in their scientific understanding.
“We have small classrooms and teachers with the same real-life experience as professors at a big university,” says Tori Morris, a junior in the biology pre-medical program. “The difference is that here, you have teachers who care and teach ethically from a biblical perspective.”
Rachel Prigge (Biology: Pre-Medical) echoes Tori’s comments. “Every teacher that I’ve had in the science department is incredibly smart, passionate about their subject, and easy to interact with,” she shares. “Their experiences add so much to their lessons, and their broad knowledge of scientific career opportunities makes me feel so comfortable as I look to the future.”
As students like Rachel and Tori go through MBU’s science program, they gain far more than mere knowledge. They certainly have a solid foundation laid for future schooling, but more importantly, they become grounded in their faith. Their commitment to interpreting the world biblically allows them to see science for what it is: a way of thinking that demonstrates God’s wise design and reflects His awesome glory.