Davis College Shaping A Generation On Campus, Through Teaching Outposts, And Online

Davis College 2018 Graduation
Davis College 2018 Graduation
Davis College 2018 Graduation
Davis College 2018 Graduation

By Rick Kern

We’ve all heard it at one time or another — “It’s all about quality not quantity!” And when it comes to a productive life at the top of the academic food chain that is bolstered by spiritual agility, Davis College is the finely honed tip of that spear! With a spiritual heritage that stretches back to the turn of the century, Davis was founded with a singular purpose as its original name, “Practical Bible Training School,” suggests. And even though semantics may contour the conversation at the behest of New York State, any way you spin it, Davis is beyond the spin and has a single focus to rally staff and students: the Word of God. With that, it is the only regionally accredited Bible College in the state of New York.

“The foundation at this school is that we only have one major,” explains the school’s Interim President, Dr. George Snyder. “It comes out of the state of New York and that is a Bachelor’s of Religious Education. But it’s a Bible major that every student takes here at Davis College. The state of New York calls those ‘concentrations.’”

Snyder, who has been at the school some 21 years, has worn a number of hats throughout his imposing tenure. His titles and corresponding responsibilities include, Vice President of Academic Affairs and Strategic Planning, Professor of Bible, and Head of the Biblical Studies Department. Additionally, he co-chaired the Regional Accreditation self-study and has minted fourteen years’ experience as a professional civil engineer. “In the 21 years I’ve been here, I’ve worked my way up the ladder as the people who are on the top of me, left,” he reflects. “I write all the accreditations, the reports for the college, and I do strategic planning. I became the Academic Dean and now I’m the Interim President — I have a lot of fun doing it.”

His current position comes as his predecessor, Dr. Dino Pedrone, moved into Davis’ Chancellorship, allowing Snyder to pick up the torch and add his own vision to its flame. A hands-on leader, Dr. Snyder is acutely aware that deep, real relationships play a critical role in learning. “The first semester is just to get to know everybody and try to get beyond that artificial, smiley, Christian fence and to get down into how are we doing,” he observes. “How are we doing with the issues? What are some of the problems and what we can do to help?” Continuing he adds, “I’ve met with the entire student body, at least those who want to be there, every morning. I think we’ve met three times and whatever the issue of the day is, whatever questions they have, I just open the floor up and say, let’s just start talking about what’s going on.”

Similarly, their current basketball team wound up being an eclectic mix of people from various states and subcultures leading the coach to schedule weekly meetings that were basically rap-sessions. “They just talk about life,” Dr. Snyder recalls. “They talk about stuff and what they’re encountering… And they talk about how to deal with different situations that they’ve never been through before. I’ve spoken to the guys sometimes,” he adds. “We have to work the blend, and it’s just a good way to do it. It doesn’t come naturally. We try to work very diligently.”

In addition to teaching, Davis also includes a traditional Bible chapel twice a week as well as prayer groups where, again, candid interaction is stressed. “That to me is a good way to keep in touch with the students,” Snyder notes. “I teach them in a classroom, but I also keep them dialogued. We want to make all questions, the right questions with the right answers right here at the college.”

Predictably, academics serve as the axis Davis revolves around as — well, an academic institution. The school offers a unique combination of on-campus study, satellite teaching sites, and an inspiring roster of online options — all of which are leading to greater student outcomes.  “We try to set our programs up so we can allow the students to explore,” says Snyder. “We try to figure that out and work that out with God. We provide a lot of student ministry experiences so the students have the opportunities to learn from out in the field and they learn from taking various classes.”

Davis has a number of teaching sites scattered throughout the state of New York and among the most innovative are those they have established in Christian high schools where students can participate in a dual enrollment program. “They take a high school course,” explains Dr. Snyder, “but they’re getting a college course — Davis credit. That credit can be transferred to other colleges when they graduate from high school.”

Presently, Davis has implemented a very nearly comprehensive online program that offers almost the full spectrum of their academic catalog. “All of our degrees, our programs online, we offer all of our concentration, except the music, everything is online,” Snyder explains. “We are almost approved with an application that’s going to allow us to teach online courses in 48 out of the 50 states in the country,” he adds. “We’re in the process of submitting that application right now. Davis online — it’s growing, it’s not booming, but it’s steadily growing.”

And that is what you might describe as “on the lines” of their learning curve. What’s between those lines, however, may be just as important and that would be tangibly investing in the community to take their academic knowledge and touch the lives around them with it. “We’ve always had student ministries,” says Snyder, “but my goal is to connect with as many communities, non-profits, and political agencies as possible, and hopefully, get Davis students involved in their student ministries, helping the community.”

He cites the recent ministry of a couple of students who put legs on their prayers and their programs with a deeply impacting internship. “For instance, we just had two young ladies complete their one-year internship programs with the Homeless Coalition,” Snyder explains. “Binghamton has a fairly significant homeless population and our two young ladies worked with the head of the Homeless Coalition doing surveys of homeless people, ministering to them. It was just the greatest opportunity. We listened to those girls testify what they learned putting things in action.”

Their outreach does not just involve traditional forms of ministry, instead, like the Apostle Paul, Davis students learn how to become all things to all men (1 Corinthians 9:22). A case in point is their basketball program. “Both of our basketball teams had opportunities to participate in the local Special Olympics,” says Snyder. “The basketball team players were with coaches, trainers, and referees. They just had the greatest time. The kids that they worked with said they had the greatest time.”

Additionally, they are in touch with a local home school group that wants to lease classroom space at Davis’ Chrisfield Campus as they pursue different ways to engage the community. “How can we get the community coming onto the Davis College Campus,” Snyder queries? “If we have classrooms that are vacant at night, are there organizations that can meet? Part of this greater community, are the organizations.”

Continuing he adds, “We have a beautiful coffee shop, here on campus that a donor purchased for us about 20-years ago and we want to make that into a community meeting place. If there is a group of people who want to make Davis and Binghamton a better place, well, come on to our coffee shop, let’s have a meeting! Let’s make Davis College part of the hub, part of the lighthouse of improving the Christian community and also improving the greater Binghamton community. We want to supply services, we want to supply communities, and we want to engage in dialog to work toward, from the Christian perspective, getting involved in making Binghamton a better place to live and improving the quality of life at Binghamton.”

While working hard to make Davis a community leader across the board, Dr. Snyder is committed to both the college’s and his own servant leadership and is resolved to lead from a place of humility. “The leaders are really on the bottom, the leaders are the servants, and Jesus is the one who washes the disciples’ feet,” he notes emphatically. “When we go out into the community, yes, we want to be leaders in the community, but we most certainly want to preface that, we want to be servant-leaders. We’re here to serve. We’re here to work. We’re not here to tell people what to do. We want to come alongside.”

He adds passionately, “If you need student workers, I have student workers. We want to serve our community. We want to come alongside the churches. We want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. It’s very easy to say, look at me. It’s far better to turn the organizational chart on its head and say, yes, I’m at the bottom and I’m here to serve everybody. Let’s go do this together. It really gets to be a wonderful dynamic.”

For more information visit at www.davisny.edu.

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