Tusculum ranked No. 1 in Tennessee in a list of best Christian colleges, highlighting spiritual development at the university

GREENEVILLETusculum University is the first higher education institution in Tennessee and is now ranked No. 1 in a listing of the best Christian colleges in the state.

Tusculum students and staff participate in the Stations of the Cross with the Rev. Ken Saunders, rector of St. James Episcopal Church.

Bible Keeper, a Christian website dedicated to helping followers of Jesus in their individual journey to eternal life, recently compiled the “20 Best Christian Colleges in Tennessee to Unleash Excellence in Education.” Noting the university’s historic standing in the state, Bible Keeper said Tusculum retains its Presbyterian and pioneering heritage as it embraces modern amenities and offers online academic programs.

“We are grateful for this external validation of the value of a Tusculum education and our spiritual and academic foundation,” said Dr. Scott Hummel, Tusculum’s president. “We are proud to give students the opportunity to explore and discuss academic subjects in great depth through an active and experiential education. Just as importantly, students have the freedom and ability to grow in their faith and develop a closer relationship with God during their studies at Tusculum.”

One of the ways students, faculty and staff can enrich their lives is through weekly chapel sessions in which they hear personal stories of faith, engage in prayer and listen to spiritual songs. Students also have opportunities to participate in a number of groups, such as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Breaking Bread ministry and Bible studies. Tusculum has robust Holy Week services, including Stations of the Cross, leading to Easter.

During the summer break, four Tusculum students joined Dr. Hummel and others for a tour of the Holy Land. Then, one of those students joined another and a recent graduate for three weeks to assist with excavation work at Tel Lachish in Israel led by Dr. Yosef “Yossi” Garfinkel, a professor of archaeology at the Hebrew University.

Tusculum faculty, staff and students participate in a chapel session.

Building on its rich Presbyterian heritage, Tusculum takes an ecumenical approach and works with area churches across the denominational spectrum. They connect with students on the first day by providing a lunch served on campus after move-in to the residence halls takes place. They also adopt Tusculum’s athletic teams, host prayer groups at their places of worship and hold services on campus.

Tusculum has covenants with area presbyteries, and some of the provisions that are part of the experience at the university include offering a program of quality education in the liberal arts and sciences with the concept of the wholeness of life as interpreted by the Christian faith and using university educational resources to enrich the churches.

For more than 30 years, Tusculum has held Theologian-In-Residence on campus for the Tusculum family as well as community members. This event is once a week for four weeks in February and features a speaker talking in depth about a faith-related subject. It regularly fills Chalmers Conference Center and draws representatives from dozens of churches.

“We want students to know that a strong relationship with God will make a positive difference in their lives,” said Dr. Chris Shumate, Tusculum’s campus minister. “Life presents many challenges, and college can be a stressful period for students, but God is always there to comfort and inspire them and show that they are called for a purpose. We are focused on helping students discover their purpose and lead civically engaged lives.”

Student Kevin Watson, left, gives a site presentation in front of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Tusculum’s theme is “Called for a Purpose.”

The university welcomes students of all faiths and those who do not practice a faith system, supporting them in a caring Christian environment. This approach is embodied in the university’s academics, with faculty members providing one-on-one guidance to their students and mentoring them. About 60 percent of those enrolled at Tusculum are first-generation college students, and Tusculum stands by them with programs such as Student Support Services and ARCHES.

With the support of their expert professors and dedicated staff, Tusculum students perform strongly in the classroom and in the community. Many undergraduate students engage in research activities in a range of disciplines that enhance their résumés and support the community. That includes students exploring new anti-cancer drugs and examining the history of the Horse Creek community in Greene County.

Many students work on initiatives through their classes that directly impact the community, such as murals and logos for organizations. One of the proudest traditions at Tusculum is Nettie Fowler McCormick Service Day in which students head into the community to complete projects that enhance the region’s quality of life.

Students also expand their academic knowledge and become more fully equipped to be a career-ready professional through internships.

From left, Tusculum students Emily Coddington, Judy Chellah and Daryl Smith join a representative of Thrive Church during a service in the Meen Center on campus.

Bible Keeper said one can find a common thread among the 20 institutions.

“These institutions offer students a unique blend of academic rigor and spiritual development,” Bible Keeper said in introducing its list. “Providing a wide range of programs, they cater to students across various fields of study while emphasizing Christian values and teachings. Whether you’re seeking a small, intimate environment or a larger university experience, Tennessee’s Christian colleges offer a nurturing, faith-based educational journey.”

The list can be accessed at https://www.biblekeeper.com/best-christian-colleges-in-tennessee/. Additional information about Tusculum’s spiritual opportunities is available at https://site.tusculum.edu/campus-ministries/. One can learn more about the university at www.tusculum.edu.