Faculty Spotlight – Jim Cummings

When pursuing church ministry, I always thought teaching would be a part of my vocation. Little did I know that working in education would come to dominate my calling and be my career, both as an instructor and as an administrator. While I continue doing very limited pastoral work as an ordained deacon, my everyday job for the past twenty or so years has been in higher ED administration. The job of a deacon is one of service, but also has its educational aspects in preaching, directing retreats, promoting religious education, and offering catechesis & faith enrichment.

Exploring religion and the Bible with international students from diverse backgrounds and cultures is both rewarding and challenging. Even as IAU transitions to be a Christian values-based institution, that plurality within the student body needs to be acknowledged and respected. IAU business students are given the advantage of establishing ethical behavior based on religious values. However, there is a difference between leading Bible Studies with an academic approach in the parish and teaching Bible as Literature with pastoral sensitivity to college students. More than any other academic discipline, religious studies demands a clear understanding of and delineation between subjective feelings and objective academic rationality.

In the courses I teach, I try to incorporate my hobbies and interests, like origami paper-folding or concern for wildlife & the environment. I have been a longtime supporter and member of numerous wildlife and environmental protection organizations. Non-profit involvement has varied over the years. Finding religious and scriptural references within traditional culture (arts & music) and pop culture (movies & television) makes it fun and exciting for me and connects the subject to everyday life. Artistic expression, mythology, and science fiction also inform and illustrate my approach to teaching. So, I want to explore what Darth Vader and Harry Potter have to say about our outlook on evil. Or how Rembrandt and Michelangelo have influenced our religious imagination. Religious studies is very interdisciplinary.

I am a Southern California native. I like to incorporate what is happening locally so that IAU students get to experience the best of SoCal. I attended UC Santa Cruz up north for my undergraduate degree. Graduate work was at both St. John’s Seminary and Antioch University Los Angeles. My academic background is in psychology, philosophy, and religious studies. Given the diversity of my interests and training, I push my students to explore new concepts and make connections they might not have previously thought. I attempt to instill in my students the value of general education and lifelong learning.