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Duane Bajema finds ways to serve

Dr. Duane Bajema began teaching in the agriculture department at Dordt College nearly thirty years ago. The experience he’s gained over those years allows him to be a different teacher today than he was when he began.

“I don’t need to spend as much time figuring out what to teach and instead can spend time figuring out how to teach in a way that meets the needs of students who have lots of things going on their lives, students who live in changed times and a changed culture,” he says. That means that he can’t teach the same way or use the same examples that he did years ago.

Duane Bajema

Duane Bajema

Bajema is outspoken about his desire to serve the Lord by helping students learn what they need to serve him in their lives. He hopes that students leave his classes with a better understanding of who they are and who they serve, and with the feeling that God has given them a wonderful opportunity to enjoy and unfold as well as feel, smell, and see the creation in which they are placed. He also hopes they will be able to say that he respected them, even if they disagreed with him, and that, in some way, he helped them grow in their faith.

Like all faculty, Bajema’s day fills up faster than he can control. He begins by sorting through his overnight e-mail, a task he says has grown over the years. It’s also one he regrets, believing that e-mail has replaced much face-to-face interaction between students and professors. Other daily tasks such as grading, preparing for class, negotiating students’ concerns, making sure maintenance knows about a leaky faucet in the lab, writing letters of reference, and attending meetings leave little if any larger blocks of time to work intently on one thing.

Bajema probably attends more meetings than most in his role as chair of the faculty. In that capacity, he and faculty secretary Hubert Krygsman attend academic council meetings, lead faculty meetings, and meet with individual faculty members to help heal broken relationships, encourage good communication, and generally advocate on the part of the faculty.

“The chair of the faculty doesn’t have any spelled-out authority, but it does carry a big load of expectations,” he says, expectations he is willing to meet to the best of his ability. He wants to serve and encourage, supporting faculty in any way he can and recognizing the diversity of people and needs in the institution. Just as important is helping faculty serve one another.

Bajema is energized by both his students and his relationships with other faculty, but both can also weigh heavily. Dealing with tired or bored students preoccupied with personal problems takes strength and grace, as does dealing with conflicts and weighty issues.

“It’s not always obvious how best to serve people,” he says. At that point he’s thankful that he lives outside of town on a small acreage. He goes home, changes his khakis for his blue jeans and, whether tending his bees or doing other chores around the farm, regains both a sense of peace and tranquility and the energy he needs to continue to serve in the variety of ways he is called to serve in his life.