Why we teach: being first among equals

Posted by Julia Adams on 5/10/24 12:39 PM

Interview with Dr. Grewell

As I walk into the Academic Suite in the Barbara Hodel Center, I laugh to myself as I recall the sense of trepidation I felt when I first met with Dr. Cory Grewell during my first semester on campus. Rounding the corner, I can hear a mix of voices floating toward me. I smile. It’s such a wonderful feeling to hear other students meeting with professors.

At PHC, these professors are more than just experts in their fields, they care for us as human beings and genuinely want to see us succeed in all areas of life. Many alumni told me that, despite what I may think, my professors don’t see a GPA stamped on my forehead or the latest paper grade hovering over my head. I took them at their word, and what they said rings true.

Passing by several professors’ doors, memories flood back of conversations that took place there. I remember meeting with Dr. Doug Favelo about the meaning of vocation, with Dr. Matt Roberts to discuss the study of classical languages, and with Dr. Steven Hake about discipleship.

Why master a foreign language in college?

When I arrive at Dr. Grewell’s door, I knock. He welcomes me in and invites me to sit down. His office is full of sunlight today. He has a pile of books stacked in front of him, but he pushes them aside. Yes, this is a wonderful place. It is a comforting place. Books line the wall to my left and to my right. I’ve borrowed a book from him before, I think to myself, as my eyes scan the shelves mechanically. There are several Norton Anthologies on the shelf, including one that I read in a class with him last semester. What was it that Julian of Norwich said about the walnut? “So, what would you like to talk about today?” my professor asked, his voice bringing me back from my reveries. Our meeting begins.

Originally, Grewell intended to become a novelist and teach English at the high school level to supplement his income. While attending The Master’s College, however, he fell in love with literature. Under the influence of his professors, Grewell developed his own teaching style and headed down the collegiate road. When he is behind the lectern, Grewell’s goal is to teach students the connection between literature and language through the eyes of the Christian faith, but he approaches his role as a teacher and scholar a little differently than one might expect: he views his professorial role as being simply “first among equals.”

“That’s what I really like about teaching college, too. It’s the way I run my classes,” Grewell said, “I am less interested in imparting knowledge as a product. What I really like is thinking alongside students. …We’re digesting this text and thinking through what it means [together].”

grewell (2)

The paradigm of “first among equals” translates easily into Grewell’s classroom. Instead of asking the students questions about the text, Grewell comes to class with something that interests him. “[I] talk about it in terms of what interests me in [the text] and then hope that it’s infectious [and] other people join in the conversation.”

Grewell likes to emphasize the synthetic unity of literature and language of the Logos (John 1:1). The Logos (the Word) is the center of all meaning; where all pieces of literature meet. By asking, for example, “What has Shakespeare to do with Jane Austen?” Grewell guides his students toward the central point of the Logos. Grewell said that this emphasis on a logocentric pedagogy has made his classes less rigidly structured, giving him and his students the freedom to synthesize connections and have an ongoing dialogue.

What I wish I had asked as a freshman

Professors across the nation have a very important role, and Grewell, alongside his fellow faculty members, takes his responsibility seriously. Teaching, at whatever level, is such a delicate task as professors mold and shape the next generation of leaders. “Education is where you grab a culture,” Grewell said. “When we’re able, in a classroom conversation to arrive at and come away with some sort of insight into what we’re doing and connect meaning to it—that’s what it’s really about.”

Forty-five minutes later, I am leaving Dr. Grewell’s office. My questions answered, my arsenal of knowledge stocked with more information, and my spirit encouraged. Yes, I think to myself, this is why PHC is such a special place.

Major in English


 Patrick Henry College exists to glorify God by challenging the status quo in higher education, lifting high both faith and reason within a rigorous academic environment; thereby preserving for posterity the ideals behind the "noble experiment in ordered liberty" that is the foundation of America.


Search LearnPHC posts by keyword(s)

Popular Posts

Browse by Category

See All