For Dr. Nathan Baxter, studying communication means studying culture, theory and theology all at once, and his methods for teaching these subjects are as diverse as the topics themselves. Some days his classes include reading line by line through a theorist’s writings, while the next may involve a show from the Disney Channel and a sing-along.
“Because communication affects nearly every aspect of our lives, it can be studied in the immediate world around us,” says Baxter. “It’s exciting to see the shift in my students’ understanding when they make connections between theories and their own lives.”
Baxter’s own studies include a B.A. from Williamette University in speech communication, an M.A. from Texas A & M University in speech communication and Western Seminary in exegetical theology, and a Ph.D. from Indiana University in communication and culture. Baxter is also a deacon in the Anglican Diocese of New England and will be ordained as a priest in December 2011.
Because of his background and interest in theology, Baxter’s teaching of communication arts incorporates faith in important ways. “One can’t have faith without communication,” says Baxter. “The gospel begins with communication, and loving God and others happens through communication.” He challenges his students to think about the responsibility and opportunity to develop their skill as culture makers.
As a professor at Gordon, Baxter is grateful for the opportunity to talk about faith and communication freely. “Teaching in a Christian context keeps the conversation boundaries open for exploration,” he says. Baxter also appreciates the depth of character he’s found in Gordon students. “Students are aware of their own spiritual journeys, and growing in that is significant to them,” he says. “I can see it happening in the way conversations shift as the semester goes on, and in the questions students bring to my office hours.”
As a Fine Arts Division moderator and member of the Gordon Vocal Band, Baxter spends much of his time plugged into the Gordon community. When he is off campus, he is active in church ministry when he’s not spending time with his wife, Tiffany, and two children, Kira 7, and Brendan 5. He enjoys playing acoustic guitar, watching movies, drinking espresso, and talking with friends.