Mary Sanders on the 2012 CFH at Gordon College

It’s been a little over a week since I returned from the CFH 2012 meeting at Gordon College.
Playing catch-up hasn’t been fun, but I’ve finally managed to have a few minutes to sit down and
write up my thoughts on this year’s conference.

First, bravo to the faculty, staff, and students of Gordon College. This was a thoughtfully
organized and supremely well run conference. I enjoyed my trip to your beautiful campus very
much (once I finally got there…thanks to airline delays, I ended up arriving on Friday morning
instead of Thursday afternoon).

Second, I want to explore for a moment just how it is that CFH influences me, both personally
and professionally. Several things are at work here. Professionally, CFH has, in the brief time
I’ve been involved, come to feel like home. My first-ever conference presentation was at the
undergraduate conference in 2006, and I first presented at the professional conference as an
MA student in 2008. In 2010, I traveled to the meeting at George Fox University, even though,
as a first-semester PhD student, I didn’t have anything ready to present. Still, even without
presenting, I left CFH feeling professionally refreshed. I think that’s what stands out to me about
this year as well: the sense of professional rejuvenation and revitalization I have after talking
with people who, quite simply, do what I want to be doing. As a grad student, I’m at that place
in my program where I’m not quite finished with course work, but I desperately want to be
through with my exams and onto the dissertation. It’s exhausting. Some days, I feel as though
I’ll scream if I have to write one more book review. Going to CFH this year gave me a chance to
chat with people outside of my usual orbit and have conversations that I simply don’t get to have
on a day-to-day basis…conversations about faith, learning, and history that I do not have time or
opportunity to have otherwise.

It might be enough to say that it is because of that professional rejuvenation that I enjoy going
to CFH every two years. But, if I’m being honest, that doesn’t go quite far enough. CFH is an
intensely personal experience for me, because of one reason: I am a second-generation “CFHer.”
My father, Dr. Glenn Sanders (Oklahoma Baptist University), has been involved with CFH
for as long as I can remember. My journey into the historical profession is deeply rooted
in my relationship with my father, who, among other things, read me history textbooks as
bedtime stories when I was a child. (Yes, I’m serious.) My father has been a constant source
of professional encouragement and inspiration, and my conversations with him have deeply
influenced how I think, study, write, and teach. This year, I was honored to sit on a panel with
him. About a year ago, both of us read Mark Noll’s Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind, and
thought it might be nice to see if we could put together a panel looking at practical approaches
to apply Noll’s ideas. We were joined by Susan Fletcher, another OBU alum who is a public
historian and works for The Navigators. Rick Kennedy of Point Loma was kind enough to chair.
I know my career isn’t exactly long-standing, and I know I may be a bit biased, but: I’ve never
had more fun on a conference panel.

So, thank you, CFH. You gave this tired, overworked, stressed graduate student a much needed
breather. It’s back to the grindstone now, but I’m reminded that there’s more to this profession
than book reviews and blue books. And that is invaluable.

See you (hopefully) in Malibu!

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One Comment on “Mary Sanders on the 2012 CFH at Gordon College”


  1. […] this month featured graduate student Mary Sanders (sharing a session with her father Glenn). Here’s her reflection on CFH, published at the CFH Grad Student blog. Like her, I always feel “professionally […]


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