February 22 2018
Although a self-professed non-risk-taker, Scott Moreau’s office is filled with photos of his global travels, including one of him lying next to a tiger in Chiang Mai, Thailand, along with books ranging from science-fiction novels to quantum physics textbooks. Moreau has held positions around the world throughout his life, including Campus Crusade worker, physics teacher in Swaziland and seminary professor in Kenya.
Yet he never expected to end up as a professor of Intercultural Studies at Wheaton, or the recently-appointed dean of the college’s graduate school. We sat down with Moreau to learn more about his personal story and his hopes for Wheaton’s graduate school.
How did you end up as a student at Wheaton College?
I went to Naperville Central High School and then started my university life at the University of Illinois in electrical engineering. I absolutely loved it, and then one day I was at a prayer meeting sophomore year … I had a vision, and God asked me, “What are you doing with your [electrical engineering] degree?” … and I said, “Nothing, I guess.” God said, “That’s right, it’s time to move on.” …. That was my first call into ministry rather than into my dream world of electrical engineering … I called my mom and said, “Can you get me some catalogs?” and Wheaton was the only one that sent me a catalog. I took that as a sign to apply there, and that’s what I did, and I ended up coming to Wheaton for my junior and senior years and majoring in physics.
After your time at Wheaton, what brought you to move overseas?
The career services — I think that’s what it was called at the time — did an aptitude test … they give 50 career choices, and the #1 choice for me was computer programing — that’s what I would like to do — #50 was pastor. I thought, “Ok, I’ve been called into ministry, what do I do with this?” Eventually, through other circumstances at Wheaton, [I saw] they needed missionaries to teach science in Nigeria, and that just captured my imagination … I ended up in Swaziland where I taught physics and general science to 10th graders … My second year teaching I realized that physics was just boring and I’m sorry to say that … This is not a career choice for me. About that time [Campus Crusade] was opening a seminary in Kenya, and I thought “that’s where I need to be.” So I came back to the U.S., did seminary work at Trinity [Theological Seminary], and then went back to Africa, this time in Kenya. It was a seven-year stay, so it was 10 years in Africa altogether.
So you got your undergraduate degree in physics, how does that intersect with your passion now?
I still will pick up [physics] books. I can’t follow the math anymore, but I enjoy reading the books that are written for well-informed layfolk. That’s still a part of who I am, that’s how God’s wired me, but when I think of ways that is still gets applied here … we’re in a constant state of flux in the grad school life … I like solving puzzles, and solving puzzles for setting up a program in Hong Kong, that is going to be running this fall, Lord willing, is one of those types of things I like to do … the thinking skills that physics gave to me directly apply to a lot of things that I do.
How did your experience in living in Kenya or Swaziland change your perspective of Christian higher education, and how does that impact your work now?
In Swaziland, teaching physics without any of the equipment that we have here in the US, you had to improvise … I had to learn how to be creative … learning to do with less was a big part was a big part of that. You can tell by my office that I’m not doing with less right now, but I still carry that lesson with me. In Kenya, the lesson I learned is that you don’t have to be confined within your own field … it was more an orientation of attitude. Third, there are really good theological institutions outside of the United States that are deeply relevant for students from that location in ways that an American school can never be, so while I celebrate us receiving African students, Asian students, and Latin American students, there’s a part of me that always thinks, “In what sense are we contextualizing for them what to with their learning when they go back?”
I’m very interested in this picture of you with a tiger. Would you call yourself a risk-taker?
I’m not, believe it or not! … [but] I’m a at a position where risk is part of the job now.
What do you mean by that?
The grad school is very unique. I’m the academic dean of the grad school, but nobody reports to me except my administrative assistant, so I don’t have any authority, which means I have to woo or convince – and woo is not one of my great strengths either. Part of what I envision as part of this job is a word I learned very recently — entrepreneur or someone who works inside an organization to enable things to happen that others dream up and want to do. When Jamie Peyton wants to start a program in Humanitarian and Disaster Leadership, [my job] is to come alongside him and walk him through the proposal [and budget] process — big puzzles that need to get done — so that he can do the things that God has called him to do…. So rather than me being the risk-taker, I come alongside risk-takers as the right-hand man.
What are your plans for the grad school?
My plan is to continue to foster dreams and ideas and find the resources either to make them happen or to demonstrate that they shouldn’t happen … and that’s what our grad school initiative is designed to do. It’s designed to move us forward by providing funding for research … We’ve got 10 or 15 ideas that are being floated around right now, and we get the initiatives we’re asking for … I would say it probably will set the table for us for the [next] 25 years. We don’t have to do new things, but we’re no longer hampered by lack of infrastructure support, or by lack of funding that will get us what we need to do to make sure this is a viable idea.
I’m excited to be where I am, I’m deeply hopeful for the grad school. This was a great turn-around year … and I’m hoping we will see things that that continue to happen in the upcoming year. It’s a little bit scary too for a non-risk-taker to look ahead and say, “I’m walking with confidence that God’s the one that’s in control.”
February 22 2018