By Lizzie Thomas | Staff Writer
Dr. Devan Jonklaas began his faculty in residence position at Earle residence hall this fall. He said he feels like he’s exactly where he should be because of his calling, his faith, and his family.
“The mission of Baylor is to educate men and women for Christian service,” Jonklaas said. “We hear the phrase ‘transformative education.’ I think the best way to see that happen is serving students in a way and being able to connect with them and see God transform their lives.”
Jonklaas is a chemistry lecturer and won the Collins Outstanding Professor Award in 2015.
Jonklaas said becoming a faculty in residence came out of the perfect storm of wanting to continue something like an advising role and needing to be closer to his family. He said it’s great to walk home and be close to my wife and young kids while also being on campus, especially after having over a half hour commute to their previous home in McGregor.
“Of course, there’s sacrifice but we felt like it was the right time to do that,” Jonklaas said.
Devon and Hannah Jonklaas applied to be a faculty in residence several years ago, and now they have four young children: Mia, 7; Robert, 6; Amy Rose, 4 and Daniel, 2.
“Of course, the kids are thriving being around college students, and we are adjusting to what you’d expect sharing walls with a dorm,” Hannah Jonklaas said.
Jonklaas said part of why they wanted to be a part of the faculty in residence program is they wanted to be a part of the transformational college experience.
“College is a rite of passage in America,” Jonklaas said. “You leave home, you’re 18 and you’re learning so much about yourself and who you are, it’s not just about academics — that’s part of it, but you’re also learning how to do Baylor, how to act under peer pressure, how to study … That’s all transformative and learning how to do that. I think that’s where faculty in residence and student life can come together to help students get through that.”
Jonklaas wants to be connecting with students and investing the way he was invested in at the boarding school he began attending in the seventh grade in India. Missionaries in his boarding school fostered his faith in an educational setting. They gave him books that inspired and changed his life. They gave up presumably promising careers to be in a remote area pouring their knowledge and care into students.
“I feel like God chose where my parents sent me to boarding school because they accidentally chose a Christian boarding school that was very opposite to the very British boarding school my dad had envisioned for us,” Jonklaas said. “It was in fact this American International boarding school founded by American missionaries.”
He described his school as an old summer resort for the British, in a colder part of India in the mountains, built in the 1800s.
“[Boarding school] was so transformative. I had three different professors who at different times sowed into my life,” Jonklaas said. “I was like ‘I want to be like these professors who have had this impact on my life,’ mentoring me through high school. With a Christian school like Baylor, I can somehow help students in their lives. I don’t want to presume too much, but I think there’s a place for older people to impart.”
Jonklass has spent half of his life in Waco but spent the earlier half in different parts of the world. He’s from Sri Lanka and of European descent. He said that growing up, his family had a western mindset. When he was in third grade, his father started a business in Dubai before it became the hub of the Middle East and a “crazy, futuristic city.” Jonklaas partially grew up there, but his father had been to boarding school and thought it “shaped a man in a very British way.” His parents were agnostic and from different religious backgrounds, but Jonklaas decided to become a Christian when heard a man from a British rock band tell his story.
Jonklaas is making plans for his time in Earle and is learning from other faculty in residence members.
“There’s things I want to do and one is have different people come talk, like ‘Hey, you’re a surgeon now, what is it like as a surgeon?’” Jonklaas said.
He wants to take advantage of the connections he has with former students to have Q&A times with physicians assistants and research scientists for example.
“I want to do actually a science movie night with a medical thriller or some other crazy sci-fi, or maybe one that’s unbelievable but still has concepts we can discuss,” Jonklaas said.
Aside from the fun things Jonklaas is looking forward to as faculty steward, Jonklaas is excited about having an added sense of purpose in his vocation.
“It kind of makes you feel warm — I think we all want purpose in life and to feel like there’s meaning,” Jonklaas said. “Apart from being a father and a husband, this is the most important part of my life. From a professional point of view, as a professor, I’m not just going to a job, I can have an impact on people’s lives. You’re training them for their careers. There’s a reward in seeing people trained aptly for their careers.”
Hannah Jonklaas said that she wants the students in Earle to feel like they have a holistic experience, and that they are not completely isolated from family life.
“My hope and prayer is that everyone who comes into the halls of Earle would encounter God in such a way that it alters the course of their life forever, and they felt like we are available to walk with them through their college years,” Hannah Jonklaas said.