Eleven years after graduating from Hillsdale, Cody Strecker has returned to Hillsdale as a visiting assistant professor of theology.
After graduating in 2008 with a major in Classics, Strecker worked at the college for three years, two in admissions and one in the president’s office. But he always knew he wanted to teach.
“I’d known for a long time that I wanted to teach, but at different times I felt it could be preschool, it could be high school, or should it be undergraduate level?” Strecker said. “In those years it became really clear that I just loved being around college students and teaching those students who are beginning to make their studies their own.”
Strecker had to decide in what capacity he wanted to teach. As a Classics major, he loved the combination of studying sociological study with religious study and politics, law, and language.
“But it was theology that I was thinking about and reading in my own time and I thought this is what I’m really passionate about,” Strecker said. “With the background in classics, my studies began in early Christian theology and that’s been a constant attentiveness I’ve had.”
As Strecker was in graduate school studying theology, he saw how his training in classics, especially with Professors of Classics David Jones and Joseph Garnjobst, really provided him with a good foundation to pursue his studies, even though he was continuing his studies in theology and not classics.
“Their ability to unpack a text and to attend to the formal features as well as the important traditional content has stuck with me, specifically with my approach to poetic theology, which has been a real passion,” Stecker said. “To learn from them how to combine linguistic attentiveness with literary capacity has been an important skill that has been foundational, although I have gone in a different direction, it is all funded by those skills.”
Strecker went to Duke University Divinity School for his master’s degree. It was a two-year program which he extended by participating in the exchange program which allowed he and his wife Mary and their two oldest boys to move to Reutlingen, Germany, where he studied at a university and seminary for nearly 11 months.
After finishing the program in Germany, Strecker moved to Waco, Texas to get his doctorate at Baylor University.
“I chose that program because of the way that, particularly my dissertation director Natalie Carnes, combines historical attentiveness with constructive contemporary concerns. And that’s what my own passion is,” Strecker said.
And now Strecker and his family have returned to Hillsdale and love being back in the Midwest, in a familiar place that is much closer to family and friends.
“We lived in four different places in the first ten years of our marriage and feel like our lives are irrevocably fractured because of that, because we have communities in each of these places but none of them is entirely home because we can’t be everywhere at once,” Strecker said. “So it’s really nice this time to be coming back to a place where we have family but also good friends.”
Strecker is enjoying being back in Hillsdale and getting to be on the other side of things as a professor, teaching both younger students in the core theology classes and older students in his upper-level theology class.
Strecker likes that the theology course has been added to the core in recent years and enjoys teaching some of the freshmen as they are adjusting and “overwhelmed with changes but asking the question, how have Christians spoken about their God? Which is an important question whether they are themselves Christians or not,” Strecker said.
In his upper-level theology course, he got to watch older students wrestle with the ideas of justification and salvation and what different Christian thinkers have said about it over the centuries.
“Professor Strecker is very knowledgeable and it is clear to see as a student in his class that his every answer is well thought out and thoroughly grounded in orthodox Christian writings and teachings,” Senior Samuel Musser, who was a student in Strecker’s upper-level theology course, said.
“He is very balanced and open-minded in his approach to Christian doctrine, while remaining grounded in scriptural truth.”
Strecker enjoys being back at Hillsdale and being able to again participate in a place that had such a large impact on his formation and education.
“Hillsdale was so formative for me intellectually, morally, and socially that to have the opportunity to give back to the college and seek to participate on the other side of things in the great work that the college is dedicated to is a great honor,” he said.