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Business Is Booming at Belmont Graduate’s ‘Free Store’

While in his junior year in Belmont’s Social Entrepreneurship program, Austin Sauerbrei discovered a “Free Store” in Columbus, Ohio, and a dream was born.

After graduating in December 2010, Sauerbrei set out to make his project a reality. The process began with a trip to Columbus, Ohio to visit  his initial inspiration. The trip was followed by almost nine months of planning before the store finally opened its doors in December 2011, a year after Austin graduated from Belmont.

Austin (top left) poses with volunteers outside of the Free Store.

Almost immediately after opening, the store was a success. “The first weekend there were only about 20 to 25 people, then we had 30 the next week and then 50 the week after that.”

Recently, on Saturday Aug 18—a little over six months since its opening—the store set a new record; over 90 people came through, and there are now over 400 registered members.

Every Saturday, from 9 a.m. to noon the store is open to anyone and everyone. Because the space is so small, only four people are able to enter the store itself at one time. In a waiting area members of the community help themselves to coffee, snacks and conversation.

A large part of the store’s success comes from the high level of engagement of its shoppers. Of the over 400 registered members, Sauerbrei approximates that 70 to 80 percent have donated products and almost 20 percent have volunteered at the store. (more…)

Students Study Abroad on Holy Land Pilgrimage

Twenty Belmont University students and two professors left Nashville May 8 for a 19-day journey to Israel, Turkey and Greece, traveling to numerous sites along the way including Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Istanbul and Athens. Students on this study abroad trip are taking either a Third Year Writing course or a general education religion class with the goal to see the lands in which Christianity was born.  

As School of Religion Dean Darrell Gwaltney writes, the trip is part pilgrimage as well. “It is moving to travel to Jerusalem and other places many of us have been reading about and learning about all our lives. One of the great benefits from such a trip like this is that we are forever changed. The people we meet and the people with whom we travel change us.”

Student Carter Abel recounted an experience from the first day of the trip: “I was about to fall asleep when we drove over the top of a moutain and before me lay the most magnificent sight I have ever seen–the Sea of Galilee. Spanning out before me, the incredible blue waters stood out like gemstone surrounded by bare mountains. I sat in absolute awe and wonder as I laid my eyes upon the place where Jesus walked on water, calmed the storm, fed thousands of people with a single basket of food and performed miracles. No matter how much cities and nations have changed over two thousand years, the Sea of Galilee remains a living altar of the power, compassion and love of God who walked its shores.”

Click here to read more from the Holy Land trip blog.

Belmont Breaks Ground on New Academic Building on Wedgewood Avenue

188,000-square-foot structure plus five-level underground garage will be largest campus building to date

Belmont University broke ground this morning on the campus’ largest building to date, a 188,000-square-foot academic center situated on the corner of Wedgewood and 15th Avenues. The building will house most departments from the College of Arts and Sciences as well as the School of Religion, providing much-needed classroom and lab space for the growing University. Slated to open in fall 2014 and anticipated to cost $76.5 million, the new building is being designed and built by locally-owned companies—Earl Swensson Associates (ESa) and R.C. Mathews—and will create jobs for hundreds in Middle Tennessee. A five-level underground parking garage will also provide approximately 430 additional parking spaces, and the facility will connect on three floors to both the Inman Center and McWhorter Hall.

“The building establishes a new cornerstone for Belmont University and provides a true reflection of who we are,” said Belmont President Bob Fisher. “It will sit as a beacon on the northeast edge of campus, offering a perfect view of the Nashville skyline and inviting Nashville and the world to come and see what Belmont is all about:  providing an academically challenging liberal arts education in a Christian community of learning and service.”

Since Belmont’s general education/core curriculum requires courses in writing, speech, math and religion, among others, every undergraduate will take classes in the new academic center. In addition, the center will house a 280-seat chapel, a dining venue, 30 classrooms that vary in seating capacity, state-of the-art laboratories and conference room space.

Dr. Thomas Burns, who serves as Belmont’s Provost overseeing all academic programs, added that the building’s design has been a campus-wide effort. “We began this process in the fall with a blank canvas, recognizing that we needed additional academic space but carefully considering which areas to prioritize. Through ongoing conversations and collaboration with students, faculty and staff, we’ve honed in on Belmont’s most urgent needs in the College of Arts and Sciences and School of Religion. With their input, we’ve drawn plans for a building that will enable interdisciplinary studies and experiential learning while also representing the latest thinking in classroom space.”


Brueggemann Lectures on God’s Justice for the Poor

Belmont University welcomed noted author and speaker Walter Brueggemann to campus on Oct. 23 for a convocation lecture titled, “God’s Justice for the Poor.”

An expert on bringing the insights of the Old Testament to bear on contemporary issues of economic justice, nationalism and militarism through his 75 books, Brueggemann spent the hour engaging students in a discussion on the economic structure of society in Biblical times between the ideals under Pharaoh and the neighborly structure seen in Deuteronomy.

He advocated for a “mixed system” society – one that combines strategies from the capitalistic approach and the neighbor friendly one.

“Jesus thought neighbors related to neighbors related to neighbors could be transformative,” Brueggemann said.

The lecture ended with audience participation as students stood around the room and engaged in a dialogue surrounding the assigned questions regarding the state of the economy and the applicability of these ideals to the system we live in.

Brueggemann’s lecture tied in with the University’s 2011-2012 theme of Wealth and Poverty. This academic year, many academic lectures and programs explore the origins and effects of wealth and poverty as well as the social and ethical implications of each.

Debt Slavery Continues Cycle of Poverty

Modern circumstances of poverty emulate debt slavery structures from Biblical times, Dr. Mark McEntire told students during a Monday morning convocation using the Old Testament to examine the University’s 2011-2012 theme of Wealth and Poverty.

“Although many of you do community service, that (work) deals with the pain and poverty caused by this system (of debt slavery),” said McEntire, who teaches Old Testament and Hebrew in Belmont’s School of Religion. Instead, students should go beyond volunteerism and find solutions to eliminate the cycle of debt and poverty.

His lecture began with an examination of Hammurabi’s Law Code, which is one of the oldest legal texts and the first text to regulate poverty more than 3,800 years ago. Law No. 117 defines debt slavery as a means for the poor to work to pay back what they owe.

Written 1,000 years later, the Covenant Code laid the regulations of debt slavery in Exodus 21:2-6. A man serves for six years and becomes free on the seventh year, similar to the principles of Sabbath. Written two hundred years later, the Deuteronomic Code includes women in debt slavery regulations in Deuteronomy 15:12-18. Later in the Holiness Code in Leviticus 25:39-44, the poor working off their debts go free and are returned to the land of their ancestors in the Year of Jubilee.

“In the Bible, we have a description of a culture where there have always been slaves, and slavery will always exist. There are only simple improvements,” McEntire said. “Here, slavery and economic hardship are connected together exclusively with explicit regulations. These texts may have the power to help us focus our questions and reveal answers that we otherwise might not see.”

Although cattle slavery, or involuntary servitude, is illegal or hidden in most parts of the world, debt slavery is built into modern laws, similar to Biblical texts. McEntire drew comparisons between Biblical debt slavery and modern bankruptcy laws.

“We should ask, ‘who is our system for?’ and ‘what is it designed to do for people?’” he challenged students to consider.

This academic year, many academic lectures and programs explore the origins and effects of wealth and poverty as well as the social and ethical implications of each. The EthixRox convocation series will continue Oct. 31 with a Wealth, Poverty and New Testament convo and in November with a Hunger Breakfast.

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