For 11 summers, Keith Snyder, Ph.D., chair of the Biology Department at Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, Tennessee, has traveled to the grasslands of eastern Wyoming to dig up bones — dinosaur fossils, to be exact. What began as a father-son adventure to visit the Dino Dig — organized by sister institution Southwestern Adventist University — transitioned to Snyder’s active participation, including leading teams, fundraising, and museum development. Students from Southern often join him on digs, and a few have become leaders at the site.
“I enjoy looking and searching for fossils, finding how pieces fit together and sorting out puzzles,” Snyder said. The team works in the Lance Formation bonebed to locate, record, and identify each bone before excavating and stabilizing it for transport to Southwestern’s lab in Keene, Texas, for additional preservation and study. High-precision GPS equipment records the location of each bone and measures with accuracy down to less than a centimeter.
The Dinosaur Excavation Research project has uncovered about 30,000 bones over 20 years, including some extremely unique findings. On one dig, Snyder and his son, Ivan, uncovered the toe bone of a young T-rex that had adult T-rex bite marks. Based on this discovery, Snyder and Southern professor David Nelsen, Ph.D., were among the co-authors of a scientific paper on tyrannosaur cannibalism published in 2018.
The first major paper addressing broad findings from Lance recently was published in the peer-reviewed online journal Plos One. With Snyder as lead author, the work opens the door for wider interpretation of what happened to the dinosaurs than traditional evolutionary theory. More information about the dig can be found at dinosaurproject.swau.edu.
“Dr. Snyder has been a great friend to our dinosaur research project,” said Art Chadwick, Ph.D., program director and biology professor at Southwestern. “An excellent scientist and scholar, he has worked tirelessly through 2 1/2 years, including a sabbatical, to summarize 20 years of research on dinosaurs. In the field, Keith is a great explorer who has made many singular discoveries.”
Meeting Needs and Mentoring
Snyder is just one example of how Southern professors contribute to their fields and the community, outside of the classroom. For a group of nursing professors, this involves providing free healthcare to those without health insurance in nearby Tennessee and Georgia counties.
Fifteen years ago, Holly Gadd, Ph.D., family nurse practitioner and dean of Southern’s School of Nursing, began working with Volunteers in Medicine Chattanooga Inc., which provides care in a faith-based environment to those who have nowhere else to turn. Initially, Gadd served on the planning committee and volunteered as one of the medical providers.
In 2011, Gadd recognized that more consistency was needed in the clinic’s nurse practitioner role in order to provide continuity for patients. She proposed that a group from Southern take over this important position, and her idea was accepted.
“My vision was to provide a practice site for nurse practitioner faculty from Southern, to keep them up to date while serving the community,” Gadd said. “This is also a site for us to supervise students’ clinical practice, and be role models and mentors.”
Other faculty volunteers from the School of Nursing include Southern alumni Judy Dedeker, D.N.P.; Christine Moniyung, Ph.D.; Cindy Rima, D.N.P.; and Lilly Tryon, D.N.P. Additionally, registered dietician and associate professor Beth Snyder provides monthly nutrition coaching for patients.
Moniyung describes the opportunity as “a remarkable platform to reach out to God’s children, allowing me and my colleagues to practice evidence-based primary care and Christian faith at the same time.” Snyder adds that it keeps her in touch with current medical needs as “most patients are open and honest about their struggles, willing to learn to improve their health, and grateful for the hope rekindled in their lives.”
“Our service is only possible because Holly was willing to listen and respond to inspiration,” Rima said. “She is our driving force with an incredible heart of service and ministry that blesses all of us.”
Writing to Reach the World
For most of her career, Alva James- Johnson, assistant professor in Southern’s School of Journalism and Communication, wrote full time for various newspapers across the country. Since leaving the newsroom to teach, she seeks out freelance writing projects to sharpen her skills and stay current, including work for the Southern Tidings.
“I want to model to my students what it means to be a journalist and truth-seeker in today’s rapidly changing society,” James-Johnson said. “I enjoy reporting and writing stories, especially those with a strong human element, and I am particularly interested in trends, demographics, and complex issues that provoke thought and dialogue.”
Spectrum Magazine approached James- Johnson this spring about reporting on topics relating to COVID-19. She welcomed the opportunity to continue honing her investigative journalism skills while also exposing a couple of her students to in-depth reporting. The small team explored how various North American Division conferences responded to federal government pandemic-relief funding. In a second article, James-Johnson looked into how the disease has impacted Adventist churches in the Atlantic Union Conference, where the death toll from the disease has been significant.
Another Southern author making a difference is School of Religion professor Michael G. Hasel, Ph.D. He teamed up with his cousin, Frank M. Hasel, Ph.D., associate director of the Biblical Research Institute, to co-author this year’s second quarter Adult Bible Study Guide on the topic “How to Interpret Scripture.” The project also included writing the Teacher’s Edition for the guide, along with a companion book providing substantial additional resources on the topic and translated into multiple languages.
“Frank is a systematic theologian and has written extensively on this issue over the years,” Michael Hasel explained. “My specialty is in Old Testament, biblical languages, and archaeology. After each of us wrote a section, we would swap manuscripts for critique and feedback. It was a tremendous learning process for both of us and enriched our understanding and friendship.”
As much of the world went into lockdown this spring, millions of church members were unable to study the Sabbath School lesson together in person. The Hasels reached out to John Bradshaw, speaker and director of It Is Written, to propose producing a weekly televised dialogue of the study, and learned that his team had discussed the same idea. Throughout April, May, and June, It Is Written TV aired the Hasels’ Sabbath School lesson dialogues each Friday, Sabbath, and Sunday.
“Both research and writing encourage learning and expose us to the cutting edge of wider discussions and thinking in our world,” Michael Hasel said. “That cannot happen without pushing ourselves beyond ourselves. In taking on these projects outside of the classroom, we exemplify to our students a culture of lifelong learning, and our faith grows as we share it.”
graduated in 1989 from Southern Adventist University, where she currently serves as project manager for Marketing and University Relations.
Southern Union | August 2020