Why I Teach? - An Interview with Prof. Dr. Kit Danley

Interviewer: What is your academic background?

Kit: I finished my bachelor’s degree here in Arizona, at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, with a degree in Sociology. That was in 1976. I was a kid, in the middle of the Jesus Movement, experiencing a supernatural conversion to Christ that came with a calling from God to the poor. Choosing to study Sociology was part of that response to the Lord’s hand on my life, though I hardly understood it at the time. Meanwhile, I was introduced through campus ministry to the few “radical discipleship” (a term coined during that era) [evangelical] leaders who were returning to the forgotten 2,000 verses of God’s heart for the Poor. This theological framework led the way to both my ongoing academic work through Fuller Seminary in a Master’s program (beginning a twenty-year process in 1984) and praxis, as Founder of our comprehensive and holistic work in urban Phoenix (b.1982), called Neighborhood Ministries. CCDA (Christian Community Development Association) was launched about that time, and this became a space for me to practice both theological growth as well as principled, research-based ways in which the Church/faith non-profits engage social, political and love expressions in under-resourced communities. Here, in this CCDA community, I continued my relationship with Ray Bakke and the other pioneers of this movement. Many of us from this network began our doctoral work with BGU when Northwest Graduate School became Bakke Graduate University. I have my DMin from BGU.

Interviewer: What course do you teach?

Kit: I teach Asset-Based Community Development and Appreciative Inquiry. I have the privilege of putting into an academic framework for BGU a course I had been teaching for almost twenty years. Both ABCD and AI are common frameworks in academia and in organizational systems thinking. Where I had been teaching these principles, however, were in the regular places where most people live, among leaders who wanted to make a difference in their community and be fruitful allies there. Somehow, even before the book was written, they intuitively knew they didn’t want to be leaders whose “helping hurt” their neighbors. ABCD/AI offers those principles, principles I believe in, live, and love. I get very involved in the learning process in my class; it’s as if I am surreptitiously walking the streets with my course members, listening to their community through their hearts. I love this work.

Interviewer: What is your teaching style?

Kit: I am first an engaged listener, I think. I want to develop others, who know how to learn by listening. As it relates to the course I teach here at BGU, I know this approach works. In missional community engagement, we must never, ever believe we have the answers before we take the time to find those who have gone before us. Out there, in our communities, are people who have lived in this hard place, in hard times and found treasure. Out there, in our communities, is a treasure trove of insights that solve problems, spiritual and soulful food for endurance, and ways in which to deconstruct the barriers of colonialism and ethnic pride. Listening and researching the lives and institutions on the ground, offers guidance for community transformers.

In addition, as an instructor, I am committed to empowerment. I have an inherent belief in the capacity of all persons to grow and do the work. Each one brings their story, their unique perspective and yearnings to a learning space. My joy is to see that become connected to the adventure of a brand new concept, an enlarged world-view or a piece to the puzzle they’ve been looking for. Together we find the joy of learning, and I watch vicariously as they soar.

Interviewer: What motivates you to teach?

Kit: Overall, I love to teach about what I love to learn. I find this a truism for me in my other teaching places. In our organization, Neighborhood Ministries, we have a core value of learning. We are motivated to create a place where life-long learners are welcomed and developed. What that fosters, is a group of us, who facilitate different spaces around our callings and maturities, what some people might call their “lanes”. I find that to be true at BGU, as well. Those of us privileged to be instructors here, are encouraged to teach what we have learned to understand, what we practice and where our passions lie.

Interviewer: What is unique in the way you teach?

Kit: I’m not sure this is unique, but I teach out of practiced principles which I have lived and continue to live. I am not an ivory tower academic: I am a “hands-in-the-mud” practitioner. Every day, I go to work, to do the work and sometimes I get to teach about it.

Another thing I think might be unique, is the commitment I make to each class to bring my heart and my mind to the online conversations every week. I want to be as engaged as I expect each one who is taking the course for a grade. I want to be a co-learner with an active voice.

Interviewer: What brings joy to your heart?

Kit: Lots and lots of things bring me joy. Since this is an interview around our BGU world, here’s a few things that bring me joy at BGU:

1.) When someone in my class tells me about an adventure they’ve had out in their community, discovering someone or something that will radically change their perspective and work for years to come, their joy and exhilaration becomes mine. Some of these encounters, I remember for years.

2.) Right now, I am in an Ignatian Prayer Exercises cohort, offered by BGU. This is a strategic time to be in this listening-to-God- space, so I am grateful it has been offered. These practices have become my joy daily.

3.) The anticipation of hosting a BGU Immersion is giving me a lot of joy. I can’t wait to have a group here in Phoenix to learn from our city. I hope a lot of you will come!

Read Kit's bio HERE.