By Lauren Owen
Books line the many shelves of Dr. David Anderson’s office. More books are on his desks and on another table. Down the hall is where Anderson’s wife, Abby, son, and unborn child live in a part of Dunham’s living space. While he has not been working as a senior fellow at Dunham College for very long, the office is well-lived in.
Just a few weeks before move-in in August, Anderson took the place of senior fellow from his predecessor, Dr. Mark Morvant. Morvant now works at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas as the associate vice president of academic administration.
“I’m kind of haunted by the need to make a difference,” Anderson said.
Anderson said he is haunted because he was given this opportunity by OU that not everyone would have had. He said that he cannot take that for granted. However, he said that this is a healthy pressure to him.
Anderson has worked at the University of Oklahoma for 10 years. He started as a professor in the English department living in Cate. Now, however, he lives with his family in Dunham College as a senior fellow. He still teaches 16th and 17th century literature for the English department, but he is also a senior fellow, a husband and a father.
“There are a lot of people who would love to do what I do for a living, but can only do it as a little bit of a hobby,” Anderson said.
Anderson said his jobs as a professor and a senior fellow are related. He believes in teaching and studying literature, and said he wanted to be a senior fellow to bring meaningful education to students who he believed wanted more from their education outside of a classroom. He also said that he believed that taking literature seriously will make you a serious person.
“Books are not magical. They can’t solve all our problems, but if we take them seriously and if we really learn to gather around them, they can give us more than mere credentials,” said Anderson.
His favorite books are “King Lear” by Shakespeare, “Mansfield Park” by Jane Austen and “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens.
Anderson said that his favorite part of being a senior fellow is having one-on-one conversations with students, alongside the high table dinners.
“It’s about making ideas fresh and exciting for undergraduates. That’s exciting,” Anderson said.
When he has time off, he said he likes to do things such as throwing a football around in the Dunham courtyard. He said he also likes eating with people and likes the buzz of the cafeteria. Golf, cooking and reading are his other favorite pastimes.
He also spends time with his wife, who is currently staying home for her pregnancy, and their 21 month old son. She has worked for the last two years in south Oklahoma City to start Saint Paul’s community school, which is a school for low income families.
Anderson said that it is fun, rare and exciting to have Samuel growing up in Dunham. He said that Samuel is usually brought out to the courtyard to play. He said that he has a desire to have his kids look at him as a person with principle.
Anderson said that he also enjoys spending time with his friends and making dinner for them. His favorite meals to cook are French cuisine, homemade pizza, grilling, mixing cocktails, Italian cuisine and Indian food. He said that he knew Morvant because they were in the same group of friends.
Morvant said that he knew Anderson back when Anderson was the faculty in residence in the Honors College in Cate. When it was time for Anderson to take Morvant’s place, the two met and talked about Morvant’s vision for Dunham.
Morvant said that he would have loved to stay longer at Dunham. However, he wanted to take the opportunity to live closer to his parents. He said he wanted his kids to get to know their grandparents and so living in Texas made that easier.
Morvant said that there were some things he would have loved to have expanded on from what they did the first year. He said he also would have liked to have made more connections with students if he had chosen to stay longer.
Dr. Ronald “Keith” Gaddie and Morvant worked on the residential colleges early on to discuss the architecture to make the building a community for the residents. Morvant said that they worked with Residential Life and Student Affairs to build a model that put academics and student and residential experiences into one.
Morvant said that he worked closely with Mr. Dunham to build the crest and motto. The current traditions of Dunham were based off the motto “Integrity, perseverance, wisdom.” Morvant also said he liked to help set up activities for local schools at Dunham.
Morvant said that Residential College director Yolande Graham and assistant senior fellow Zac Stevens helped give each floor its own identity and crest. He said he also helped design the Thanksgiving dinner at Dunham, as well as putting up the Christmas tree. He said that for some it was their first time putting up a tree. Since international students cannot go back home for the holidays, Morvant made Dunham welcoming for the holidays.
Stevens said that Anderson wants to explore the humanities and great books. Stevens said that Anderson has been keeping many things the same as they were when Morvant was in charge.
“When he talks about that vision of wanting to gather around these books and conversations I think the students are like ‘yeah I can get behind that.’” Stevens said.
A new feature that Stevens said Anderson has brought to Dunham is what he calls the high table dinners. Stevens said that these dinners are to gather around and talk about the big ideas and the big questions of life.
Anderson said that he thinks he could not have been the first senior fellow of Dunham. He said that Dunham needed Morvant because of the need to be able to deal with the architects and donors that were making the college possible. Anderson said that he is not trying to change much about the college and is instead letting the other workers take the lead.
“Mark had a very student focused attitude it was all about the students for him. What he told me when I took the job was his piece of advice for me he said ‘When all else fails, just love on the students,’” Anderson said.
Stevens said that he thinks that Anderson has been happy to let things continue as they were and not coming in to change everything.
“I think he appreciates what’s already here and is looking to whatever changes do happen to happen primarily because of a difference in maybe what our target is rather than how we do things and anything like that,” Stevens said.
Anderson said that he has a long term goal of making a difference in Dunham. He said that he wants to impress upon the students that Dunham is a community of learners.
Graham said she thinks that he has a desire to see students be successful and grow. She said that she thinks Anderson wants the students to engage beyond the things they normally do so be on social media engaging in real depth of conversation and learning together.
Graham said that she thinks he takes a genuine interest in what her role is in the community and the work she is doing with students. She said that she thinks students who have talked with him have learned a lot from him and opened their minds to new ideas.
Anderson said that budget cutting season is close and that he does not know how the cuts will affect Dunham.
“That aspect is something I’m prepared to do,” Anderson said. “I didn’t sign up for that but at the same time if you’re going to be a leader, you don’t have the right to look the other way and let someone else deal with that.”
Anderson said he has not been as involved as he would like to be because his wife is in her ninth month of her pregnancy. He said that when they lived in Cate, they felt they didn’t know many of the students who lived there. Now that they live in Dunham with their 21 month old son Samuel, who Anderson said is like the mascot of Dunham, they get more students participating in events.
Graham said that Anderson is driven. She said that it is challenging coming into a community like Dunham where there are certain traditions that have already been set and Anderson coming in the middle of that meant he was learning as he went. She said that he is making an effort to engage and be connected with students.
Emily Marcum, who is the vice president of community and traditions of the Dunham College Council, said that he helps with the community based events.
At first, Marcum said she was not sure if she would connect with Anderson because she is a science major. However, she said that she knows him better now.
“Now that he’s here, he’s just so fun.” Marcum said.