Spotting Potential

by Ryan T. Hartwig

“He’s talking about Camille.” I tried to keep my voice down as President Jon R. Wallace, DBA, extolled the virtues and accomplishments of the Ronald Outstanding Senior—recognizing one graduate who exhibits excellent academic achievement and exemplary character—during the May 2015 commencement ceremony. When Camille walked to the stage, I stood and applauded with the rest of the APU community, which now saw what I had seen in this young scholar three years earlier.

In 2012, Camille Endacott enrolled in my Small Group Communication class as a sophomore honors communication student. Throughout the class, I could tell she was something special, but after I read her final exam (three comprehensive essays), I knew she had the chops to not only make it to graduate school, but to also earn a Ph.D. just about anywhere she wanted and then pursue a career in top-flight academia. So, I called her in, asked her what she wanted to do with her life, and told her what I saw in her.

Over the next few years, she embraced her enjoyment of intellectual conversation, relentless curiosity, and love for the written word, and she explored how those passions and her incredible abilities in those areas could be used in a career in academia. As she discussed her interests with other faculty, she said, “No one tried to make me in their own image; they helped me do what I do best. My choices were respected and honored.”

And Camille made some very good choices. While studying abroad in Oxford, she agreed to work with me on writing an academic article related to my research on church leadership teams. I needed a hand compiling and writing about the findings from my survey of more than 1,000 leadership team members at more than 250 churches, and Camille topped my list. Over the next few months, we wrote an article together (I’ll be honest, she did most of the writing), which we later submitted to the National Communication Association conference in Chicago. We presented it in November of her senior year in the midst of her applications to top graduate schools.

As we sat in the front row waiting to present, I leaned over and whispered to Camille, pointing out the internationally known scholars entering the room. Soon enough, our turn came. Camille rocked it—so much so that when I mentioned during the question-and-answer session she was an undergraduate, it shocked the audience. Afterwards, I proudly introduced her to a few of the scholars whose work she had read in that Small Group Communication class.

Today, Camille studies under two of the scholars who were in the audience that day. As she pursues a combination M.A./Ph.D. at the University of California, Santa Barbara, she enjoys the fruits of her diligence and the funding provided to her by the Regents’ Fellowship, the top scholarship awarded in the University of California system.

She studies organizational religiosity— the “religious” practices of ostensibly “nonreligious” institutions. As one who has learned that seeing things differently enables one to do things differently, she strives to engage in work that will help others pay better attention to the world around them.

What an honor and privilege to work alongside this amazing young scholar and mentor her during her undergraduate years. Camille had all the talent and discipline; she just needed someone to help open a door of opportunity and introduce her to the field’s greatest ideas and people. That is what I get to do as a professor at APU. I look forward to watching her education and career unfold as she imprints the academy with her perspective and insight. She came to Azusa Pacific with undeniable gifts, and she leaves here fully prepared to realize her potential. Camille sums up her experience as only someone with a great command for words can: “APU helped me be who I wanted to be, not just do what I wanted to do.”

Ryan T. Hartwig, Ph.D., is associate dean in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and chair and associate professor in the Department of Communication Studies.

Originally published in the Spring '16 issue of APU Life. Download the PDF or view all issues.