Iwan Sandjaja, Petra Christian University

Sharing Hospitality and Thankfulness

Iwan Sandjaja (kneeling, right) with international scholars at Baylor University, including United Board Fellow Sigit Purnomo (far left).

Iwan Sandjaja (kneeling, right) with international scholars at Baylor University, including United Board Fellow Sigit Purnomo (far left).

Iwan Njoto Sandjaja, an Indonesian PhD candidate in electrical and computer engineering, adds his voice to the big Texas welcome that greets United Board Fellows arriving for placements at Baylor University. It’s his way of expressing thanks for the opportunity to earn his master’s degree at De La Salle University in the Philippines with the support of the United Board Faculty Scholarship Program. “I had good experiences while I was at De La Salle University, and so I want to show hospitality to the United Board Fellows and thankfulness,” he said in a recent interview. “I also want to talk to them about Christian education in Southeast Asia.”

Mr. Iwan is drawn to the stories of other people. He began his career as a computer programmer, but he left that job for teaching at Petra Christian University because “I prefer to interact with people instead of machines.” Now at Baylor, when he shares ideas with faculty from the United States, Asia, and other places, he sees how unique each university is. That’s a source of inspiration for him. “I am very thankful to the United Board for addressing the biggest challenges facing universities in Asia through its network,” he said. “Sometimes we cannot see our problems clearly because we never get away from our own country and family. Asian educators need to do more networking, more faculty and student exchange programs, and more collaborative research.”

He also finds ways to combine his scientific interests with spiritual inquiry. At Baylor, he is part of the Conyers Graduate Scholars Program, which encourages doctoral students to explore questions regarding faith, learning, vocation, and the university. “Faith and mind are members of one body,” he said. “They are like my two eyes, which make one sight.” His wife’s seminary studies inspire the couple to someday blend their interests and expertise. “If it is God’s will, we can contribute to bible translation, specifically to the many ethnic languages of Indonesia. We hope that we can use the computer for natural language processing and machine translation to accelerate the process.”

Mr. Iwan remains an educator at heart, and he plans to return to Petra Christian University after he receives his PhD. He is grateful to the United Board for recognizing the power of networking and hopes other Asian educators can enjoy experiences similar to his. “Sending professors and lecturers to other universities in different countries for a sabbatical year will be like a great stepping stone that benefits both sender and receiver.”

(First published in Horizons in June 2015)