Mark Regnerus '93
Connecting Work and Faith

Dr. Breems had a major impact on another Trinity graduate who has made a name for himself in the Lone Star state. Indirectly, he helped steer Mark Regnerus '93 toward a career in sociology; Regnerus teaches the subject at the University of Texas-Austin.

"I always found sociology to be fascinating," he says. "My grandparents live in Chicago and I grew up in western Michigan, and I found the contrast between urban and rural life rather intriguing.

"When I came to Trinity, Dr. Breems and I hit it off really well, and I sort of gravitated toward him. After I graduated, I went to seminary, but I realized I didn't want to be a minister. I thought, 'I like what Dr. Breems does; let's get another degree in sociology.'"

With that, he enrolled at the University of North Carolina to resume his studies and earn his master's in sociology. He finished that program in 1997 and continued there to obtain his doctoral degree three years later. After a year of research in North Carolina, Regnerus accepted a position in Calvin College's sociology department in 2001 before moving to Austin, Texas, with his wife, Deeann (Latal '92), and their two children.

One of the classes he teaches at Texas is the sociology of religion, exploring the dynamics between the study of relationships and the study of faiths. His own Reformed faith comes to light while engaging with his students.

"As Christians, our lives should reflect our relationship with God and our desire to glorify Him," Regnerus says. "I've noticed that some Christian professors see a disconnect between their faith and their profession. I believe that if your faith matters, it should inform what you teach and what you research.

"I've had students here tell me that I'm the only Christian professor they've had. I'm not approved to share the Gospel, but I don't necessarily hide my beliefs either. When I teach, I don't seek to break down or build up any particular faith, but my worldview colors what I do in the classroom."

When he compares his year at a private, Christian college with his time thus far at Texas, Regnerus appreciates the environment of the large public institution. He sees it as a fertile ground to display his steadfast spiritual commitment in a place that demonstrates a lack of that commitment.

"I like the tension of the anti-faith atmosphere that big state universities present. I've heard how professors totally dismiss the principles of their students' faith, particularly Christian principles. That is consummate disrespect. Those beliefs are invaluable to the people who hold them.

"That's why I want my students to recognize the connection between my faith and my work. I want them to know that they don't have to lay their beliefs aside although the environment may suggest otherwise. I feel that I'm exactly where God wants me to be."

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