After spending years in public California universities as first an undergraduate and graduate student and then as a biology professor, Dr. Furlong came to Northwestern largely from a desire to continue her teaching career in a Christian liberal arts setting.
As a Christian and a biologist, Dr. Furlong acknowledges the apparent conflicts arising between human interpretations of nature and Scripture. She often finds that tensions result from a failure to engage in respectful dialogue and from our imperfect understanding of creation and Scripture. She encourages her students to courageously integrate faith and science when faced with complex issues. “Northwestern College is a good place to explore those hard questions,” she says.
Dr. Furlong earned master’s and doctoral degrees in ecology, evolution and marine biology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. She has teaching experience in the California university system as well as in private liberal arts colleges, and she has done extensive research in stream ecology, entomology and biogeography. Since coming to Orange City, Dr. Furlong has developed a research program that explores the role of insects in prairie ecosystems. In addition to her teaching duties at Northwestern, she serves as the college’s director of faculty development.
Dr. Furlong says she has come to greatly value the academic and intellectual benefits of studying science in a Christian liberal arts environment. Her own educational experiences in public institutions resulted in compartmentalization of faith and research. “I believe Christian institutions such as Northwestern produce individuals with a comprehensive breadth of knowledge, leading to the development of an integrated Christian worldview,” she says. “I am blessed to continue teaching in a setting where students are encouraged to explore relationships between knowledge and faith.”
According to Dr. Furlong, the historical role of Christianity in the development of the natural sciences is an important part of our heritage and something biology students should understand. She also encourages her students to form their own distinctive theologies of nature. “What important perspectives can a Christian scientist bring to discussions of creation care and bioethics? What do Christian and scientific communities miss out on when they aren’t in dialogue?” she asks. “When we help students address these kinds of questions, they are uniquely equipped to bring those communities together and better serve their Creator.”