Alumnus Named 2019 Obama Foundation Fellow

Dr. Brent Hutchinson, 2019 Obama Foundation Fellow

A calling to serve others forms the heartbeat of an education at Dallas Baptist University. DBU’s mission seeks to prepare graduates for careers that will serve the needs of their communities with Christ’s heart of compassion. 

This year, one of our own Ph.D. in Leadership Studies alumni, Dr. Brent Hutchinson, was recognized for outstanding leadership in his community and received the distinguished honor of being one of only 20 around the world to be awarded a fellowship by the Obama Foundation.

Obama Foundation Fellow

Photo Courtesy of Obama Fellowship

Photo courtesy of Obama Foundation

In only its second class, the two-year, non-residential Obama Fellowship program identifies the top emerging global leaders of today who are making a significant impact on the development of the local communities in which they live and serve.

“My appointment as an Obama Fellow is an incredible surprise and humbling honor,” Dr. Hutchinson explains. “I have said many times it’s a joy to be recognized for simply doing the job I feel I have been called to do.”

Dr. Hutchinson says his selection as a Fellow has already elevated the publicity and profile of Hindman Settlement School in tremendous ways.

“The fellowship is designed to develop me personally in my own leadership, visioning, strategy, and as a thought leader. I will be connected with as many targeted funders and friends as the Foundation will muster. The goal is to help each of us scale our work up to the next level.”

Hindman Settlement School

Dr. Hutchinson was named the seventh Executive Director of Hindman Settlement School in Hindman, Kentucky, in 2012. The school was founded in 1902 as the first rural settlement school in the United States to specifically addresses the lack of education among the youth of Appalachian Kentucky. Within just decades, Hindman became the leading educator in the region and established a residential high school that taught artisan and agricultural skills. Over a century later, Hindman Settlement School continues to provide community enrichment and social services through three distinct educational programs that seek to take the best of the local Appalachian heritage and make a brighter tomorrow for future generations.

Since the 1970s, Hindman’s dyslexia program has been working with children and their families and providing training for the tutors and teachers who serve them.

“Hindman Settlement School’s pioneering community-based dyslexia education program has gained national attention and now exists in various forms, primarily through a public-private partnership with the local school system as well as in a residential summer tutoring program,” says Dr. Hutchinson.

Hindman’s heritage program seeks to preserve the uniqueness of Central Appalachian history and culture by providing the community with educational workshops in the literary, craft, and Appalachian folk music and dance traditions. “The Appalachian Family Folk Week and Appalachian Writers’ Workshop are in their 42nd year and lead the way among workshops for adults from across the country to come and learn in Hindman, the seedbed of the Appalachian literary tradition.”

Hindman’s Foodways program also provides agricultural education and hands-on training for the community by modeling market-oriented farming in a predominantly subsistence region of Appalachia through a campus farm-share program and cannery and by serving as a co-sponsor of a local farmers market. In coming years, it hopes to offer a farmer internship program as well. The Settlement’s agriculture system begun in 2014 is valued today at nearly $1 million and is in its fifth year of recognition as a Grow Appalachia site.

Ph.D. in Leadership Studies

Reflecting on his doctoral education at DBU, Dr. Hutchinson describes it as being the “perfect fit.” While taking a Ph.D. course and in discussions with Dr. Jim Denison, adjunct faculty member and Senior Fellow for Global Studies of DBU’s Institute for Global Engagement, Dr. Hutchinson was introduced to the leadership concept of “faithful presence,” the subject of James Davison Hunter’s book To Change the World.

“In fact, what I learned and encountered in the program was really the impetus God used to move me from serving in a local Tennessee church, which I dearly loved, to relocate to eastern Kentucky where I grew up to serve in a community where I could be a part of social change and instilling the promise of human flourishing right in place.”

Not only did the Lord use DBU to redirect Dr. Hutchinson’s Kingdom calling in a new direction, but also the subject of his dissertation, “The Leader of Faithful Presence and the Challenge of Culture Change in the New Appalachia,” has been impactful in equipping him to lead Hindman Settlement School in its mission of “celebrating heritage and changing lives.”

Brent is married to his college sweetheart, Gwen, and they have two sons, Adam and Miles.

Written by Dr. Michael Whiting

Dr. Michael Whiting is Assistant Professor of Christian History and Leadership at Dallas Baptist University.

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