The Honors Institute staff and faculty are here to support you in your endeavors. Through one-on-one mentoring by faculty members, GCU challenges you to pursue extra-curricular activities such as study abroad, internships, mission trips and service learning projects. Faculty mentors are dedicated to specific sections in the honors courses.
Here are a few profiles of our distinguished honors faculty. Learn what makes them unique and find inspiration in their academic journeys and adventures.
Dr. David Dean
My academic journey began in 1983. After working for a number of years in engineering and construction, I returned to school to pursue my first passion: history. I received my Master's and Ph.D. in History and Public History from Arizona State University.
After receiving my Ph.D., I completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the United States Military Academy at West Point in 2009. I have also been an active public historian working on a variety of historic preservation and public humanities projects in Arizona, including two in-depth community studies, African Americans in Phoenix (1870-1970) and Hispanic Community in Phoenix Historic Property Survey.
I enjoy reading, music and war games. I also enjoy traveling with my wonderful wife of 20 years. We have been to Hawaii, Mexico, the Virgin Islands, Europe
I am enthusiastic about the Honors program at Grand Canyon University. I want students to feel a connection between their learning and their personal growth that inspires them to do great things. I strongly believe in mentoring students and helping them reach beyond what they could ever imagine. I feel the work we do as faculty provides the means that are instrumental in our student's future good.
"The power of a man, to take it universally, is his present means, to obtain some future good; and is either original or instrumental." -Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan 1651
Dr. James Helfers
I majored in Philosophy as an undergraduate at Wheaton College, although my real passion was writing (and to be honest, reading anything I could get my hands on). During my time at Wheaton, I helped edit the college’s creative writing anthology and worked on the student newspaper as a writer, editor and photographer. Living in San Francisco just after graduation, I became a technical writer at Pacific Gas and Electric Company before deciding on academics as a career.
During my time at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where I received my Master’s and Ph.D. degrees, I became interested in humor, satire and travel writing. Studying the travel writer and satirist, Evelyn Waugh for my master’s degree work, I was drawn to travel writing. In other classes, I became interested in Renaissance English Christian poets.
My academic interests are wide-ranging: as a doctoral student, I taught in an alternative education program at the University of Michigan, the New England Literature Program (NELP). This program combined living in community and wilderness experiences with the study of literature.
My experience with computers at the Pacific Gas and Electric Company gave me an understanding of how computers can be used in literary study and during the 1990s I became involved in discussions of Shakespeare and computers (specifically the use of computers to attribute authorship of texts).
My undergraduate experience allowed me to see that a person doesn’t have to shut off his or her mind to be a Christian. Dr. Arthur Holmes, a philosophy professor at Wheaton College, famously quoted this line, which has become my motto: “All truth is God’s truth, wherever it may be found.” It was the example of my undergraduate professors that helped propel me into Christian college teaching and into critical thinking in the first place. I hope to model that same crucial mindset to GCU’s Honors Institute students.
Dr. James Merrick
I received my bachelor's degree in marketing from Taylor University in Indiana. I have a Master of Arts in Christian Thought and a Master of Theology in Church History from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Illinois. I also have a Ph.D. in Divinity from the University of Aberdeen, Kings College in Scotland.
I hope to cultivate in students an excitement and vision for the place of religious belief in modern society in general and more particularly, for the Christian understanding of God, the nature of human personhood and the true nature of power as sacrificial service, all revealed in Jesus Christ.
My professional interest is in Christian theology and ethics. These excite me because I think Christianity offers a compelling account of the deepest, most mysterious truths of existence.
In a world that baptizes greed and cherishes rugged individualism, Christianity offers us an account of the world as created in selfless grace and sustained by an act of sacrificial love, challenging us to move out of selfishness to selflessness.
In my spare time, I mainly read and enjoy music, but when I find time I like to hike and snowboard. One quote to which I find myself frequently returning is "letting suffering speak is a condition of all truth" by Theodore Adorno. For me, it is a way of representing the Christian commitment to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15), to live peaceably with all and to associate with the lowly (Rom. 12:16).
Dr. Jennifer Santos
As someone who holds a Ph.D. in English, you may expect that I love reading and writing – and I do. But what really fascinates me - what compelled me to leave technical writing and pursue a Ph.D. are the ways in which different audiences respond to texts and the ways in which groups of writers work together to create texts.
I specialized in Romantic-era literature to explore the history of these ideas because these authors wrote in communities and took an interest in blurring the boundaries of “high” literature and “popular” literature. In short, I seek to reconstruct connections, taking pleasure in finding unifications in literature and in life.
To this end, I published while in graduate school, articles that proposed ways in which student response to divisions in interpretation and approach could be used to enrich learning. Today, my academic interests continue to revolve around a notion of audience awareness and bridge building.
Outside of academia, these same themes permeate my life: “There are things known and things unknown, and in between are doors.” The key, I suspect, has to do with selecting appropriate doors.
I find myself drawn to this quote because of its emphasis on choice: love and belief, knowing and learning, hate and fear – these are choices. I hope my students will collaborate to learn to value the known and unknown, recognize the doors in between and perhaps even discover new doors.