International professors share their experiences, BJU journey

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International professors share their experiences, BJU journey

Dr. Miriam Patterson is a professor Spanish at BJU, Greenville SC, November 12, 2019

With over 40 countries represented in the student body, Bob Jones University has not just students but also professors from all over the world living, learning and loving here on campus. 

Dr. Vincenzo Antignani, a faculty member in the Division of Natural Science, came to the U.S. from Naples, Italy, and has been teaching at BJU for seven years.  He attended the University of Naples, and during his doctoral degree studies he began looking for a lab in the U.S. where he could expand his studies. He first worked and studied at Virginia Tech. After returning to Italy to defend his dissertation, he finished his studies at Virginia Tech.

He then worked in a postdoctoral position at the University of Michigan.  After two years there, Antignani started looking for a new position that would allow him to teach and research. That led him to apply at BJU.

One of the things Antignani enjoys about BJU is the connections and interactions he can have with his students. He encourages students to take advantage of the diversity of the campus and get to know as many people from other countries as possible.  “Come out of your own bubble,” Antignani said. “Try to make friends at BJU who come from as many different backgrounds [as possible]. That’s part of your growth; that’s part of your experience.”

Getting to know other international students and adjusting to different cultures is something Dr. Miriam Patterson knows well. Originally from Mexico, Patterson came to BJU as an international student. Despite her doubts and the fact that she was already a year into her schooling at the Universidad Autónoma de Tamaulipas in Mexico, Patterson applied to BJU and was very quickly accepted. 

But she was not sure what she wanted to study when she came to BJU and that, coupled with the struggles of adjusting to a new culture and learning a new language, caused overwhelming frustrations. But through it all, Patterson saw God provide.  “It was a lot of pressure, but it was a lot of faith too,” she said. “I started seeing more and more God’s presence and guidance.”

After working as a paralegal assistant at a law firm in Florida, Patterson switched to working at a Christian school and fell in love with teaching.

Returning to BJU to receive a master’s degree in education, she worked as a graduate assistant teaching Spanish. She planned to accept a teaching position at the Universidad Cristiana de Las Américas of Mexico, but then BJU offered her a position teaching Spanish. 

After much discussion with her husband and another friend, Patterson accepted the teaching position at BJU. A desire to teach or help expand departments is what brought many professors to BJU. Dr. Wencong Lai, a faculty member of the Division of Natural Science, came to the U.S. to earn his PhD in civil engineering at Clemson University. 

After working at the University of Wyoming and then at Clemson, he discovered BJU was looking to hire a mechanical engineering professor.  Despite his background being in civil engineering, Lai decided to apply for the job. 

He was one of two professors hired at that time, and BJU’s engineering department expanded to include both mechanical and civil engineering. Lai enjoys seeing students grow in their knowledge and experiences as they study in his classes.  He encourages all his students to step out of their comfort zone and explore as many things as possible.