Introducing the New Chair of Humanities and Theology 

by Kristen Lavan

Steve Kramp has been hired by JPCatholic as the new Chair of Humanities and Theology. Today he formally introduced himself to students and faculty and shared his personal testimony and vision for the future of the Humanities program.

Steve Kramp is a teacher who specializes in creative writing and theology. He will begin his position at the end of June, just as Summer Quarter begins. Upon introducing Kramp, Dr. Connolly said, “JPCatholic is a collection of creative people. So, as we hire new theologians, I’m looking for that blend of an artist at heart who is also a theologian because I think that meshes with what the community is all about. So, Steve…in his heart he’s an artist, but he is a theologian.”

Kramp connected with the audience by telling the story of when he realized he was “weird” and different from others. He said, “I don’t know if when any of you were young you started to feel a little bit weird. Like ‘maybe I’m not exactly like other people.'” He credits this feeling to his artistic side, “When I was young I used to write stories and my teacher would let me read them to the class, but then it was in high school that I began to realize that this is actually weird…and I had to be willing to be weird. So, I say all that because that was the first step in really becoming an artist myself. In understanding that an artist is not like everyone else.”  His main passion is for creative writing, specifically poetry. “There is something about poetry—the intensity and weirdness of it…”

During Kramp’s undergrad, he lost his faith. “I rebelled against that [religion]. I’ve always had a little bit of a rebel in me. There was this part of me that was really attracted to this getting away from the faith, the stability…I thought life would be a little more exciting [in college].” He was disconnected from religion for about 15 years. “I look back at that and it was tragic…I received some weird encouragement from some people, or some people downplayed the importance of the Church, but it was also on me.”

At age 22, he decided to attend the University of Iowa for his MA in Creative Writing. He made a decision to focus on “trying to make beautiful stuff,” over finding a job. He said, “My stuff was weird, because I was writing these weird kind of punk band lyrics, but they saw the poetry in it. So, I got into this really, really excellent Creative Writing program. While I was there, I had no idea what I was doing, but I knew it was part of continuing to embrace who I truly was.”

He then taught in the writing department at UC Merced. While he was there, he was engaged to be married. He said, “While I was falling in love with her, she was actually in the process of converting, and you can imagine that stirred up all sorts of things for me…This woman I’m actually in love with is a Christian. What does that mean for me?’” She became a Christian, and her dedication and sharing helped to bring him back to the faith.

Kramp followed where God led, which was UC Merced, Franciscan University, serving youth ministry near Seattle, a high school in San Marcos, and now here. While working in San Marcos, he became familiar with JPCatholic. He had attended a few events and was impressed by the community of the school. Kramp remarked on how unique the school is, saying, “I just love being part of a community. I’m excited that you guys have all found one here that’s so amazing because most schools don’t have this, right? When the position opened up, I was just really elated.”

Kramp does not have any immediate plans to change the core of the Humanities program. He encourages feedback from students. “I would say if it is a change that needs to happen, and certainly if the faculty is on board with it, I would expect there would be some minor shifting going on at least…if things need to change, then of course. Yeah, let’s go and change them…But I would hope that there will be a lot of back-and-forth about it– a lot of communication. I like talking to people…hearing ideas. I certainly don’t have every answer myself, so I would much rather hear what other people think and then respond the best I can.”

One student asked if an emphasis in musical theater would be an option. He responded, “Why not? Why in the world not? That sounds fantastic.” Connolly added, “That’s my answer, too.” Kramp said that if there is an interest for it, then he is willing to pursue it.  Connolly added that the school wants to begin “building flexibility into the program,” especially regarding the core classes. “When Steve comes on board, the whole month of July is going to be all these kinds of conversations in terms of what intersections make sense and are of interest to faculty and students at JPCatholic.”

Connolly and Kramp both encourage students to prepare ideas and express interests to share during the month of July while these decisions are being made. “I just want you to know that I’m here to serve you. I’m here to help build up this program, and really just here to listen to you all and also respond to whatever you need so that I can guide you along your own path.”

Steve concluded, “I’m just really excited to be building up and kind of revamping the Humanities program. I know that the philosophy and theology emphasis have been downplayed…We are going to be bringing that back next year…teaching theology to creative young people and business innovators.”