Rick Olsen

I will arrive at Heaven’s Gate weary, wounded and having failed my ultimate mission to become like Christ. Yet I will be overwhelmed and overjoyed and fully accepted as a child of God. That is the miracle of the cross and a truth I hold dear. There is an old spiritual that says “I’m not what I ought to be, but I ain’t what I used to be!” and that is a central theme in my testimony. My childhood was impacted by divorce and alcoholism. My father (who eventually came to Christ) was largely absent from my life except for 1-2 visits a year. My mother worked hard as a factory worker. She eventually found Christ while in recovery in AA. She began going to church and dragged me along. We were poor. The only summer camp we could afford was the church camp since they would let me go for free. It was a chance to get away from mom, so I took it. It was there I accepted Jesus. There was something about the peace and humor of the counselors. Bob, who also led worship at our home church, became a key mentor in my life as I opened scriptures and started my journey. My adult journey has been full of seasons of flow and seasons of drought. I have never felt more accepted--and never been more hurt--by Christians. Such is the challenge of an imperfect community serving a perfect God. But I think that is why Jesus came to restore relationships. True restoration and true community can be harder than simply working on “no swearing, no porn, no ___” checklists. I am still in progress. I too have been the source of comfort and the source of pain for loved ones in my life. What I love about Christ and Christianity is the unfolding nature of the walk of faith. We become our best by seeking to be least. We grow closer to God by sharing our worst stuff with Him. The paradoxes of faith are fascinating and draw me in. “How can this be?!!?” And yet it is.

My Life

Favorite Quote

"There are two ways to slice easily through life; to believe everything or to doubt everything. Both ways save us from thinking." Alfred Korzybski

Friends describe me

Intense, witty, pragmatic, soulful.

My hobbies

Basketball, making music with my bandmates, archery, darts, trail riding . . . I like to stay active!

Fantasy dinner guests

First, my criteria: faith, humor, appreciation for good food and wine. C.S. Lewis, Steven Colbert, my best friend Bill and he'll want Bono.

Best advice I ever received

For college; treat it like a 40 hour work week and get stuff done between classes. Don't go back to your dorm room until you're done with the day. For life: Our God is a God of process. Trust His work in you and in others.

My undergrad alma mater


My worst subject in school

French and Math. Barely passed both.

In college I drove

My bike! Sold my car to meet expenses.

If I weren't a professor, I would

Real: Probably talent development in HR. Dream: Bamboo entrepreneur.

Favorite books

How the Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work. Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith.

Favorite movies

Generally don't watch a movie more than once. But The Princess Bride is up there.

Favorite city

Any that are certified as Slow Cities by Cittaslow.

Favorite coffee

Dark roasted with sweet cream and raw sugar.

Nobody knows I

Spent a year as a shepherd at a friends/mentors farm in Vermont. Slept in the barn during lambing . . . in November . . . in Vermont. Cold.

My latest accomplishment

Made a large board with over 1,000 wine corks (not all mine!) for behind my dart board. Nice conversation piece in the garage.

Current Research

I continue to work on projects at the intersection of popular culture, rhetoric and values/faith. I also do research on academic leadership. I have a theoretical piece on the "narrative paradigm." The original author (Walter Fisher) argues we are narrative beings. I use the story of Joseph to show why the debut of his theory was so controversial to other scholars (kind of like Joseph's brothers!). I'm also working on a practical piece for teachers on how to design better curriculum and courses.