At the beginning of 1990, InterVarsity’s New York/New Jersey region hosted a Marketplace conference at the Windows on the World restaurant on the 107th floor of the World Trade Center. Surveying the 350 students attending, who were anxious to learn more about how to follow God in their chosen careers, and looking out over the New York City skyline, Bobby Gross eagerly anticipated beginning his new appointment as regional director.
“I wanted to live in a city and wanted to be a part of what God was doing,” he said. “The Marketplace conference represented something that I was eager to continue, getting students to think about how to be part of Christ’s renewing presence in the city.”
Bobby’s 13-year tenure as the New York/New Jersey regional director was the longest time he has held one position in his 32-year career with InterVarsity. His career path includes stops as a campus staff worker at the University of Florida, chapter planter and then area director in south Florida, and most recently a national field director based in Atlanta. As of July 1, 2009, Bobby became the director of InterVarsity’s Graduate and Faculty Ministry (GFM), succeeding Cam Anderson.
GFM’s Unique Challenges
InterVarsity invested more and more resources in ministry to graduate students during the 1990s. For three of those years Bobby had the additional job of acting director for the staff working with graduate students at Columbia University and developed a better understanding of how working with graduate students and faculty is different than working with undergrad students.
“Our staff who are working with undergrad students are investing in men and women who are in a preparatory period,” he said. “Working with graduate students, particularly those who are past the two-year Masters degree program, is working with people who are already on their vocational path, already immersed in their vocationa.”
Even though the transition from national field director to GFM director is almost a lateral move, Bobby is excited about his new position. “Some of the things that I’m most passionate about can be summed up by the phrases whole life discipleship, vocational stewardship, integration of faith and learning, the life of the mind, and the renewal of the University. Those passions are at the forefront of the GFM vision and ministry,” he said.
Building on a Strong Foundation
Although InterVarsity’s specialized focus on graduate students and faculty has two decades of history, it has only had six years as its own entity within Collegiate Ministries. Bobby is eagerly anticipating of building on the foundation established by earlier leaders Cam Anderson and Randy Bare.
“I come into GFM at a key point in its history as a movement within InterVarsity,” he said. “Tremendous progress has been made under Cam Anderson and his team over the last six years, but we need to complete that basic work of getting a full-fledged structure in place.”
Bobby sees InterVarsity’s vision for renewing the campus most strongly reflected in the work of GFM’s Faculty Ministry and the Emerging Scholars Network. But he sees potential for an even stronger emphasis across the fellowship.
“We should all have an eye for those men and women students who have potential to be faculty, and scholars, and university administrators, and raise a strong and compelling call to them to serve Christ in that sphere, because that’s our sphere,” he said. “We want to see all of InterVarsity have a vision for increasing numbers of men and women being a part of universities across the country. That’s critical to renewing the campus. It should be clear that we’re particularly passionate about sending people into the university world.”
Connecting GFM and the Rest of InterVarsity
Jim Lundgren, InterVarsity’s senior vice president and director of Collegiate Ministries, is Bobby’s supervisor. “There is a great connection between Bobby’s core values and the core values of the GFM vision,” he said. “His broad experience in the field prepares him well to strengthen connections between GFM and the rest of InterVarsity. His spiritual maturity and servant leadership perspective will serve GFM well.”
During his 13 years as regional director in New York/New Jersey the number of students involved and the number of staff doubled. “I built on a strong foundation,” he said. “I inherited a healthy region.” Now he has a new foundation to build on, and he’s ready to go to work.