When Joshua Welch came to the University of Michigan in 2018 to be an assistant professor at the medical school, he looked around campus for a Christian study center. Welch had spent hours working at one near campus while getting his doctorate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
“It was a group of Christians who were encouraging one another in academic pursuits, which was not something I had experienced in Christian circles much,” he says.
Around the same time, Rick Ostrander, ’90, was interested in the growing movement of Christian study centers around college campuses. The facilities give a place for students, faculty, and staff to study, socialize, and hold small-group meetings.
Ostrander, who has spent most of his career working with faith-based higher education schools, eventually connected with Welch and the Michigan Christian Study Center was born in the fall of 2022. Ostrander serves as the executive director and Welch is the faculty sponsor.
Located at 611 E. William Street, the facility is housed inside the former home of Redeemer Ann Arbor church. The location is just off State Street, next to Central Campus and is near classrooms and dorms.
The center has offered open study hours, free coffee, monthly seminars where faculty discuss how faith influences their work, and Friday lunch discussion groups where students and faculty can chat with one another. The study center plans to host discussions with secular groups and those from other faiths as well.
Ostrander and Welch emphasize that despite the name, the facility is open to everyone.
“We’re a Christian study center, but we want to welcome anyone who comes through the doors,” Welch says.
Ostrander says one important feature of the study center is the commitment to the well-being of the University.
“Every study center has emerged organically from alums basically,” he says. “It’s people who really love their school, and are Christians, and they want to see their university become even a better version of itself because the study center is there.”
Ostrander says they did significant outreach to Christian groups on campus.
“Our goal is to connect the dots to the things that are already here rather than reinventing anything,” he says. “We have a physical space where they can find community. Our goal is to be as collaborative as possible.”
Welch says there is a desire for students and staff to make connections outside of academics.
“You can go anywhere to study. You can study in the library, your dorm room,” he says. “But if you come here to study, you are much more likely to connect with people on a non-academic basis. And I think that’s something we really want to strive for. We want to help students cultivate wholeness in their whole lives.”
Jeremy Carroll is the content strategist for the Alumni Association of the University of Michigan.