Biola Welcomes New Faculty for Fall 2016

From the Pauline concept of faith to biomedically-based exercise physiology, Biola’s new faculty bring a diverse set of experience to the classroom

Aug. 26, 2016 By Jenna Loumagne

Biola University welcomes 15 new faculty members this fall — each of whom represent the university’s aspiration to attract and retain the finest Christian scholars. The new professors vary in interest and expertise from the Old Testament to psychology to audiology.

Learn about Biola’s new faculty below and read their thoughts on the value of Christian higher education and the significance of a strong foundation in their specific fields.

Rosemead School of Psychology

Cayla Bland

Director of Applied Psychology

Dr. Cayla Bland comes to Biola from MidAmerica Nazarene University in the Kansas City area, where she was an associate professor of counseling. She received her master’s degree in Clinical Psychology from Wheaton College and her doctorate in counselor education and supervision from Regent University. Bland has 20 years of teaching experience in Christian higher education with undergraduate, graduate, and online students. During her time at MidAmerica she helped develop a master’s degree in Counseling including Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs professional accreditation. She held positions of Director of Training and Marriage, Couple, and Family Track Coordinator. Her current clinical interests include couple and family therapy, and clinical supervision. Her current research interests include counselor development and supervision, clinician self-care, online education and the integration of faith and psychology.


“I have had the privilege of attending Christian universities for my undergraduate, master’s, and doctorate level education and to teach and work in Christian higher education for the past 20 years. I have valued the ability to talk openly with students about the integration of faith and the field of psychology. Both theology and psychology have much to say about the problems of pain in the world. In fact, psychology courses examine many difficult issues such as mental illness, trauma, child and domestic abuse, addictions, relationship challenges, grief and loss, etc., all of which can challenge a person’s faith. I strongly encourage students to expand their view of themselves, others, and the world by developing a greater respect and sensitivity to diversity issues, while holding fast to their Christian faith. This must be modeled, shared, and encouraged by the professors who teach them. The beauty of Christian higher education is that together we can journey toward greater humility, grace, mercy and compassion for ourselves and others with Christ as our example. I’m thrilled to continue this sacred work with students at Biola University.”

Cook School of Intercultural Studies

Jamie Sanchez

Assistant Professor

Dr. Jamie Sanchez lived in China for more than eight years working for a business consulting firm and co-establishing an educational training center that specialized in English language and cultural training. In addition, she coordinated academic personnel and business professionals to work in China and established partnerships between Chinese universities and international university groups and organizations. Sanchez holds a bachelor’s degree of business administration from New Mexico State University, a master’s degree from Union University, a master’s of divinity from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, and a doctorate from Virginia Tech.

“Christian education equips students to creatively and intentionally understand and engage people from a diversity of cultural backgrounds. Interdisciplinary pedagogy that weaves together subject material and theory with theological truths enhances the educational experience and equips students for an academic understanding that is undergirded with humility and appreciation. Additionally, worldviews, histories, and cultural perspectives are all better understood through the lens of Jesus Christ and his deep love for all people.”


Crowell School of Business

Lydia Knopf

Assistant Professor


Dr. Lydia Knopf has served Biola University for 29 years. She launched School and Church Relations, which became Community Programs and Services and then Biola Youth, an organization providing a myriad of services, including Biola Youth Theatre, Biola Youth Academics, Star Academics, Torrey Academy, Ministry Outreach, and youth athletics. Most recently she served as Director of Biola Youth Academics expanding services to include Biola University K–12 Private School Satellite Program, Elementary Academics, online education, electives, and much more. During that time she earned her Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership with a major in Entrepreneurial Leadership from Regent University. Dr. Knopf’s research interests include organizational behavior, culture, identity, commitment, and change, transformational, authentic, spiritual, charismatic, servant, steward, and ethical leadership, entrepreneurship, Romans, 12 motivational gifts, and calling.


Talbot School of Theology

Jeanette Hagen

Assistant Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies

Dr. Jeanette Hagen has served in a variety of ministry capacities including evangelistic and humanitarian work with orphans in the former Soviet Union, helping to facilitate for theological and ministry training around the world, and serving in a church plant in Whittier, Calif. She completed her doctorate, studying under professor John Barclay at Durham University. Her research focused on the Pauline concept of faith. Hagen has presented academic papers at a number of conferences in the United States and in Europe. She has also contributed to the Lightfoot Legacy, a three volume set of previously unpublished commentaries by J.B. Lightfoot, a foremost English New Testament scholar of the 19th century. Prior to coming to Biola, Hagen taught at Cranmer Hall in Durham England, a theological college focused on training individuals called to full-time Christian service.

I am so grateful to be able to teach at Biola University, and am in wholehearted agreement with its mission of "biblically-centered" education, scholarship and service. In a Christian university, the goal is not simply to acquire vast amounts of knowledge; the holistic transformation of the student is our aim. A great education can be had at many universities, but an education that is focused on integrating biblical truth and Christian thought is a unique gift we can offer our students. As our students pursue a variety of fields of study, we endeavor to saturate minds with truth, cultivate hearts with love for God and neighbor, and motivate wills to serve the Lord with passion.”

J. Michael Thigpen

Associate Professor of Old Testament and Semitics

Dr. J. Michael Thigpen enjoys teaching and writing on a wide variety of topics in the Old Testament. His special areas of interest are prophetic literature, God’s motives, and the theology of work and economics in the Old Testament. Thigpen currently serves as the Executive Director of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS). Prior to his appointment as Executive Director in 2009, he taught Old Testament and Hebrew at the undergraduate level. Thigpen has extensive pastoral experience, having served most recently as pastor at the J-Town campus of Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, Kentucky. He is the author of Divine Motive in the Old Testament: A Comprehensive Survey and Analysis and the iVocab series of language aids for Hebrew, Greek, and Syriac. In addition to his work with Talbot and ETS, Thigpen serves as Lecturer at Munster Bible College in Cork, Ireland.

“Through its emphasis on the integration of faith and learning, Christian higher education can help students identify and reject the illusory sacred / secular divide. This in turn will equip them to impact the world for Christ in every sphere of life as nothing they do falls outside his Lordship. This foundational truth, often first encountered in Christian higher education, brings a vitality, dignity, and purpose to work and vocation which is desperately needed.”


Markus Zehnder

Professor of Old Testament and Semitics


Dr. Markus Zehnder grew up in Switzerland and is an ordained minister of the 

Reformed Church of Switzerland. After the completion of his doctorate at University of Basel where he also completed his master’s degree in divinity, he moved to Jerusalem and then to Boston for postdoctoral studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and at Harvard University. He has held teaching positions in Switzerland, Germany, Norway, and Belgium. He has a passion to connect the Bible both with personal and societal issues. Questions relating to migration and issues related to violence in the Bible top the list of his research interests.

“I am strongly persuaded that our Christian faith has to permeate every aspect of life — including the domain of sciences and all other academic disciplines — because God is the creator of all and everything and because He owns the world. The fact that God is the ruler and the creator of the whole world and the fact that Jesus Christ came to redeem the whole world is a commission to shape this world according to God’s design as much as we can, in all areas of life. In every profession there is a possibility to make a contribution to this all-encompassing task. How is it possible to reach the goal of a broad and true knowledge in every domain? Generally speaking, education is expected to be free of any ideological biases. Since it is God who created the reality of this world as well as the means to perceive and understand it, there is no reason to be afraid of studying any subject with open eyes and to apply scientific methods to widen our knowledge of this world and also of God. However, not every method that is labeled ‘scientific’ actually deserves this name. This is especially true for all approaches that apriori exclude God’s possible existence, perceptability or ability to interfere.”

School of Science, Technology, and Health

Paul Ferguson

Dean, School of Science, Technology and Health

A Southern California native, Paul Ferguson has enjoyed a 30-year career in public higher education as a professor in the field of toxicology/public health and as a university administrator. Prior to coming to Biola University in 2016, Ferguson served in leadership roles at five universities including as President of Ball State University (2014-2016), President of the University of Maine (2011-2014), Provost and Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (2006-2011), Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies at the University of Nevada Las Vegas (1999-2006), and Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies and Research at the University of Louisiana, Monroe (1993-1999). Learn more about Paul Ferguson.


Jessica Lu

Assistant Professor

Jessica is an assistant professor of analytical chemistry in the Chemistry, Physics and Engineering Department. A native of Southern California, she completed her bachelor’s degree in Chemistry at U.C. Berkeley, and then moved to Virginia Tech to finish her doctorate. Her research interests are to study the chemical and physical properties of organic compounds in the environment, building from a molecular-level picture and extending to surfaces and microdroplets. Her dissertation, "Dynamics of Atmospherically Important Triatomics in Collisions with Model Organic Surfaces," describes how CO2, NO2, and O3 interact with organic surfaces composed of a single layer of molecules. Most recently, she finished a postdoc at ETH Zurich, and is excited to be a part of the new School of Science, Health, and Technology.

“Christian higher education is absolutely invaluable. We need educational institutions where young men and women are trained, not only to be excellent in their disciplines, but also to be rooted in the Word of Christ, for the sake of Christ. A friend recently reminded me: ‘Many of the great schools in the United States (Yale, Harvard, Princeton, essentially Ivy League schools) started out as blatantly Christian institutions which drifted over the years away from their initial mission.’ While this provides a sobering reminder of what we would lose if we drift away from Christ, we are encouraged that - when we honor God with what He has gifted us - our talents, abilities, and intellect - He will build us up and establish us for his purposes.”



Grace Lew

Associate Professor

Grace Lew has thirty years of experience in the technology industry. She was project manager and consultant for a global enterprise business systems and database company, working all over the world in a broad spectrum of industries on all phases of the end-to-end project lifecycle. Prior to that she has worked in several companies as a software engineer.

“In a culture with increasingly contrasting views, it is important to have a Christian university like Biola in which solid biblical truth is not only taught but lived out. Building that strong Christian foundation enables students to become lights wherever their futures may take them. This is especially needed in the computer science industry, since technology permeates so many areas. What an exciting prospect to be equipping the next generation to make a difference in this vast field!”

Lori J. Newport

Associate Professor

Dr. Lori Newport has practiced audiology clinically at La Palma Intercommunity Hospital and in a private practice in California. She performed diagnostics for hearing for patients of all ages from the NICU to nursing homes as well as assessing balance function in adults. Newport fit and evaluated patients with hearing aids. She began teaching adjunct at Biola University in 1996 and found it was her passion to share her knowledge with future audiologists and speech language pathologists. She also taught audiometry online to school nurses for California State University, San Bernardino. Newport has worked with Biola's event staff as they developed a policy to protect the hearing of staff and students at various loud events at Biola.

“The world needs Jesus. It is our privilege at Biola and universities like ours, to instill in our students a love of Jesus so they can love and serve others. Students attending a Christian university benefit from an institution of higher learning that weaves the Christian viewpoint into teaching. To be a benefit to the student and ultimately to the society in which they live and work, a Christian university must be competitive on a scholarly level with secular schools. Therefore, a high standard must be placed on the curriculum, pedagogy, and research. All truth belongs to God. He is the ultimate authority of all theories and principles taught. Because of this, God is glorified in classrooms across the university as we impart knowledge to our students and engage them in critical thinking. Most importantly, Jesus taught us to love one another sacrificially. As this is practiced in the day to day operation of the university, in and out of classrooms, students’ lives are being transformed. Students taught so, with knowledge and rigor, in truth and love, graduate from a university such as Biola equipped to impact their world for the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Deborah O’Dell

Assistant Professor

Deborah O’Dell graduated from the nursing program at Biola in 1980 and worked for four years in a hospital before going to Japan as a church-planting missionary for 17 years. In 2001, she and her husband returned to California to work with Japanese students on college campuses and in 2006, O’Dell returned to the nursing workforce. She worked for 10 years at a community hospital and her last position there was in administration. She received her master’s degree in nursing with an emphasis in leadership in health care systems from Grand Canyon University in May 2016.

“As a nurse, I am legally required to do ‘Spiritual Care’ with my patients. For most nurses, that means only asking, ‘Do you have any spiritual needs?’ or ‘What religion are you?’ and nothing more. When nurses are trained at a Christian university — specifically Biola — they are taught deeper spiritual care and are required to put it into practice during their clinical training. They learn to pray with their patients, talk with dying patients about their readiness to die, and are comfortable talking about God with their patients. That is the difference a Christian university can make in the Nursing profession.”

Brent Peterson

Assistant Professor

Dr. Brent Peterson is a native Southern Californian. Peterson completed his bachelor’s degree in exercise and sport science at Concordia University, Irvine (2004) while on a track and field and academic scholarship. In 2006, Peterson started his first master’s degree at California State University, Fullerton in kinesiology. Peterson then, in pursuit of multiple doctoral granting institutions, felt the Lord's leading to Greeley, Colo. to complete a biomedically-based Exercise Physiology doctorate program (2015) and work under Dr. Carole Schneider and Dr. Reid Hayward at the only Cancer Rehabilitation Institute (UNCCRI) in the nation at that time. During Peterson's doctoral journey his mentor Carole Schneider passed away from cancer, which led him to complete a second master’s degree at the University of Colorado Denver at the Colorado School of Public Health. Peterson has taught at the undergraduate level since 2008 as a TA/GA, but was teaching as an adjunct instructor since 2012. While in Colorado, Peterson also conducted research, wrote grants to support multiple research initiatives, and presented/published research.

“Having a varied background from secular and non-secular institutions, the significance of Christ-centered higher education is so desperately needed to help Christian leaders influence this field. Contrary to popular belief about my main field of study not being a "hard science", as a physiologist I have spent all of my doctoral education taking biological, statistical, biochemistry, and physiological courses while conducting both animal and human research under the title of Exercise Physiology. The challenge is that the sciences are inundated with atheistic or agnostic beliefs and, although, the schools that I have studied at were not physically hostile, they were definitely intellectually hostile. It’s almost appeared from behavior I observed that as a scientist, when you accept and follow Jesus that you have just thrown out your credibility as a scientist, scholar, and researcher. This factor is precisely why we need to train, empower, and encourage young, brilliant, and capable minds in the Science, Technology, and Health fields. We need to not only influence our students who are going to go out and be professionals in their respective disciplines working with the general population, but to also equip believers who plan on going into the academy where they will then be able to be a light to their colleagues and have an influence on fellow scientists who do not know Jesus.”

Colleen Sanchez

Assistant Professor

Upon graduation from Biola, Colleen Sanchez worked as a nurse in the Biola Student Health Center caring for sick and injured students and staff members. For the past 16 years, she was employed at a local hospital where she worked in medical/surgical, critical care, and education, in addition to being a house supervisor. Her joy is in teaching and she has mentored students, as well as new graduates in nursing who came through the hospital. Now, her focus is on the next generation of Biola nursing students equipping them with the knowledge and skills to care for the growing population of those in need.  

“Christian nurses learn to care for people holistically - incorporating the mind, body, and spirit into healing. A Christian nurse learns to respect the culture and beliefs of others and still integrate their faith into their practice. They can provide spiritual care by praying for or with his or her patients even if they do not share the same faith. Simply showing patience, kindness, sympathy, or understanding to those experiencing loss, pain, or anxiety are ways a nurse can apply Christianity to the profession. They can reassure patients that they will receive quality care by prioritizing the individual as a person and not just a function of society. Christian nursing leaders are needed now more than ever to ensure that our values are included in government decisions regarding healthcare regulations.”


Written by Jenna Loumagne, media relations specialist. For more information, contact Jenna at 562.777.4061 or



  • Dean Bell Aug. 30, 2016 at 7:43 PM

    Welcome new faculty! I am praying for you as you teach and influence Biola students.

  • Joe Eash Sep. 13, 2016 at 9:21 AM

    Thank you for the information and for the personal comments. I am excited about the future of BIOLA!

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