Veritas Academy: Faith, Learning, & Making the Most of College

A Retreat for Wash U Incoming Freshmen and Rising Sophomores: July 27-30, 2018

Hosted by the Kairos journal of Christian thought at Wash U

Veritas Academy is a three-day residential experience for incoming Wash U freshmen and rising sophomores, held July 27-30 on the Washington University Campus in St. Louis. Led by Christian faculty, upperclassmen, alumni, and campus ministers, this experience helps students ask the big questions, design a meaningful college experience, learn practical tips, and build a faith community among peers. The curriculum draws upon The Veritas Forum’s 25 years of experience engaging faith and inquiry on America’s leading campuses.

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John Hendrix, Associate Professor, Chair of Undergraduate Design, Washington University in St. Louis

John is a New York Times Bestselling illustrator and author of many children’s books, including Shooting at the Stars, Drawing is Magic, John Brown: His Fight for Freedom, Miracle Man: The Story of Jesus, and, most recently, The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler.  His first picture book, Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek, was named an ALA Notable book of 2008 and won the Comstock Award for read aloud books. His book on John Brown won the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal and was named one of the “Best Books of 2009” by Publisher’s Weekly. Professor Hendrix has served as a Ruling Elder at Grace & Peace Fellowship for eight years, part of the PCA (Presbyterian Church of America). He has presented his work and drawings at venues including Hutchmoot, The Rabbit Room’s Annual Conference of art, music and faith – Church NEXT Conference – Story Conference, Nashville – Q Commons St. Louis, and The National Archives.  His sketchbook drawings from church have been featured in Christianity Today and Smithsonian Magazine. Professor Hendrix lives in St. Louis, with his beautiful bride Andrea, son Jack, and daughter Annie. Reviewing his 2016 book, Miracle Man, the New York Times wrote that “even nonbelievers will enjoy this powerfully told and visually dazzling book.”

John Inazu, Sally D. Danforth Distinguished Professor of Law & Religion and Professor of Political Science, Washington University in St. Louis

John Inazu holds a joint appointment in the Washington University School of Law and the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics.  He teaches courses in law and religion, criminal law, religion and politics, and the First Amendment. In 2014, he was the law school’s David M. Becker Professor of the Year. Professor Inazu has a BSE in civil engineering from Duke, a law degree from Duke Law School, and a PhD in political science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  He clerked for Judge Roger Wollman on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit and served for four years as an active-duty Air Force attorney at the Pentagon. In addition to his scholarly work, Professor Inazu writes regularly for mainstream audiences in publications including USA Today, the Washington Post, the Hedgehog Review, and Christianity Today.  He serves on the board of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and is a member of Central Presbyterian Church in Clayton.  He and his wife, Caroline, have three children: Lauren, Hana, and Sam. Professor Inazu has spoken broadly to different audiences about Confident Pluralism.  He has coauthored an article with Timothy Keller on related ideas that appeared in Christianity Today.

Heidi Kolk, Associate Director, American Culture Studies, Washington University in St. Louis

Heidi Aronson Kolk is Associate Director of American Culture Studies, a multi-disciplinary program in Art & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis. She is a cultural historian who began her academic training as an artist, and she still gravitates to mixed-methods research and teaching – particularly, those modes that allow for creative engagement with the past. She teaches courses on 19th and 20th-century history and culture; on collective memory and memorialization; and on the long history of consumer culture in America. Heidi holds an MA and PhD in English and American Literature from Washington University in St. Louis, and a BA in fine arts from Hope College. She lives in St. Louis with her husband Joe and their three children, Dylan, Conrad and Everett. They attend Memorial Presbyterian Church.

Joshua Swamidass, Assistant Professor of Pathology and Immunology, Washington University in St. Louis

Dr. S. Joshua Swamidass is an assistant professor in the Division of Laboratory and Genomic Medicine at Washington University in St Louis.  He holds an MD and PhD (Information and Computer Systems) from the University of California, Irvine. Both a scientist and a physician, he uses computational methods to study information at the intersection of medicine, chemistry, and biology. Dr. Swamidass is a national voice in the dialogue between science and the Christian faith, where he explains how mainstream science (including evolution) can be understood within the context of historic Christian faith. Most recently, he proposed a genealogical Adam model that recovers most orthodox doctrines in an evolutionary context.  He has served for two years as a science advisor for the AAAS Science for Seminaries Program with Concordia Seminary, a bridge building effort between the scientific community and the religious community. From 2016-2018, he will direct a collaboration of St. Louis Ministries called the Inquiry into Common Ground. Dr. Swamidass also speaks nationally with The Veritas Forum and InterVarsity on a wide range of topics. He blogs at Peaceful Science.

John Early, Lecturer, Sam Fox School, Washington University in St. Louis

John is a multidisciplinary visual artist whose drawings, sculptures, and site-based interventions elevate the overlooked and reframe our relationship with things familiar, forgotten, or cast aside. John has exhibited his work nationally and been a visiting artist at The Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, Biola University, Taylor University, and Covenant College. John’s most recent work explores the poetic potential of nontraditional applications of gold leaf on found objects and in nondescript places. He teaches drawing and design in the foundations program of the College of Art and serves as the faculty director for the school’s pre-college program in art and design. John holds an MFA in visual art from Washington University, an MA in education from Covenant Theological Seminary, and a BA in studio art from the University of Virginia. He and his wife, Kate, live in Maplewood with their three boys, Alex, Emory and Moses. They attend New City Fellowship.

Kristin Guilliams, Pediatric Neurologist, Washington University School of Medicine

Kristin Guilliams is a pediatric neurologist and intensivist at Washington University School of Medicine/St. Louis Children’s Hospital. She received her MD from the University of Virginia. She completed her post-graduate training in pediatrics, child neurology, and pediatric critical care medicine at Washington University, where she also received her Masters in Clinical Investigation. Her research uses advanced neuroimaging to understand mechanisms of stroke in children with sickle cell disease. She is an investigator with the International Pediatric Stroke Study and serves on the medical advisory board of the World Pediatric Stroke Association. She attends The Journey at Hanley Road, and is a leader of the Midrash ministry. Midrash hosts events which foster deep conversations about culturally-important issues among people with a diversity of opinions and theological worldviews, and has been featured in the New York Times, St.Louis Post-Dispatch, and BBC.

Ryan Watkins, Research Scientist, Planetary Science Institute

Dr. Ryan Watkins is a Research Scientist with the Planetary Science Institute. She holds a PhD in Earth and Planetary Science from Washington University in St. Louis and B.S. degrees in Physics and Space Science from the Florida Institute of Technology. Her research centers on understanding the physical and compositional properties of the surface of the Moon, and on selecting safe landing sites for future manned and robotic missions to the lunar surface. She is actively involved in an informal Christians in Planetary Science group, and, with the help of other graduate students, including Joben Lewis (WashU alumnus), initiated an annual gathering of Christians at one of the largest conferences for planetary scientists. Ryan resides in St. Louis, MO, with her husband, Matt, and daughter, Alexis.

Staff and Coaches:

Allie Sheets, Class of 2021, Washington University in St. Louis

Born and raised in Nashville, TN, Allie is now a rising sophomore at Wash U. She is currently majoring in chemistry with a minor in environmental engineering. During her freshman year, she joined Kairos, the Christian thought journal on campus, where she is a member of the writing and events staff. She is also on leadership for a Christian ministry, Overflow, working as interministry coordinator. On campus, Allie can usually be found in BD, at rehearsal for her a cappella group Reverb, or in one of her hundreds of meetings. However, in her free time, she enjoys reading, jamming to Disney (much to the dismay of her friends), and marking activities off of her ever-growing bucket list.

Esther Okedina, Class of 2019, Washington University in St. Louis

Esther is about to start her senior year here at Washington University in St. Louis. She is majoring majoring in Psychology and obtaining minors in French and Children’s Studies, with the hopes of going to med school to become a pediatrician. She resides in a suburb of Chicago, but was born in Nigeria. At WashU, she is a part of Visions gospel choir, an RA for Shanedling, Campus Outreach, and Kairos: A Journal of Christian Thought.


 Shawn Pavey, Class of 2020, Washington University in St. Louis

Shawn Pavey is a rising junior at Washington University. He studies mechanical engineering, but has often been tempted by the humanities throughout his time in Saint Louis. Although born and raised in France, Shawn can easily be mistaken for a US native, that is until you start a conversation with him about food, or uncover his ignorance of American sports. Outside academics, Shawn writes poetry and edits for Kairos: A Journal of Christian thought. He also loves playing bass and singing in the WashU Visions Gospel choir. He hopes to one day become a professor of Mechanical Engineering at WashU, concentrating his research in the field of biomechanics. He enjoys spending time with friends, reading, playing board games, and jamming with or without real instruments.

Binil Jacob, Class of 2018, Washington University in St. Louis

A recent graduate of Washington University, Binil is proud to abide at his adopted home of St Louis for another year. At WashU, he studied biochemistry and French on the premed track, but filled his time mostly asa rower, a lighting designer, a Resident Advisor, a brother of Sigma Phi Epsilon, and a writer for Kairos. He has since learned not to overcommit to too many things simultaneously and hopes you will too. Binil will serve as Faculty Assistant in the chemistry department, interacting with students in the chemistry lab course. His aspirations include becoming a medical doctor and developing absurd side hustles. In his free time, Binil learns languages, writes poetry-esque works, collects books he hopes to read and waters plants.

Taylor Reynolds, Class of 2017, Washington University in St. Louis

Originally from Valdosta, Georgia, Taylor is a transplant to St. Louis, Missouri. He graduated from Washington University where he studied history, psychology, and religion and politics. While attending WashU, he founded Kairos, an undergraduate journal of Christian thought. He currently interns with the Veritas Forum working with their Veritas Labs initiative as well as a coach for the Augustine Collective network. Taylor is a leading member of Midrash St. Louis and frequently facilitates group discussions on the intersection of the Gospel and culture. His aspirations include publishing his book and completing a PhD. In his free time, Taylor writes poetry, fishes, watches romantic comedies, backpacks, reads novels, and is starting a podcast. He prefers dead languages to computer languages, existentialism to analytic philosophy, and people who disagree with him to people who agree with him.

Students will come out of Veritas Academy with: 

  • Relationships with faculty, upperclassmen, and alumni
  • A framework for integrating faith and learning in college
  • Tools for designing a meaningful college experience
  • A vision for serving and contributing to campus life
  • A faith community of peers before orientation starts

WhenJuly 27 – July 30, 2018
Where: Washington University Campus in St. Louis
Who: Soon-to-be freshmen at Wash U who are excited to cultivate their faith in college, intentionally contribute to campus life, and meet Christian faculty, upperclassmen, alumni, campus ministers, and peers
What: An intensive learning experience that provides incoming Wash U freshmen with the tools, resources, community and vision to flourish in college

How: Apply by June 28

Cost: $199

Scholarships (including travel costs) are available upon application. Have further questions? Send an email to