For Professor Eric Berg, the best part about teaching philosophy at MacMurray College is tackling misrepresentations and confusion about the subject. When students first enter his classroom, Professor Berg tells them, “Don’t let these authors intimidate you.” His goal is “to make the complex very clear” and help students discover something that speaks to them individually.
Teaching wasn’t on the agenda for Eric when he attended Moorehead State University as a double major in political science and philosophy. He anticipated going into the law or politics and says, “If you would have known me as an undergrad, you would have considered me to be a long shot as a professor.”
While attending Moorehead, Eric was greatly influenced by a “very engaging, very caring advisor” from Sierra Leone by the name of Andrew Conteh. Professor Conteh has extensive academic experience from around the world and served as Sierra Leone’s Ambassador to the Soviet Union for five years. He specializes in international relations and took his students on an eye-opening tour of the Soviet Union in 1988 before it collapsed. Eric remembers that experience as “absolutely fantastic.”
A second professor at Moorehead positively influenced Eric when he suggested graduate school over law school. The professor, a visiting Jesuit Priest, told Eric that he would write letters of recommendation for him if he would visit just one seminary. Eric agreed and selected the Luther Seminary in St Paul because of his strong Lutheran heritage.
Eric recalls, “I don’t know what happened, but after that visit, I decided that was what I was going to do.” He became a student of Lutheran theology and doctrine and aspired to earn a PhD or a masters in divinity, depending on his performance. He made a deal with a professor at the seminary who promised to help Eric make a “an honest, tactical decision about whether I should pursue advanced studies or not.” The advisor never discouraged Eric’s pursuit of a PhD.
While attending Luther, the largest ELCA Lutheran seminary in the United States, Eric wed his wife, Christy. They were married in 1997 by Eric’s New Testament professor in Old Muskego, the oldest Lutheran church in the US. The historical landmark was built in 1844 Wisconsin by Norwegian immigrants and moved to the seminary in 1904. With a genealogical history on both sides coming directly from Norway, this meant a great deal to Eric.
The Bergs moved to Kansas after graduation for Eric to attend a doctoral program at Kansas State, where he was offered a fellowship and teaching opportunity. Eric completed his doctorate in a relatively short amount of time, comparatively speaking, finishing in five years. He began seeking work and was “very blessed that what MacMurray College was looking for fit my background exactly.” He began a tenured track position directly out of graduate school.
Professor Berg selected the position at MacMurray because he was initially impressed by the dynamic professors on the search committee. He also appreciated the small campus environment and the opportunity to work closely with students throughout their undergraduate experience, potentially paying forward some of the mentoring he received during his undergrad days.
Most of all, Eric appreciates the intellectual freedom to teach using whatever resources he deems best. While it seems “the opposite of common sense,” he says, “there is less intellectual freedom at a public university.” Kansas State required Eric to be very careful about using Christian sources and required using secular content, “even if the content wasn’t at good.” At a private university, this is not an issue, and the professor is “free to use whatever argument is the best for the student I’m focusing on.”
When he isn’t discussing the distinction between claims of faith and claims of reason, Eric can often be found reading about baseball or attending a game. He and Christy enjoy traveling both internationally and regionally. When they travel regionally, the couple tries to catch a local minor league game.
Their most memorable minor league game experience came in St Paul in 1997 when they watched Ila Borders play. Borders was one of the first females to pitch in integrated men’s baseball and watching her play was a “landmark event” for the Bergs. “You knew in the stands you were seeing something special that day,” Eric explains.