After a four-month search for a new director, Covenant College’s Center for Calling and Career (CCC) hired Dr. John Plating on March 16. Plating is a retired Air Force Colonel who has served as a senior pilot, an associate professor of history at the Air Force Academy, and the COO/CFO for the Academy’s Provost. In a recent announcement to the Covenant community, Dean Voyles says Plating “brings a unique blend of education and experience which will enable him to serve our community through connecting with various constituents in an effort to provide pathways to internships and employment opportunities for our students.”
According to Covenant’s website, the CCC was organized in August 2009 to provide “comprehensive career services to Covenant College students and alumni as they identify and boldly pursue their calling.” Leda Goodman, Assistant Director of the CCC, estimates that 40% of the student body uses the Center as a resource. The CCC hosts 80+ events per year to connect students with job opportunities and internships.
Plating is confident that he can tackle the project before him. He says, “Once you’ve reached the rank of Colonel, the Air Force expects you to be able to do anything and everything, no matter what it is.” Plating came into his job interview with a plan for the CCC spanning the next three years. He says, “because I’m a military guy, I believe you need a plan.” He is excited about his new position as Director, hoping to “help Covenant make a big impact for the Kingdom.”
Plating will spend much of his time networking and making connections with organizations on behalf of Covenant, looking for internship and job opportunities for students. As a newcomer to Chattanooga, Plating contacted Anthony Tucker, previous Director of the CCC, for help with networking and making connections in the area. Plating credits Tucker as “helping to ease the transition” to Chattanooga by providing him with the resources he needed to get started.
Plating’s family lived in DC when he was in grade school, and his father worked for the CIA. As a child, Plating says he “was always surrounded by military and became fascinated with flying,” but feared heights. He says, “I didn’t go on a roller coaster until I was 20, and only then to impress a girlfriend.”
Despite this fear, after high school Plating attended the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. He graduated in ’89 and attended pilot training school.
In 1992 he married his wife Paula, and a year later they had their first son, Zach. The family moved to Germany in 1994 where Plating flew C-130 transports, supporting US humanitarian efforts in the Balkans. He served in Germany from 1994-99. The Plating’s younger sons, Luke and Nate, were born during this time.
Plating describes his time in Germany as exciting, “We were the guys on the news. It was pretty heady stuff, flying missions that were covered on CNN’s evening broadcast.”
In 1999 Plating left flying for health reasons, and went back to school. The Air Force sponsored his doctorate in Military History at The Ohio State University. After completing his degree, Plating moved his family back to Colorado Springs where he taught history at the Air Force Academy. After teaching for seven years, Plating accepted a senior position of COO/CFO, assisting the Provost for three years.
At the end of the 2014 school year, Plating retired from the Air Force after 25 years of service. In June 2014, he moved with his wife Paula and children to Chattanooga, Tenn., because most of their extended family lives within a day’s drive of Chattanooga. Two of his sons, Zach (’15) and Luke (’18), attend Covenant College. Plating jokingly says, “I didn’t move to the area to stalk my kids; I’m going to try and give them space.” But he knows that his kids “love that I got the job here.” They attend Lookout Mountain Presbyterian Church.
His position as Director for the CCC is “the first non-military job I’ve had since my 25 years in the Air Force,” says Plating. He pursued this position because he “believes in liberal arts.” He is frustrated with the cultural shift towards highly specialized training for jobs, and values the liberal arts, where students are broadly equipped and challenged to analyze, think deeply and develop inter-personal skills.
He wholeheartedly agrees with the CCC’s mission statement, to equip students who “boldly pursue their calling.” Plating believes that Covenant College is a place “sending out kids that will make a difference.” Plating saw himself as an “Air Force missionary” for 25 years. Based on his personal experience, he hopes to shape students’ perception of their calling as Christian workers. He says that being a faithful Christian worker often means to “Do work excellently,” in whatever place you are called. He hopes to encourage students to “think big” and pursue careers in nationally and globally recognized organizations, rather than merely seeing themselves limited to a career within the confines of the Church.
As he looks into opportunities for Covenant students, Plating is especially interested in pursuing connections with “big name” organizations, like the Volkswagen Plant in Chattanooga. He hopes to find opportunities where students can spread out, move and grow.
In addition to his leadership skills and gift for administration, Plating loves working with students. He often speaks of “our kids” when referring to Covenant students and expressed his desire to teach some history classes for students one day. He said, “I think it’s important for staff to teach classes… it keeps you connected with the student body.” His family frequently hosts students for meals on Sunday afternoons. One week, his wife Paula even sent a basket of homemade chocolate chip cookies, individually wrapped and tied off with yarn, for students who stopped by Plating’s office.
After finishing his second full week on the job, Plating said, “I get my first pay check this Friday!” He says he’s excited to be at Covenant and ready to pursue Covenant’s mission, “In All Things Christ Preeminent.”