New Professor Profiles


John Rush

Dr. John Volney Rush IV became the Robin to Dr. Lance Wescher’s Batman as he assumed the position of Assistant Professor of Economics this fall. For the past ten years, the economic component of the Economic and Community Development department has been solely manned by Dr. Wescher. Rush currently teaches Econometrics I, International Finance, and Economics of Asia in the 21st century.

Rush, who finished his undergraduate degree in Economics at Whitworth University, a small liberal arts college, has always been interested in the correlation between his Christian faith and economics. Two masters and one PHD later, Rush wanted to teach in a Christian college that has this conversation, and was curious about how a Christian economist could work with the church.

“I had learned about Covenant a couple years ago, about the Chalmer’s center, and When Helping Hurts,” Rush said. He applied to Covenant as he was looking for Christian universities that have an opening.

He laughed when I asked where his hometown is. “Well…” he said.

Rush was born in California, and moved to Mount Maunganui, New Zealand, when he was six. He then went back to California to finish high school before moving to Hawaii for his master and doctorate degrees.

Rush’s parents serve in the mission field.

Rush hopes to have the chance to train Christian young economists to think carefully. He sees his time at Covenant as an opportunity to not just be an academic away from the world, but also have the resources to actually help people who are struggling.

Rush loves the Covenant environment and community. “Chattanooga is a harder adjustment, though,” said Rush, who moved from rural Vermont where he loved “living in the woods.” However, he has enjoyed teaching, Tennessee barbecue, and visiting The Tennessee Aquarium with his son and wife.


Heath Garris

Heath W. Garris took up the baton from Professor Emeritus Jerry Wenger when he joined as Biology Department faculty this fall. Garris had moved from a mining job in British Columbia.

“I’m an ecologist and also Christian, and that is kind of an unusual combination in my field. So, I started to look for Christian universities where my skills are needed,“ Garris said.

Garris currently teaches Ecology and Biology of Invertebrates.

Garris has also started a Covenant Bioinventory project, which is a way of documenting the biodiversity on Covenant’s property on Lookout Mountain. This project is in partnership with Lula Lake Land Trust, Lookout Mountain Conservancy, and the U.S. National Parks. Through the project, Garris is hoping that students can learn how ecologists work on managing the natural landscape.

During his time at Covenant, Garris hopes to see students organizing stewardship of nature. After all, “it’s a Christ-honoring little-c vocation,” Garris said.

If able to teach any class he wanted at Covenant, he would revive “Natural History of the Appalachian Islands” as a field course. It would be a May Term filled with hiking Lookout Mountain and trekking across the Smokies.

While used to moving places, his move to Covenant is Garris’ first full-time job as a professor.

“[The] transition is awesome and humbling,” Garris said. “Covenant students are unique. They’re a smart, motivated group of people. That is not something you find everywhere.”