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Plenary Speakers

Dr. John Plake

Topic: The Spiritual Lives of Christian University Students

Dr. John Farquhar Plake is a researcher with a pastor’s heart. He brings together the worlds of social science, business intelligence, and spiritual formation, helping Christian leaders understand how people grow and mature in Christ. John is the owner of Mission Insights, LLC, and the lead researcher for the University Spiritual Life Survey. He also leads American Bible Society’s Ministry Intelligence team, helping the organization re-introduce the Bible to America.


Over 29 years of full-time ministry, John has served as a pastor, missionary, professor, and researcher. His work with the University Spiritual Life Survey has given him unique insight into the spiritual formation issues facing emerging adults in the context of Christian higher education.


John is an ordained minister, and he earned a Ph.D. in intercultural studies (missiology). He is married to Tabitha, and they have two daughters. The Plakes make their home in Wilmington, Delaware.

Dr. Rob Thompson

Topic:  Campus Ecology, Identity, Faith and Lesbian & Gay Students: What Do You Do if a Student Comes Out to You?


Dr. Rob Thompson is currently an Associate Professor in the Division of Graduate Counseling at Indiana Wesleyan University where he directs the Masters of Arts in Student Development Administration. Dr. Thompson spent the first 25 plus years working in Student Affairs Administration before “crossing over” to academics.

Dr. Thompson has a B.S. in Anthropology and History from Iowa State University, a M.S. in College Student Personnel Administration from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a Ph. D. in Education Leadership Administration Foundations from Indiana State University.  In addition, he completed 2 years of graduate work in Forensic Anthropology at the University of Tennessee (yes, I worked at the ‘Body Farm’). His anthropology background has truly informed and influenced the manner in which he views human and organizational interactions and he tends to frame the world through the lens of “culture and community.”

Dr. Thompson has had a long-standing interest in the area of sexual identity as many students have shared this part of themselves with him. He formally began investigating the relationship between Christian College “Ecology” and Lesbian and Gay Identity development over ten years ago. He has interviewed dozens of alumni and students at Christian College campuses to understand how Lesbian and Gay students interact with the campus ecology.

Dr. Thompson is fortunate enough to marry the girl of his dreams who has been his partner through his Student Development career. They have four sons, ranging in age from 31 to 21 (all were born on a Wednesday).