Provost Jewerl Maxwell may have only inhabited his new role at Taylor since November, but his road to Upland stretches much further back in time.
Originally from western Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh, Maxwell spent most of his childhood on the East coast. He made the move to the Midwest for his undergrad where he attended Muskingum University in Ohio, receiving a degree in history, political science and public affairs.
“I actually started out as a secondary education major thinking I was going to teach social studies but then decided to pursue teaching at the collegiate level because I really had a passion for both history and political science,” Maxwell said.
Later, Maxwell earned his master's degree and Ph.D. at Miami University in Ohio in political science. His higher-level degrees emphasized both American government and international relations, with his research focused on the American Presidency and unilateral powers of the presidency.
Maxwell later wrote a book on this topic of interest that was published in 2012 by Cambria Press entitled, “Tough Times for the President: Political Adversity and the Sources of Executive Power.”
While Maxwell was pursuing this topic of interest, he was all the while thinking of where he would go next, and a place like Taylor was exactly what he envisioned. The main draw for Maxwell to the graduate program at Miami University was its emphasis on preparing its candidates to work at small liberal arts institutions.
The trajectory of Maxwell’s career has followed this path with the list of his former institutions containing names like Emory & Henry College in Virginia, Thiel College, Cedarville University and Gordon College, all similarly small liberal arts colleges.
It was when Maxwell worked at Cedarville that he became aware of Taylor specifically. His department chair at Cedarville wrote a book about the history of Taylor University for the 125th anniversary through a connection to Faculty Emeritus William C. Ringenberg.
When Maxwell read the book, he was impressed by the history of Taylor opening as a women’s college and continuing as an institution of learning for many lower-income students.
“I think we have a lot of other peer institutions right now that they wish they could have the history that we have,” Maxwell said. “They’ve been grappling with ‘How do we do a better job of giving women access to positions of leadership or education itself?’ They are trying to appeal now to a constituency that perhaps has not been able in the past to afford their institution. They want to be more global. And so even though Taylor — yes we may have had our own difficulties over the last 175 years, we can at least cling back to that this has all been a part of our history. It’s not that we are now saying we want to change who we are so that we can reach more students.”
What sets Taylor apart for Maxwell is the university’s commitment to its values and its integration of faith and learning.
“I am impressed with the real student focus at Taylor,” Maxwell said. “It seems like the experience that students have here is truly unique in comparison to other Christian colleges that I’m aware of. I really appreciate the focus on discipleship, the focus on just the energy and events — even chapel.”
This quality of Taylor’s authenticity has been of interest to Maxwell for several years. “I had done reading on Taylor for more than ten years,” he said.
In the fall, the Maxwell family moved into the house next to the Ockenga Honors Lodge. A former professor extended the opportunity to rent this house for the remainder of the school year, putting them within walking distance from the campus.
“The kids love it,” Maxwell said. “They’ve always loved to be on college campuses.”
Since coming to campus in October, Maxwell and his family have wasted no time in getting plugged into the community. They found a local church family in Upland Community Church and enjoyed participating in the many campus traditions including Homecoming Weekend, Silent Night and Airband.
Maxwell and his family can often be seen on campus at Chick-fil-A, in chapel and at the Kesler Student Activities Center.
The family is very tight-knit. Nowadays, Maxwell spends most of his time with his wife, Ashley, and their three kids — six-year-old Esme, four-year-old Eli and one-year-old Parker.
Maxwell characterizes his daughter as having a strong personality and being very intelligent. According to Maxwell, his daughter even taught herself how to read before she turned five. She has also taught herself some basic math. Esme is most interested in learning to ride horses.
Meanwhile, Eli has an affinity for organized sports — something he shares with his father who played both football and basketball in his youth. Something Maxwell admires about Eli is his affinity for solving conflict and serving others.
Parker is described as the entertainer of the bunch. He has a penchant for climbing things he is not supposed to.
Besides these three, the Maxwells have another child on the way.
Though they have not been here even a year, the family has already formed a deep attachment to the university. Maxwell says that both Esme and Eli tell him they wish to attend the university someday.
“We really believe that God led us here,” Maxwell said. “It was in October of 2020 that we had identified that Taylor was where we wanted to be. It ended up being about a twelve-month process. We actually hand-selected Taylor as where we wanted our family to be, we just didn’t know how we were going to get here.”