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Graduate Studies: Student Stories

Friday, December 1, 2017

Portrait of Northwestern grad Andrea

Simon's story: Called to serve in the corporate world

Simon Hearne earned his Master of Divinity from Northwestern in 2014. Spending most of his adult life climbing the corporate ladder, in 2006 his life took a dramatic turn as he came to know Christ at age 42.

After his conversion he thought he would pursue ministry or mission work, but God made it clear that his call was in the corporate world. “The harvest is plentiful,” Hearne notes, "but the workers are few.” Living his career as a “public Christian” has afforded him many opportunities for sharing his faith in the workplace.

"When your total influence is the secular world you’re in," Hearne said, "the world says if you work really hard and do better than those around you, you’ll get happiness with success. After a while you realize you need another 10 percent more…the more you try to move up, the more you realize how big the gaps are above you. You end up on this conveyor belt that’s going nowhere." When Hearne found Christ, he realized the hopelessness of this mindset and now pursues opportunities to engage with people who are stuck on the conveyor belt.

Educating self leads to educating others

"My job involves lots of busyness and meetings in the corporate world," Hearne noted. "I get to travel around the world as part of my job. My primary job is to deliver for my company and do my tasks. The opportunity to do that as a public Christian is very clear and pretty easy. In the corporate world, you can’t hide your faith. People there have troubles every day so the opportunity to speak into their lives is there every day.

"When I was in school people assumed I was getting a business degree; when they learned I was studying theology they became curious. My degree opened doors to conversation."

Portrait of Northwestern grad Heidi

Heidi's story: A change in priorities

Heidi had a part-time job, five kids and a schedule that didn't have too many openings on a day-to-day basis. Adding "get a master's degree" was something she'd considered putting on the to-do list but it wasn't a priority.

Her call to consider changing her mind came quite directly when a colleague told her about Northwestern's new Master of Arts in Education program. Heidi explained to her friend that she didn't feel it was a priority right now, but "She looked me right in the eye and said, ‘You walk with Jesus; I'd ask Him again.'" Later that same day another person asked if she'd considered the new program. "It was a ‘you-better-listen-to-this' type of moment," Heidi said.

"I thought that 18 months isn't that long. It's going to go by no matter what and what's going to happen on the other side of it?" Heidi reflected. Her family was supportive and she believed that God had a plan for her to get her master's degree, even if she didn't yet know what it was. "I signed up pretty much right away. I prayed about it and knew it was the right thing—and every door opened."

Fitting graduate studies in with her family situation has been challenging yet rewarding. "It's been a family project," Heidi explained, "and when I graduate it will be a whole family celebration."

Heidi graduated on December 19, 2014 and was invited to be one of the commencement ceremony speakers. And indeed, it was a whole family celebration.

Andrea's story: Wide range of possibilities

Andrea was at a crossroads—kids grown, time to explore what she really wanted to do in life—when a spiritual mentor helped her see her gift for working with struggling families.

"I knew that I needed to go back to school to really open doors and be able to effectively work with families," Andrea said. At that time she was just beginning her college career and earned her bachelor's degree in psychology through the FOCUS Adult Undergraduate program.

"I knew I needed to go on," she said, and searched for the right program. Northwestern's Master of Arts in Human Services proved to be the fit she was looking for. "Learning the theory behind some of the practices helps me know how to work in depth with families in human services."

Andrea recently graduated and is excited about what's ahead—possibly even teaching at the college level. She looks forward to embracing the wide range of possibilities now open to her with her master's degree.

Portrait of Northwestern grad Andrea
Portrait of Northwestern grad  Melissa

Melissa's story: God's timing is always best

Raising nine children would be a significant task on its own. Add homeschooling, soccer practices, football games, and church volunteer work into the mix and you've got yourself a full plate. Really want a challenge? Go back to school to get your Master of Arts in Theological Studies (MATS).

Tired yet? Melissa is sometimes, but from her point of view, "If God calls you to something, it's now. God provides a way if He calls you to something and you obey."

"I'm juggling a lot—the kids, the commute [40 minutes in rush hour], work in my church and homeschooling my children," Melissa said. "Graduate school is at least 20 hours a week at home, but if I sit here and think ‘How am I ever going to fit this into my schedule?' I'll never find a way; but He always does. I say it's giving up something good for something better."

The support of her family and her Northwestern classmates has been pivotal for Melissa. "I've gotten connected. There are so many walks of life here. I learn from different people's perspectives," she reflected. Her professors have inspired her too. "They're so intelligent and humble," she said. "They love the Lord and they love us. It's like they've taken a class in grace. They're very much for us and go out of their way to help us."

Dao's story: Making an Impact

Determined, driven and prepared for success, one student incorporates family and personal goals to add meaning to her education. Dao was a full-time working mom in the Master of Organizational Leadership program and also earned her bachelor's degree at Northwestern as an adult student.

Dao values the supportive environment and faith-based education that Northwestern offers. "I love that we're so open about talking about faith,"Dao noted. "Coming here, we pray before we start and professors share their faith—faith is incorporated into our programs, our syllabus, and our textbooks. It's great we can talk about God here and feel safe about it."

Not long after she began her first degree program, she found out her two-year-old son had autism. "I was ready to just quit," Dao remembered, "It was a really hard decision and my professors even prayed for me. I decided, ‘If I don't do this, I'm never going to do this.'" She persevered.

Now her son is a driving force for her to reach for her goals. With the leadership skills she is gaining she hopes to start a support network for Hmong families who have children on the autism spectrum. "I really want to be a great example for my kids—especially my son," Dao said.

"If I learn as much as I possibly can, I can set my kids up to be successful or do even more than what I do. That's when I will look back and say, ‘This was all worth it.

Portrait of Dao at the Minnepolis St. Paul International Airport

Al's story: Becoming a servant-leader

After earning his bachelor's degree in ministries through the FOCUS Adult Undergraduate program at Northwestern, Al chose to pursue a Master of Organizational Leadership (MOL). He speaks highly of what he's gained through his master's program. "The learning environment is really great, really supportive," he said of his coursework. "I haven't gotten perfect grades, but all the criticism I've gotten has been criticism that's helped me be a better writer, a better student of the Word."

The proof in Al's success and development as a leader is clearly seen as he interacts with roomfuls of middle school students as an equity and integration specialist in a school district. "There are so many kids in education right now who are hurting," Al reflected, "whose families are hurting. I believe Jesus wants us to be where the people are hurting."

A Christ-centered leadership model was solidified for Al through his grad studies. "Being a servant leader is something I learned while at Northwestern," he said. "Really what it means, is modeling Christ's example of caring for others more than you care for yourself."

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