Why are you REALLY Returning to College?

As a working adult with an extremely busy life, why do you want to complete your college degree? This is a question that our admission professionals ask prospective students. It’s a question that we’ll ask you when you come for your campus tour. A typical response to this question is focused on money as a prime motivator, and that’s okay. We would all be less than honest if we answered any other way. Really, who doesn’t want a promotion, an increase in pay, a new job – all the things that earning an undergraduate or advanced degree may provide? But…

Let’s drill down a bit. What if, in addition to the tangible benefits mentioned, returning to college provided intangible outcomes related to more deeply-seated needs? What if, in addition to fiscal rewards, you found your purpose – your life began to make sense? What if, perhaps for the first time in a long time, you felt like you belonged? These are things that we adults are hungry for and, for adults, these are things that an experience at a Christian college or university can provide.

So, my contention is that the outcome of your college experience may be a more fulfilled life. Psychologist Abraham Maslow proposed that when our needs for food, safety, self-esteem, and even love are met, another level of needs and associated motivators come into play. He called this the need for “self-actualization.” Maslow recognized that once we think we’ve arrived, there’s still a ways to go… that finding satisfaction in the tangibles will still leave us searching for something deeper. What might that “something deeper” be?

As an observer of adult learners (and as an adult learner myself), I feel that a major driver for us to try something as potentially daunting as returning to college is we want to figure out our purpose in life. As a young adult with a master degree from a state university, I still had no real sense of my life’s purpose. It wasn’t until I experienced deep dissatisfaction with the direction of my career in a state government agency that I was prompted to investigate why, as a Christian, I was so unhappy with my work. There was a huge disconnect between my work and my faith, and I couldn’t understand why. About this time, I became a part-time faculty member at a Christian college. It was there I was confronted for the first time with the concept of “Biblical Worldview.” I learned, among so many other things, that my work in a government agency was a calling from God – that one didn’t have to be in “church-related” work to be useful to God. He wanted me in state government. Needless to say, this game-changing insight about my purpose was a result of my connection with a Christian college. I didn’t find it in my six years of education at a state university.

In addition to a desire to find purpose in life, adult learners may consider a return to college because they’re looking to make sense of what appears to be their fragmented worlds – things in their lives that don’t seem related to a larger meaning. Adults want to “connect the dots” so to speak. Why the divorce, the job loss, the illness, the death of a spouse…of a child? Returning to college offers the opportunity for new experiences – for a different platform from which adults can ask questions and even express doubts  they otherwise wouldn’t feel comfortable expressing in other settings. Christian colleges do this well. In a secular university setting, there’s nothing outside of our life experiences to which we can connect. In a Christian college, our students find that a loving and purposeful God resides above our disappointments. Meaning is found in our connection with Him.

I’ve noticed that adults seem to find “community” in their return to college, so I offer “a search for belonging” as an additional motivator for returning to college. At Belhaven, community happens through the relationships we build with our adult students. We teach, advise, listen to, and most of all, pray for our students. God has created us to be social creatures, yet we adults struggle to rise above our feelings of aloneness in the world. The answer to what, at times, feels like a solitary existence, is the connectivity we feel in an environment in which others actually care for us. At Belhaven we strive to build communities in which our students feel loved, accepted, and listened to. Relationships are top-of-mind with us.

If you’re an adult thinking about completing your college degree, here’s what I hope your takeaway will be from reading this post. You will benefit greatly from completing your degree. The development of your professional skills that results from your coursework will have a positive impact on your employer. The new job, promotion, or salary increase that may follow earning a college degree will result in measurable benefits for your family, community, and church. However, pursuing these outcomes aren’t the only reasons adults return to college. We want something more, and the benefits of finding one’s purpose, of understanding the “big picture,” and finding a caring community are definitely worth the pursuit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A New Hope

“I can’t believe they would do that!”

“There is no way that is allowed!”

“I did nothing to deserve!”

“This is completely unfair!”

“I am so miserable!”

 

I have heard and said all of these things in many different seasons of life. Negativity has a way of drowning people in their sorrows. Studies have shown that constant negativity can aggravate depression within a person. But many of us still choose our negative attitudes. We feel like victims who are imprisoned by circumstance.

But this is not the lifestyle that God wants for us. We need to be living in Joy, Peace, Patience, etc. When we are negative, we steal these Godly gifts from ourselves.

I was reading a book recently and received a timely reminder that we always have the opportunity to choose my attitude. No matter if someone cuts me off on the road, we can choose to pray for the other driver. If the kids won’t do their chores, we can be patient to help them make better choices. If the busyness of work and school are overwhelming, we can choose to work diligently until we are out of time, then leave the work for another day.

Above all, remember: “when we run into problems and trials, we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation” (Romans 5:3-4 NLT).

Where Are You Headed? How Fast Are You Going?

 

Where are you going? Do you have a goal in mind? If you’re reading this, I’m assuming you’re in school at Belhaven or are considering starting. If so, then you must have an educational goal. What is it? To finish a degree that you started at some point? To start college for the first time as an adult?

After you determine your goal, the next step is to move forward! Take the step! How fast do you want to go? Are you thinking, “I need to do this in the shortest length of time possible. I need an accelerated program!” Or maybe you’re thinking, “I need to pace myself while taking classes. I have so many responsibilities already!” At Belhaven you have both of those options.

If you are a current Belhaven adult student, you may be thinking, “Yes, I’m in an accelerated program, and I feel the speed! My world is spinning with all the things I have to do. School. Work. Family. Church. Maybe I should slow down or take a break.” If that’s you, we understand. Life can become overwhelming at times. If that’s your situation, please talk to your Student Services staff and get their advice. We want to help you reach your goal. We’re here to serve you.

In the middle of it all, don’t forget your goal! Will a degree help your life? Will it help your family, your children? Keep your end goal in front of you. Keep moving forward. One step at a time. Remember the tortoise. Speed isn’t as important as reaching the finish line!!!

“But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.” Phil. 3:13

Your hard work will pay off!

 

This verse reminds me about endurance and that hard work eventually pays off. So many times, life throws a curveball and plans to finish a project, a task, or even a college degree, can get put on the “back burner” of the priority list.

Adult students have so many obstacles and so many distractions, during their college experience, it can sometimes be overwhelming… but the key is to stay focused, take one day at a time, and never give up!

As you are encountering distractions in your educational journey that cause you think about quitting or taking a break, here are a few things to consider or remember:

  1. Remember your WHY! (What prompted you in the very beginning of this journey to pursue finishing your degree??)
  2. Stay focused on your ultimate end-goal! (How will your life change if you continue to do the same thing, and you do not finish this degree?)
  3. Consider who may be watching you? (You never know who in your class or in your circle of friends or family may be watching to see how far you go… your choices will not only affect you- but those watching, as well.)
  4. Who is your support network? (Do you have someone to hold you accountable in this journey- to support and motivate you when times are tough?  If not… find that person, today!  Offer to be someone else’s accountability partner- so you can motivate each other until the end.)
  5. Ask for help! (Belhaven Staff and Faculty are your cheerleaders… come see us if you need help, or just want us to pray with you or encourage you, we care about you!)
  6. Take it one day and one course at a time! (Try not to overwhelm yourself on focusing on ALL of the work, but look at your degree plan, as a marathon… slow, steady, and consistent. You will eventually cross the finish line…so stay on course!)

Changing your life for the better is a good thing… it may not be easy…but if you commit and stay focused, you will finish and you will be blessed! I have never heard anyone ever tell me in my seventeen years in higher education that they regret finishing their degree.  I have only heard, them say… they should have finished it- a lot sooner!  Timing is everything…  It is your season, your time… to make the most of this opportunity!  Some words of encouragement- to those struggling to stay focused… Pace yourself, pray for yourself, and prepare yourself for the finish line!  You can do it!!!

Competitiveness and the Creator

(Reposted with permission from Dr. Corey Latta, scholar, teacher, author, poet, minister, and friend.)

I’ve found that in academia, writing, and in ministry (most all other areas of life fit this bill, too) a thick cloud of competitiveness hovers over everything. One writer feels injured by the publications of another. The size of one Pastor’s church becomes the envy of ministers from neighboring churches. We see the teaching jobs our peers land as the jobs we didn’t get.

There are several ingredients to this kind of unhealthy competition. A pinch of insecurity, a dash of ambition, an ounce of misplaced identity, three cups of pride.

Unless the scholar, the writer, or the minister is ready to face these vices and flaws within himself, the problem of being unhealthily competitive will only compound as each new day will, to the “injured” artist or cleric, mean some new rejection.

I do think, beyond what goes into toxic competitiveness, which is a kind of self love, we might best fight this ego driven impulse with the kind of deliberate generosity only found in an othered directed love. Specifically, a love for two objects: the Creator and the created.

I must remind myself that I create because the Creator made me to. And that to begrudge the rewards or celebrate the failures of someone else’s art is to trod on the gift of creativity, and more importantly, the great gift Giver. I must love the Father of creativity. And if I love the Creator, I’ll see my fellow scholars, writers, and ministers not as competitors but as cocreators, laborers in the same union, members of the same guild, coinheritors of creation. This is generosity, and it should be the aim of every artist.

And with creation itself—from the academic article to the novel to the sermon—I must remain enamored. Only when we love the created will we celebrate those who create. It’s our love for good writing that will free us from selfish jealousy of who wrote it. It’s our desire to see universities filled with good scholars and teachers that will prompt us to praise God when another scholar fills that academic post that we eyed.

Love the Creator and His subcreators. Champion the created, being particularly mindful to rejoice over creations from others’ hands. And from love for God and for your cocreaters, do the kind of good, steady, unique work that only you were made to do.

Ultimately, it’s the act of creating itself, done in love, that will do the transformative work of turning the self-stained rags of competitiveness into the divine fleece of generosity.

Lessons from Father Abraham

Genesis 12 begins the story of Abram, a man called by God to undertake a difficult journey to a foreign land with limited instructions and little detail.

Abram (Abraham) ended up listening and obeying God. He had his faith tested and strengthened along the way and was ultimately used by God to build a great nation, Israel, through whom God revealed and accomplished salvation for all peoples.

Like Abraham, adult learners are called by God to take a difficult journey through uncharted territory for the eventual benefit of the peoples we are called to serve. We have a lot in common with Abraham.

a. Abraham’s call initially consisted of only one set of directions (Genesis 12:1):  go. It’s alright for us not to see the full picture of our educational journey. We “go” one class at a time, trusting God to lead us along the way.

b. The call required courage. Abraham came to understand the limits of his cognitive understanding. Similarly, intellectual work challenges us and forces us to reckon with what we don’t know as we arrive at a place of deeper wisdom and insight.

c. The call required obedience. Abraham wrestled with some of God’s commands (see Gen. 22). While God does not call us to a blind obedience to everything a professor tells us, we are expected to run the race set before us. This includes reading and following a syllabus!

d. The call involved his family. Abraham’s family was implicated in all that his journey entailed. We, too, have family, friends, and communities who partner with us in the good and bad we experience. We are not alone – and this can be both an encouragement and an ongoing responsibility that tests our strength.

e. The call requires sacrifice. Abraham yielded his time and stood to lose his earthly wealth in fulfilling his call. Similarly, we’re making an investment in God’s Kingdom by investing in our degrees. This means we sometimes forego other opportunities and pleasures in pursuit of God’s call.

f. The call was ultimately not about Abraham. Although he experienced the blessings of obeying God, Abraham’s story is really less about Abraham and more about how God was using Abraham to serve others. Our academic credentials are really tools for service. We should never lose sight of those we’re called to serve.

You didn’t think you had much in common with Abraham, did you? Are there are other biblical characters from whom you can draw encouragement along your journey?

The Confessions of a Professor

So often adult learners are hesitant to go to their professor for help for fear that they might appear uninformed.  After all, it has been so many years since being in school that the adult learner is unsure that they made the right decision to even return to school.  As a professor working with adult learners, here are a few things I wish students knew.

  1. We really want to help students.  Yes we have classroom standards and we expect you to do the work to get the grades.  But we long to help students who have questions or are struggling with the course material.
  2. The assigned reading in the text books is really important. So many students think they can go through a course without even opening the textbook and some even brag they didn’t bother to get the textbook for the class.  Only so much material can be covered in class.  The textbook is a rich source of information about the subject or focus of the course, we really want you to take the time to read the material.
  3. Please read instructions for the assignments before doing them wrong. So often adult learners fall prey to the tyranny of the urgent and skim through the instructions for assignments, ultimately doing them wrong.  They waste more time having to redo them. If only they had taken time to read the instructions before launching into the assignment and doing it wrong.  If there are questions about the assignment after reading the instructions, then ask questions.
  4. APA is a pain. Yes, even professors have to go back and review APA guidelines because every little detail is so important.  Learning to write scholarly papers is part of the learning process that adult learners need to embrace.
  5. We know you have many outside responsibilities and we do care. When an adult learner commits to their education, professors expect students to make their education a priority.  There is a time commitment to learning and school should not fit in around the edges as time permits.  School needs to be front and center on the priority list.  The course assignments are designed to maximize your learning and all have purpose.  The texts have been selected with care and should enhance your learning.

So, adult learners, please know that professors want to help you and are willing to answer your questions but you also need to make a commitment to your education to maximize your success in school.

Servant Leadership

Servant leadership and Christian ideology go hand in hand. I would like to pose two questions you can ask yourself to help test if you are leading in an area fundamental to our faith.

When faced with a dilemma in your workplace or classroom, do you find yourself saying that is not my problem he/she can handle this or do you communicate with others on how you can help in solving this issue? A servant leader desires to work with others for resolution.

Can you say to yourself after a certain time period in your life that you’ve grown, become more independent, and feel a sense of peace afterward Servant leaders gain true peace by understanding that Christ served them first and they want to lead by this example and therefore gain independence and peace.

Being a servant leader means jumping in and being willing to help in all circumstances without thought of self-promotion or gratification.  These will occur organically but fall short when intentions are insincere. Servant leaders are humble in their quest for knowledge, which leads to growth, independence, and freedom.

 

 

Never Stop Learning

Not long ago I was reading a book with my colleagues called The Trust Edge by David Horsager. In this, the author suggested the key competency of our time is to be in a perpetual state of learning (2009). When I read this statement I thought, well sure, we live in the information age, this just naturally kind of occurs for us. But, the more I thought about this, the more I was challenged by it. Soon, I began to shift my thinking to being intentional about learning.

As adult learners, we are typically in class year round. No longer do we have the benefit of long summer breaks like we had as kids. Instead, while we are plowing through work and home life, we are also studying. Whether you are in class now, thinking of going back to school, or maybe just graduated, consider this: there truly should be no end to learning.

One of the areas Horsager suggested in which we can learn outside the classroom is through mentorship. What comes to your mind when you think of a mentor? The traditional image is often of a young person being mentored by an adult…someone who has been around the block and has some wisdom to impart. In the business world, however, mentors can look a bit different – a trusted colleague, a professor, or a business associate. Consider finding someone in your life with whom you can be brutally honest, and with whom you can take constructive criticism. Then, begin to cultivate that relationship. It’s going to require an intentional effort on your part – meeting for coffee, setting and keeping regular accountability times, and the willingness to learn from someone else.

Having been involved in several mentoring relationships in my life, I can honestly say it is both a challenging and rewarding experience. In some of these relationships, I may have started out as the mentor, but found myself often as the mentee. I learned from others as they were challenged by obstacles or presented with opportunities and grew both emotionally and spiritually.

Maybe you are at a point in your life where you feel you can help someone else learn from your experiences or skill set. Reach out, volunteer your time to organizations through your local Chambers of Commerce, Boys and Girls Club or Men/Women’s support groups – there are many out there – but the point is to be intentional about your involvement. And, just like me, I’m betting that while you may set out to be the mentor, you may find yourself changed for the better in the process.

Perhaps Walt Disney captured it best when he said, “always be in a constant state of becoming” (Horsager, 2009, p.127). In other words, never feel like you have made it. Instead, begin to tell yourself there is always more out there to learn.

 

Reference

Horsager, D. (2009). The Trust Edge. New York, NY: Free Press.

Season of Celebration

Although all of our students are worth celebrating, the month of May provides the opportunity for us to celebrate three specific groups of our students – our graduates, our teachers, and our military personnel.

First, congratulations graduates! We are so proud of you! One of the greatest joys I have experienced in the past two months is the incredible ear to ear smile on the face of every one of our May graduates as they came by the site to pick up their regalia. It was wonderful to recap the heart-felt stories. The graduates were humbled and proud that they had stayed the course through good times and challenges to earn their degrees – many with honors. They are proud of their accomplishments. Many never thought it was possible to earn a degree. Although all of our graduates are unique and special, I would like to take this opportunity to share the stories of two of our Orlando Online graduates – John Murphy and Pamela Robinson.

John started his academic journey at Belhaven University pursuing his Associate degree on campus in Orlando. His dream didn’t stop there. John went on to earn his Bachelor in Biblical Studies. John always pushed himself, and held himself to a high standard. Some of his drive and discipline may have come from his military background. While pursuing his degree, John faced a personal tragedy – the death of his daughter. His life changed forever. John weathered the storm, and went on to complete his degree. John continued to push himself in order to care for his family. He took a break from Belhaven to pursue his dream of becoming a Florida State Trooper. He passed the exams and was accepted. Putting his family first, he had to make a tough decision. He had no guarantee of where he would be assigned in the State of Florida with the Highway Patrol. He had to turn down the academy, and pursue a different dream. He decided to come back to Belhaven and pursue his Master in Leadership online. Congratulations John! John was able to travel to our Atlanta Adult campus to walk in the ceremony and celebrate!

Pamela started her academic journey at our Memphis Adult campus. She was pursuing her Bachelor of Social Services degree. Pamela and her family relocated to Orlando, and she did not skip a beat. She transferred to the Orlando campus to continue her studies. With the business refocus in Orlando, Pamela switched to our Online campus to finish her degree. As a single mother, she constantly worked to balance the needs of her family, work, and school. She has a quiet and humble spirit. She appreciated the support she received from Belhaven. Congratulations Pamela!

Our second group of students worth celebrating is our teachers. The first full week in May is Teacher Appreciation Week. The first Tuesday is Teacher Appreciation Day. We celebrate all our students who are currently teaching, and/or pursuing advanced degrees in education.

The third group of students we honor and celebrate in May is our military. May is National Military Appreciation Month. We appreciate and celebrate those in service to protect our freedoms culminating in a celebration on Armed Forces Day – the third Saturday of May. We celebrate Memorial Day to honor our veterans who lost their lives protecting our freedoms.

To all of our May graduates, teachers, service men, women and veterans, enjoy your celebrations. You deserve the special recognition. We are proud of you!