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

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.

The Storms of Life

The recent storms that ravaged our southern states have left damaged buildings and shattered lives.  Our sister school in Mississippi, William Cary, was heavily damaged in the storms that swept through Mississippi this past weekend.  David writes in Psalm 29 about the powerful storms that, even in biblical times, brought devastation. Storms and devastation in our lives is not new and I draw comfort from the last verse in Psalm 29.  It reads, “GOD makes his people strong. God gives his people peace”.

I think of many of our students who manage to juggle so much just to further their education.  Juggling school, family, church, and work is no easy task.  One sick child or unexpected repair bill can bring devastation and shatter that delicate balance our students try to maintain.   How do they do it?  I can only see one way and that is through total dependence of our Lord and Savior.

Take heart! God is still on the throne and cares about every detail of your life.  Don’t give up your educational goals when that storm of life brings devastation.  Through our weakness, we are made strong in Christ.

I love to read from “The Message”.  Here is the full transcript of Psalm 29:

Psalm 29The Message (MSG)

A David Psalm

29 1-2 Bravo, God, bravo!
Gods and all angels shout, “Encore!”
In awe before the glory,
in awe before God’s visible power.
Stand at attention!
Dress your best to honor him!

God thunders across the waters,
Brilliant, his voice and his face, streaming brightness—
God, across the flood waters.

God’s thunder tympanic,
God’s thunder symphonic.

God’s thunder smashes cedars,
God topples the northern cedars.

The mountain ranges skip like spring colts,
The high ridges jump like wild kid goats.

7-8 God’s thunder spits fire.
God thunders, the wilderness quakes;
He makes the desert of Kadesh shake.

God’s thunder sets the oak trees dancing
A wild dance, whirling; the pelting rain strips their branches.
We fall to our knees—we call out, “Glory!”

10 Above the floodwaters is God’s throne
from which his power flows,
from which he rules the world.

11 God makes his people strong.
God gives his people peace.

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterso

 

 

The Paradox of Cultural Engagement

Jesus, as recorded in Matthew 5:13-14, calls his followers to be salt and light in the circumstances to which he has called us. We are to flavor, preserve, and illuminate our families, communities, and workplaces – to imitate, as much as possible, characteristics of his kingdom in our various spheres of influence. On the other hand, the apostle Paul writes that we are not to be conformed to this present world, but to be separate from it (Romans 12:2).

At the surface, the idea of cultural engagement as described in the gospel of Matthew seems to be at odds with the concept of separation from the world as presented by Paul in Romans 12. How can I be salt and light to the culture in which God has placed me and be separate from it at the same time?

Those who are called to follow Christ and who want to make a difference in this world will wrestle with this apparent paradox. The way we approach the issue of cultural engagement will ultimately impact how we carry our Christ’s great commission, so our conclusions are of extreme importance. Will we approach our culture as an entity created and loved by God (but in need of redemption) or as something to occasionally encounter but mostly retreat from in order to enhance our own personal holiness? Is it one or the other or somehow both?

The answers to these questions are not simple and, in reality, represent, for the serious Christian, an ongoing exploration. In Romans 12:2, Paul labels this inquiry a “renewing of your mind” (New English Translation). So, rather than defining separation from the culture as embracing a list of restrictions, Paul defines it as an intellectual process that leads to our discovery of God’s will for our lives (verse 2) – what it’s like for us, in our particular circumstances, to engage our culture for Christ and his kingdom.

Although there are many ways to renew one’s mind in preparation for kingdom service, university studies provide a depth and richness perhaps not found in other venues. At Belhaven University, regardless of one’s area of study (there are many from which to choose), the exploration of how a biblical worldview informs the ways in which we engage God’s world is of primary importance, especially for non-traditional adult students who are deeply entrench in family, community, and career. As stated on our website, our programs “are taught from a Christian worldview perspective and are guided by the mission to prepare students academically and spiritually to serve Christ Jesus in their careers, in human relationships, and in the world of ideas.” At Belhaven, our students learn of Christ and how to apply his teachings holistically to a culture in need of biblical flavor and illumination – to “approve what is the will of God—what is good and well-pleasing and perfect.”

 

 

The Last Chapter

I have a terrible confession to make. When I read a mystery or suspense novel, I will read the first few chapters of the book, and then I read the last chapter to find out how the story ends. After that, I go back and read the rest of the book, comforted in knowing that even though the plot may take twists and turns, I know how it ends.

In a recent Bible study at our church, I taught from the book of Revelation, Chapter 4. In this chapter it describes the throne room of heaven. What a glorious hope we have for our future as Christians. We too know how the story ends by reading the book of Revelation. What a comfort that is as we travel the journey of life here on earth.

So, what does this have to do with completing an education at Belhaven? Our hope for every student is that one day we can congratulate you as you walk across the stage, having completed all requirements for your degree. You know how your educational journey is supposed to end, so as life takes many twists and turns, don’t lose sight of the last chapter…..graduation.

Why Are You Enrolled In School?

There are many reasons for going back to school. A recent article from Eduventures* states that 40% of adult students are enrolled in school to advance their careers. There is another 30% who want to finish what they started some time ago. Those searching for a different career field make up 20% of the adult learners, and another 10% are lifelong learners interested in taking course work of interest to them.

Behind those reasons for going back to school is an individual story that each adult learner can tell. At Belhaven, we value those individual stories, and we are pleased to work with each student to accomplish his/her personal goals. Often the road to completing what was started is strewn with obstacles that at times seem impossible to overcome.

I remember the student who lived in her car but faithfully came to class. She graduated two years ago and is going strong in a new career. What a joy is was to work with her during her time at Belhaven. There was the military student who was called up to active duty. He did not let that stop his progress toward his goal of an MBA and he switched his studies to our online program. There are also very happy stories. We had two students who met and married while attending classes at Belhaven.

Belhaven is a special haven for adult students seeking to achieve an educational goal. Our faculty and staff are devoted to the success of each individual student. We recently conducted some focus groups with our students and found that they do feel valued as individuals and the one thing we heard loud and clear is that the Christian foundation of our curriculum is our crown jewel. Many told us how their spiritual lives have changed because of the Christian values expressed in every class.
Wherever you are in your journey and whatever has motivated you to pursue your education, we applaud you and stand with you all the way through graduation.

*Meet Today’s Adult Learners: A Guide to Segmentation and Storytelling www.eduventures.com

13 Lies the Enemy May Say, but God Says……..

The life of an adult learner has its ups and its downs. The enemy has a tendency to attack one who is trying to advance themselves more than the average person, but we have tools to help us overcome. God’s word is always present and available to help us fight. This is why we must use his message, which is our double edged sword (Hebrews 4:12), to fight the enemy’s voice.

Here are 13 things the enemy may say to us, but God says:

The enemy says: You can figure it out.

God says: I’ll direct your steps.

Proverbs 3:5-6

The enemy says: You are too tired.

God says:I will give you rest.

Matthew 11:28-30

The enemy says: It’s impossible.

God says: All things are possible.

Luke 18:27

The enemy says: Nobody loves you.

God says: I love you.

John 3:16

The enemy says: You can’t forgive yourself.

God says: I forgive you.

Romans 8:1

The enemy says: It’s not worth it.

God says: It will be worth it.

Romans 8:28

The enemy says: You are not smart enough.

God says: I will give you wisdom.

1 Corinthians 1:30

The enemy says: You are not able.

God says: You are able.

2 Corinthians 9:8

The enemy says: You can’t go on.

God says: My grace is sufficient.

2 Corinthians 12:9

The enemy says: You can’t do it.

God says: You can do all things.

Philippians 4:13

The enemy says: You can’t manage.

God says: I will supply all your needs.

Philippians 4:19

The enemy says: I’m afraid.

God says: I have not giving you fear.

2 Timothy 1:7

The enemy says: You are alone.

God says: I will never leave you.

Hebrews 13:5

Do not ever give up! Remember to use these scriptures as a weapon when the enemy tries to attack you.

Blessings,

Alison Gentry

What Are Your Gifts?

Adult Studies Blog: September 2014

WHAT ARE YOUR GIFTS?

Virginia Garrison, Director of Retention Services

 

We all have gifts… things we are good at doing… or that we have the potential to do well but haven’t fully developed. What are your gifts? Do they need development?

Do you like to work with people? Are you good at organizing? Maybe you have the gift of administration.

Are you compassionate? Do you like to help and encourage others? Maybe you have the gift of mercy and service.

Are you a “take charge” type of person? Are you good at communicating? Maybe you have the gift of leadership.

Are you good at explaining things to others and enjoy seeing them learn? Maybe you have the gift of teaching.

Do you involve yourself in ministry? Would you like to use that gift to its fullest?

There are too many possibilities to list in this short message. Whatever your gifts may be, wouldn’t you like to develop them further? Wouldn’t you like to use them to the best of your ability? Completing your degree could help you do that! Belhaven University offers many options, including business management, social services, health administration, leadership, Christian ministry, Biblical studies, teacher education, etc.

Why not give yourself the “gift” of education and reach your full potential? In doing so, you will also be helping others who will benefit from receiving what you have to give!

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.

1 Peter 4:10

Belhaven University Verse of the Year 2014-2015

Shatter Your Rear-View Mirror!

“The past is in the past!” –from “Let It Go” in the Disney movie Frozen

I have to admit something before we go any further into this post—I have a past. Although I am content with much of my personal history, I am certainly unable to claim that my past is pristine, and I can vociferously argue for keeping the past firmly in the past. I think most of society would agree with me for one reason. Delving into the past means the possibility of unearthing those things we have tried to forget.

They can include an “unfortunate” string of rejected invitations for a high school dance (check), being trapped by peers in a walk-in closet, coughing from the beautifully overpowering cloud of air spray sneaking under the door (again, check—this actually happened to me, and I somehow got in trouble for it!), or being overheard by the wrong person at the wrong time (a thousand checks). As you probably realize, though, I’m still only writing about events from my past that I feel comfortable admitting, but if I move a few mental bookshelves, I can find the dark corner where I store the memories I don’t want to remember.

Over time, we’ve all adopted some euphemisms to describe these things-that-shall-not-be-named: skeletons in the closet, dirty laundry, and baggage (to name a few), and I am no exception. Still, whenever I summon the inner strength to venture past the dust and spider webs to examine these mental artifacts, I think about the past that could have been and long for the present that should have been.

 

What if I had kept my medical school plans? What if I had taken that job? What if I had been a bit more honest and a bit more careful? What if I had extracted every ounce of potential from every critical moment? What if I had been spent more time with the kids? What if I had stopped asking questions earlier?

 

For adult learners, these kinds of questions are familiar. The empty spot on the wall haunts us, and the missing line on the resume taunts us. Furthermore, those of us prone to envy have a delightful time with social media #grassisgreener #sarcasm.

(Note: If you don’t understand the #statements, search “hashtagging” online. If you don’t know how to search online, ask some toddlers. You will be shocked by their prowess—seriously.)

Although each of us has a personal motivation for returning to college, every motivation is rooted in the past—the past of NOT being in school.  We want our future to be different, so we change our present to keep us from reliving our past.

So how do we get past our past? I offer some blatantly out of context advice that I’ve heard at least five million times, courtesy of my daughter. As Queen Elsa sang in Disney’s Frozen, just “let it go.”

More seriously, we should follow Paul’s example from Phil. 3:12-14 (NIV):

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

I’m not suggesting that we should all find a way to induce amnesia, but maybe we should neglect that dark corner in our minds. Ultimately, the so-called “baggage” of our past only has as much control of our future as our present thoughts allow.

So even on those long, tiring nights of papers and pencils, we don’t have much use for the rear-view mirror. Our past mistakes won’t write our papers or pass our exams, nor should they define who we are.

If you failed algebra, you are not a failure.  You failed a class.

If you lost a job, you are not a loser.  You lost a job.

What are you then? You are someone trying to change the future for yourself and those around you.  You are creating new opportunities from the lessons you have learned from your errors, and if your faith is in Jesus, you are a child of the King.

Put more succinctly, YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

So while you’re thinking about it, break that rear-view mirror.  You won’t be needing it.

Listen to Their Stories: Reaching the Hearts of Adult Learners

One of the core issues in adult education is the extent to which traditional students differ from adult students. It is a marketing issue in that we have to identify and understand the differences in order to package our message in a meaningful and relevant way. It is more complex than buying ads on the right radio stations or getting them in strategically targeted publications. We have to understand the subtle nuances that characterize both traditional and adult learners in order to reach their emotions or, perhaps more descriptive, their hearts. The extent to which traditional students differ from adult students is also a student services issue in that both groups represent different sets of life circumstances that we must understand in order to meet the needs of our students while they are with us and, ultimately, retain them through to graduation.

Here’s a proposed axiom that, for me anyway, describes the core difference between traditional students and adults and that may provide a framework that could drive our marketing and student services activities: Traditional students function in a “present” that is interpreted by the future; adult students function in a “present” that is interpreted by the past. As an adult education professional, here’s how this reality might inform what we do in reaching and retaining adult students:

·         Realizing that the past informs adults’ decisions to return to (and stay in) college, those who work in the admission and student services functions must listen to our students’ stories. For adult learners, these stories usually center on a crisis such as divorce, loss of a job, being passed over for a promotion, or some other type of loss in their lives. By taking the time to encourage discussion of the things that drive our students to us, we will reach their hearts and position ourselves to affect their lives.

·         Classroom experiences should be designed as safe places to discuss our student’s stories. At Christian institutions such as Belhaven, this can be done during a period of biblical reflection and prayer. As is true in our admission and student services processes, this type of discussion should be proactively encouraged by the instructor – realizing that this type of openness can set the stage for more productive curricular discussion later in the class. In addition, typical adult life circumstances could be intentionally woven into a lesson plan – discussing the effect of a personal crisis (divorce, for example) on one’s ability to lead in the workplace.

Ultimately, by making prospective or current students’ “stories” a priority in our discussions with them, they will perceive an environment that is emotionally safe and attractive, and we will have reached the seat of every adult’s decision making processes – the heart.