Four years ago, when the current graduating class of 2019 posed for their freshman year group photo, they didn’t all know where God would lead them in the next four years. But as the semester ends and graduation nears, these now seniors have been reflecting on how God has used BJU to influence them and what He has for them in their futures.
Olivia Gray, a theatre major, said she loved her major and all the opportunities she was given through it. During her four years at BJU, she has tried her hand at directing, producing, designing and stage managing. “I love getting to learn new roles and the challenge to meet the responsibilities of the various positions,” she said.
She said her biggest influence in her major were her professors. “They have shaped my mind and my heart when it comes to how I now approach theatre,” she said. “They consistently pour their intellect and passion for the arts into every conversation both in and out of class.” Gray also talked about her overall influences at BJU. “The community here has been my favorite part of BJU,” she said. “We are all here working toward a common goal, struggling with various but similar trials, and there is always someone around to lend a hand.”
She also shared her plans after graduation. Gray wants to pursue a graduate degree in Community and Economic Development. After that, she would like to work in a non-profit or as an assistant director in a community theatre. When asked what she is looking forward to the most post-graduation, Gray said that self-care was a high priority. “Sleeping. Duh,” she said.
Ryan Munn, an accounting major, said he was influenced by several important principles he learned from his major. “Integrity and diligence . . . were consistently taught and displayed in the classroom,” he said. “Testimonies of accountants are what people use when making their investment decisions, so it is very important to be truthful and diligent during the audit process.” He joined in the praise of BJU faculty.
“The excellent faculty . . . have made it their goal to not only teach well but to display an example of Christlikeness,” he said.
Munn also shared that daily chapel has been the biggest influence in his overall BJU experience. “Being under godly preaching every day has given me the opportunity to meet with my Savior and challenge the obstacles of stubbornness that are in my heart,” he said. “I am grateful for all the wonderful messages I have been able to hear and grow thereby.”
Post-graduation, Munn plans to pursue an opportunity to work and minister in a foreign country for nine months. “During that time, I will have the chances to create relationships that can lead to sharing the Gospel,” he said. Before that opportunity though, Munn says he is planning a little time for relaxation. He has saved up enough to be able to vacation in the Bahamas on a week-long cruise.
Rahel Villiger, an early childhood education major, was most influenced by the hands-on experience she gained through student teaching and practicums. “Those were definitely stressful times, but I grew so much as a teacher by putting theory into practice step by step,” she said. She also said her major informed her perspective of childhood education.
“I learned how desperately children need good influences in their lives who can show the love of God to them,” she said. “As I was working with children during the course of my major, I realized how big of an influence I can be to them and how seriously I need to take that responsibility.” Villiger said her professors have been her favorite part of BJU. “They take time to answer any questions, and most importantly, they take the time to pray with and for their students,” she said.
Villiger said her plans for after graduation include teaching in Poland for a year. She said that after Poland, she is open to go wherever God leads her. She is looking forward to seeing her family and her home in Switzerland again. “I also have some friends from BJU visiting me this summer,” she said. “I am very much looking forward to showing them the Swiss Alps and other parts of my home country.”
Jessica Billet, a history major, said the biggest thing she has learned from her major is how to put the big picture together. “History [is] taking lots of little stories and putting them together into one big story,” she said. “It’s helped me see the importance of really paying attention to the context surrounding situations in the modern world—political, social and interpersonal.”
Billet said she enjoyed the blending of her minor in communication with her major. “History feels like understanding context for your own benefit, whereas communication feels like understanding context for the benefit of others,” she said. She said she didn’t grow up around many other people her age who were trying to follow God.
“The first time I heard the entire student body sing in chapel, I cried,” she said. “I’d never heard that many voices my age praising God together. It challenged me in a lot of ways to stretch beyond my comfort zone and be bold in my own dedication to Him. I’ll probably miss the singing the most; it still gives me chills sometimes.”
Billet plans to return to her home in Ohio and work as a naturalist for Cleveland Metroparks. “I’ll be interpreting natural and social histories like a park ranger,” Billet said. Getting married and apartment hunting are also on her postgraduation list. “There are a lot of new, exciting and terrifying things on the horizon,” she said.
Andrew Peterson, a Christian ministries major, agreed with his fellow seniors and said his professors have been very influential in his life at BJU. “The Bible faculty that have helped me in my understanding of the Bible and also in the function of the church,” he said. “I have sat down numerous times with my professors to talk about life decisions I have to make and to seek their counsel.”
He said his major has taught him never to be complacent in his knowledge of the Bible and how to better communicate what he learned from it to people. Through his time at BJU, Peterson has learned about intentionality with those around him. “I have been given the opportunity to be in several different leadership roles around campus, and each one has forced me to grow in being intentional to reach out to those around me,” he said.
Peterson’s plans after graduation are to get married in August and then pastor at Kaysville Bible Church in Utah. “I will be doing an apprenticeship with the two pastors there, [and] I will also be pursuing seminary online,” he said.
Joe Cepeda, an exercise science major, said he learned that his major promotes being servant-minded. “I love the idea of being able to use my major as a platform to serve God by serving others,” he said. “Whenever I serve and interact with others, it helps to me focus little on myself and to focus more on the well-being of others.”
He said he learned a lot about critical thinking in his major. “I was placed in multiple situations and given case studies where I needed to use critical thinking,” he said. “My teachers and supervisors helped me learn how to reason through things involving exercise routines and how it relates to action of the musculoskeletal system.”
Cepeda said he loved studying how God created the human body. “It astonishes me how fearfully and wonderfully made we are as human beings,” he said. He also said he appreciated BJU’s dedication to educating students in many areas besides their chosen majors. “I thank BJU for allowing students to pursue excellence in one’s desired field but to also allow students to develop better interpersonal skills, to better understand the world and the Bible,” he said.
He said he truly enjoyed learning from his BJU professors academically and spiritually. Cepeda hopes to work as an emergency medical technician for a year and then pursue a doctorate in physical therapy. “I look forward to increasing my knowledge in the realm of medicine and exercise plus applying God’s Word to all areas of my life,” he said.