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Top 10 Reasons I’m Counting Down to The 2013 Justice Conference

Guest Blog by Melissa McCreery

Since being hired at Kilns College, I’ve had the awesome opportunity—blessing, really—to be a small part of The Justice Conference. It’s truly amazing to see the conference staff, Kilns students, and countless (seriously, countless) volunteers come together to pull off this awesome event.  I’ve honestly found it difficult to sleep all week because The Justice Conference is in Philadelphia this weekend. Here are my top 10 reason why I’ve been looking forward to this event all year!

1.     It’s the single event where thousands of people who care about justice gather together. That’s a lot of awesome people in one place!

2.     Kilns College co-sponsors the event with World Relief so I get to spend 48 hours meeting people and talking about Kilns College and why it’s a place that’s revolutionizing higher education. If you’re coming to the conference come check out the Kilns table and say hi!

3.     Micah Bournes will be performing. This guy is seriously talented!

4.     You get the opportunity to meet representatives from hundreds of nonprofit organizations

5.     I was honored to ask to speak during a pre-conference session. If you’ll be at the pre-conference check out my session on education! While you’re at it, check out all the pre-conference sessions on The Justice Conference website

6.     My dear friend Erin Lytle is Director for this conference and works tirelessly 365 days a year to make it an awesome experience for all the attendees, exhibitors and speakers.

7.     This year’s conference is in Philly! After living for a few years in New England, I’m excited to be back on the East Coast, even if just for a few days.

8.     It’s a great networking event!

9.     Kilns College President Ken Wytsma’s new book Pursuing Justice will be available at the conference bookstore

10.  This year, Kilns College has a HUGE announcement to make at the conference… can’t wait to share it with everyone!

 

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Future Generations Burdened by Excessive Student Debt

Editor’s Note: Melissa is the Vice President of Development at Kilns College.

By Guest Blogger: Melissa McCreery

I came across this video while researching an entirely different topic for a different assignment. The New York Times video—coupled with an email I received from a prominent higher education journal inviting me to attend a seminar on Student Loan Default Aversion: Forum on Research and Best Practices—caused be to stop and think about how the high cost of earning a college degree may cause financial hardship rather than socioeconomic advantages for future generations.  According to the department of education, in the U.S. today there is more than $1 trillion in outstanding student loan debt.

Click here to view the NY Times video and article: College Costs Weighing Down a Generation with Student Debt. 

The video also addresses the larger question of why we attend college. Is it to land a job with a big paycheck and signing bonus? Or, to further our knowledge and learn for the pure joy of learning? If you fall into the former category, I highly recommend you watch this video.

To be clear, my intent in posting this is not to condemn colleges that charge high tuition rates. Many institutions increase tuition as a last resort, when faced with decreased state and federal funding and dried up donor pools. No, at the end of the day it’s not entirely the school’s fault.

My purpose in addressing this issue is merely to begin a dialogue about it. Since my own graduation (in practicing full disclosure, I myself attended a school which would fall into the “high tuition” category), I’ve wondered what exactly my tuition paid for, and would I have been able to receive the same education elsewhere? My Alma Mater would argue I paid for my education and my collegiate experience (football games, world renowned guest lecturers, state-of-the-art technology, etc).

Would I have received the same experience and quality education at another, more affordable school? I honestly don’t know. What I do know is it’s a question incoming college students and their families should at least be asking.

 

Melissa grew up in Southern California and attended the University of Southern California where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Journalism and Political Science. After working as a First Year Advisor at USC, Melissa moved to Boston to pursue graduate studies. She earned her Ed.M in Higher Education from Harvard University and moved to Bend, Oregon following graduation. Prior to working at Kilns College, Melissa worked at several college and higher education organizations such as USC, the New England Board of Higher Education, Emerson College, and Central Oregon Community College

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Higher Education: A Victim or Catalyst of Consumer Culture?

Editor’s Note: Melissa is the Vice President of Development at Kilns College.

By Guest Blogger: Melissa McCreery

“How can a writing class possibly help me land a job as a aerospace engineer?”

“Which class looks better on my resume—Biochemistry or Spanish?”

“Do employers look favorably on applicants who study abroad?”

Over the course of my career in higher education— particularly in my role as an academic advisor in the engineering department at a prominent California university —I’ve been asked these questions more times than I care to count. After just a few months as an advisor, my answers came automatically.

“Engineering firms are looking for employees with strong communication skills, and a college level writing course will give you those skills.”

“In an ever-shrinking world, employers like to hire bilingual students so I’d recommend adding a minor in Spanish.”

“Studying abroad shows potential employers that you’re a ‘go-getter’ and not afraid of taking on a challenge or new experience.”

While these answers rolled off my tongue without pause, they weren’t without thought. I cared deeply for my advisees and for their post-college success. Success —in my mind and theirs (and their tuition-paying parents)—defined by their employment status upon graduation. Were they at a reputable firm? Was their paycheck significant? Did they receive a signing bonus?

These were my goals. If I could help Johnny excel in his academics and complete his degree program, which in turn landed him a reputable job, then I successfully served Johnny, his parents and the university.

In my eyes—albeit heavily guarded by a pair of impenetrable (and highly fashionable) rose-colored glasses—a more altruistic industry could not be found.

Then, one day as I was settling into a new job, at a new college, serving a new population of students, I found myself answering the same familiar questions. Was it just me or did students fail to see the big picture about their education? Their questions revolved increasingly around job security and had very little to do with true learning. (I actually met with one prospective student who wanted to enroll in a degree program, but – on this point he was explicitly clear—he did not want to learn anything). That’s when the rose-colored glasses fell off.

Students never asked which classes would aid in shaping them into better human beings; or, how their study abroad opportunity would expose them to injustices taking place around the world. It seems if there was no practical purpose for their education, it was deemed invaluable. Had it always been this way? Had I really just been blind to this?

In that moment, I saw the higher education system for what it truly was. Noble? Yes. Well-intentioned? Yes. Imperfect? Most definitely.

Somewhere in its pursuit to save the world, higher education had become misguided. Colleges and universities across the country lost sight of their mission, which has never been to help students land big paychecks or large corner offices, but to graduate students with integrity and a broad worldview—who will positively impact the planet and contribute to society. (You can google almost any U.S. college or university to read their mission statement).

Had higher education fallen victim to today’s consumer culture? Or had it played a crucial role in creating it?

After researching numerous college websites and marketing materials, and speaking with administrators around the country, I discovered that a scant few colleges herald their graduates’ character development and worldview upon completion of their college experience.

Instead colleges’ praise students for their employment status—often based on inflated data—upon graduation. If it’s what colleges emphasize as important, their students will follow suit. And don’t be fooled, it is exactly what colleges are valuing. A recent Chronicle of Higher Education article outlines how, in recent years, institutions of higher education have, with alarming frequency, inflated the employment rates for their graduates. Schools advertise high job placement rates—some as high as 98-percent – based largely on bogus numbers.

How much pressure must theses institutions feel, if they have lowered themselves to inflating graduation rates? One thing is for sure, pressure that intense it palpable and students easily pick up on this.

The mission of higher education – in theory if not on paper—has shifted from truly educating its students to ensuring their employment. Parents, students, college admission counselors, academic advisors, and high school counselors have placed growing emphasis on education as a means to employment and financial security.

A quick perusal of any bookstore will reveal an absurdly high quantity of books devoted to the topic.

Yes, providing employment and financial stability is part of a college’s purpose, but just a part (and a rather small part at that).

Higher education provides a number of benefits; most notably to the nation’s economic stability and job creation, civic engagement, and pulling students from low socioeconomic situations and landing them securely in middle class America. These are all pieces that make up the whole higher education pie, which, in the end, should speak to students’ education as a whole individual—mind and soul.

Today, when students ask what classes look better on their resume my response doesn’t come quite as quickly. Instead, I challenge each student I advise to look at the ‘big picture’ of his/her education. Why are you pursuing a college degree? How does God use each class to show you how to live a life of purpose and compassion? How are your relationships—with friends, classmates, professors and mentors – developing and shaping you into a person of character?

In the wave of clarity that came with the removal of my tightly fitted rose-colored glasses, my passion for higher education seems only to have intensified. In fact, it’s possible I am even more passionate today about the importance of higher education than I was under the guise of oblivion. I still believe higher education serves an irreplaceable role in society, and that—deep down—its intentions are noble. It merely needs to be guided back to its original mission.

Melissa grew up in Southern California and attended the University of Southern California where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Journalism and Political Science. After working as a First Year Advisor at USC, Melissa moved to Boston to pursue graduate studies. She earned her Ed.M in Higher Education from Harvard University and moved to Bend, Oregon following graduation. Prior to working at Kilns College, Melissa worked at several college and higher education organizations such as USC, the New England Board of Higher Education, Emerson College, and Central Oregon Community College

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Justice as a Theological Necessity

I’m teaching at The House of Providence in Vancouver, Washington this Sunday (more…)

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Barth on Preaching

I know this might be a boring subject for some, but I love this quote I just read from Karl Barth (a theologian in Germany during the first half of the 20th century.)

“No matter what may be said in detail, this is the point from which every single line of preaching must be drawn: not the mere word Christ, not the mere description of Christ, but solely what God has done with us in Christ. Emmanuel—God with us—this is the central point in all preaching. Only when this is the message for delivery, does the preacher speak with the full authority of the one who sends the herald.”

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Personal Calling & Mission

This Thursday I am kicking off the class that I am teaching through Kilns College called Personal Calling and Mission.

I’m pretty jazzed on the class and specifically on the reading. It is like a who’s who of my favorite books and essays…

- Augustine’s Confession’s
- Bonhoeffer’s Life Together
- C.S. Lewis’s essay “The Weight of Glory”
- Henry David Thoreau’s “Life Without Principle”
- The Strengthsfinder book / test

Not to mention some of my favorite historical narratives from the Old and New Testament. I’m beginning to remember how much I love the classroom environment!!

There are two seats still open… so if you have Thursday’s free from 6:30 – 8:00 p.m. just shoot me an e-mail at ken@antiochchurch.org and let me know that you’re coming!

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Under the Overpass

This past Sunday, Mike Yankoski challenged the church to think outside the box and to see the natural connection that should exist from our doctrine and salvation to our love and good works.

Mike is an excellent teacher and struck a nerve.

Click here to see the webcast from Sunday.

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The Lost Gospels

I was in Barnes and Noble today and my head nearly spun at how many books are out right now on the so called “lost gospels.”

In short, ever since the discovery of the Nag Hammadi Library (a collection of gnostic texts including The Gospel of Thomas) there has been a movement to minimize the authority of the traditional gospels and New Testament books by suggesting that there were many variants of early Christianity. The suggestion is usually made, either openly or subtly, that “history is written by the winners” and the New Testament that we have is more a reflection of politics and power than consensus and unanimity in the early church.

Since the discovery and publication of The Gospel of Judas last year (a 2nd century gnostic gospel that scholars knew about through secondary sources, but didn’t have actual fragments of until the recent find) the number of books being written on gnostic texts and the “lost gospels” is dizzying.

Much of the hype has to do simply with money and what sells. The hype is also laregly a by-product of the runaway bestseller The DaVinci Code, which referred to many of these texts. What is sad, however, is that many people who don’t understand the context of the debate are easily challenged by marketing phrases that suggest a person has to rethink everything about Christianity based on archeological finds such as The Gospel of Judas. This is ludicrous. It’s like saying a jury has to rethink everything they’ve heard from a series of eyewitnesses because a new testimony of a non-eyewitness has been brought into court.

It’s a big topic and there are several things going on all at once, which makes it a tough subject to explain or teach.

I’ve decided, though, that come winter we’re going to tackle the topic of the lost gospels and the development of the New Testament on a couple of Sunday mornings. I think it could be a lot of fun and I’m hoping that it will bring much needed clarity and confidence to the whole question of the authority of scripture.

Anyway, there’s nothing like getting to look forward to a sermon series that will involve tons of history!!

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Quite A Lineup

I had a great lunch today with Brandon Groza planning and brainstorming teaching topics, sermon ideas, adult education and more.

I’m impressed that when ministry is treated as a team endeavor, creativity flows…

Anyway, look forward to some great teaching and preaching over the next six months at Antioch… God has put together quite a lineup for the spring!

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