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Finding Their Calling

collage of the story featured people
Accent Winter 2019 Magazine

Studies show that only nine percent of freshmen are undecided on a major, but once in college, up to 30 percent of students change their minds.
In a world that tells young people to follow their passion, how does MNU come alongside students to encourage them to find their purpose? Perhaps that is a question best answered by students and alumni themselves.

When Passion and Calling Collide

Presley WilsonPresley Wilson (’15) had a vision of what she wanted to do from her first day at MNU. Her adviser, biology Professor Rion Taylor, relates that Presley wanted to be a wildlife biologist. Inspired by the TV show “Ocean Mysteries with Jeff Corwin,” Presley dreamed of communicating the mysteries of science with others. Influenced by the MNU community’s emphasis on serving God by serving others, she developed a desire to find a career path combining her love of science and serving others. She decided to major in biology education.

“I began to think about what passion to serve might look like in my life,” she says.

Teaching biology would give her the best of both worlds, she thought.

“I would get to talk about and teach something I’m passionate about and instill that passion in the younger generation.”

At MNU her professors showed her that teaching is more than communicating a lesson.

“My professors started a relationship with us day one” she says. “So, I automatically knew that teaching was so much more than, here’s what you’re learning today.”

And she follows that example in her own classroom as she teaches seventh grade science at Argentine Middle School in Kansas City, Kansas.

“Honestly you don’t know what the students come from at home and having school be a safe place—not only where they can learn about science but where they can come and have that relationship with you and feel like you are a safe place for them,” she says. “I think there’s nothing in the world that is more important than that.”

When Doubt Fades and Faith Takes Over

Cristian ReyesCristian Reyes (’18) had to find out if his calling was real. Growing up he attended Carthage First Church of the Nazarene, where he was surrounded by people who encouraged his love of music, leadership in the youth group and eventually, leading worship.

As a ministry student, he wondered, did he really have a call? After all, so many people told him they saw a calling for ministry in his life, but did they influence him more than God had? While it seemed evident that God provided the finances for him to attend MNU, he realized he was one among many peers with the same story.

“I feel like being able to live that out here in this community and grow in that environment helped,” he says. “I remember Professor Dunn took me to lunch and we talked about calling. And I was wrestling with ‘am I really called or is this just what other people have told me?’”

Everything he did at MNU—taking courses, leading chapel worship, traveling on ServeTeam, serving as a resident assistant and the living in this community of believers— helped solidify his call.

“I felt called before I came to MNU, but this is the place where I actually believed I was called to ministry and where I felt capable,” Cristian says. “Every time I set foot on this campus I remember that, and that God has called me to this ministry.”

Now Cristian and his wife, Emily (Phillips ’18), serve at Lenexa Central Church of the Nazarene where he is associate and Hispanic worship pastor. Emily attends Nazarene Theological Seminary, and Cristian plans to start there soon. Cristian also works at the Church of the Nazarene Global Ministry Center where he coordinates requests for interpretation and translation at global church events. God is also using this position to train him in many ways for his future full-time ministry.

“I don’t always feel qualified for some of it, but God’s been opening doors for me to learn and putting people in my life that keep investing in me and teaching me and giving me those opportunities.”

Making Her Dream a Reality

Tori MarshallWith graduation quickly approaching, Tori Marshall (’19) is one big step closer to making her life’s dream come true. Set to leave MNU with degrees in both biology and psychology with a minor in chemistry, Tori is on course to fulfill the dream she’s had since elementary school.

“When I was 10, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer,” she explains. “The next day at school, I went to the library and Googled everything I could about breast cancer. After that day, I knew I wanted to be a doctor.”

Tori established her course toward the medical profession, fine-tuning her dreams in high school. She found herself serving as a sounding board and a voice of wisdom and advice for her friends and family. She became interested in the brain when she helped her friend work through some mental blocks that were keeping her from excelling in gymnastics.

“After many late-night sessions talking with my friend, my interest was piqued. I was fascinated with the brain,” Tori says.

She began to think that she could help more people like her friend, if she was properly equipped as a psychiatrist. Her family, including her grandparents who worked in the medical field, all supported her decision.

As a high school athlete, Tori’s college search included those schools that would allow her to continue playing basketball and running track. The Shawnee, Kansas, native was aware of MNU. When track Coach Nate Wiens contacted her, Tori visited campus and found she related to the positive atmosphere and the professors in the biology department.

Dr. Rion Taylor, Tori’s adviser, noticed right away that Tori was very bright. “She was serious, driven and grown up from day one,” he says.

With Taylor’s help, Tori has spent the last four years carefully preparing for what comes next: medical school.

“My interaction with the staff has almost been on a peer-to-peer level,” she says. “We’ve exchanged ideas and friendly conversations. This is something not all schools can offer.”

Taylor says it’s no surprise that MNU fosters a culture where students can reach for their dreams and find their calling.

“That is our cultural norm,” he says. “I think we inherently have faculty whose calling is to help students find their calling, so as graduates they can go out and change the world for the better.”

Education, Skills and Passion Lead to Great Career

Joey FerreyraJoey Ferreyra (’08) dropped by MNU’s multimedia class recently to talk with students about his experience with social media as the aviation marketing manager at Garmin. An aviation enthusiast himself—he’s currently building his own RV10 airplane—Joey enjoys the blend of challenging work that happens to be in an industry he loves.

“I don’t know where my job starts and stops some days,” he says.

He loves talking with end users, friends and acquaintances about aviation, uncovering the best ways to communicate all Garmin has to offer to this audience.

“Garmin hires enthusiasts in the areas of products it produces because they know as employees [enthusiasts] will work hard to develop solutions for the things they are already passionate about,” he says.

Finding his passion took a circuitous route for Joey. His career started at Sprint right out of high school, working with telephones and computers. While working his way up to marketing at Embarq, a former Sprint spin off, he pursued his education part-time. During that time, a vacation to Puerto Rico piqued his interest in aviation.

“Literally, the pilot walked out to fly our small airplane to one of the smaller islands and he couldn’t have been any older than me,” he says. “I thought, if he can do that, I can!”

Returning home to Kansas, he earned his pilot’s license and found his passion.

Joey earned his bachelor’s degree through MNU's School of Professional and Graduate Studies degree-completion program. Armed with his education, and by networking with aviation buddies, he landed his dream job.

“It took a little while to find my passion, get my education and sharpen my marketing skills,” he says. “I developed a love for aviation and thought, ‘I have to put my marketing skills to work at Garmin.’ Now my greatest challenges daily involve talking about aviation with others who love it too.”

Clarifying the Call

Don DunnDr. Don Dunn (’77) was in his senior year at MidAmerica when he distinctly felt God saying he should teach.

“I was almost ready to graduate and I had done all this preparation for the ministry,” he says. “It wasn’t what I expected or even wanted to hear.”

Dunn wrestled with the revelation, eventually meeting with his mentor, Dr. Larry Fine, who gave him sage advice, suggesting that he continue with his plans for ministry but keep his eyes open for opportunities to teach. 

As it turns out, God provided plenty of opportunities for Dunn to be a teacher—in every church he pastored, in positions with the denomination’s headquarters and eventually in formal educational settings. Dunn’s career has always led him to teaching opportunities. Now a professor at his alma mater, Dunn advises students to relax while God unveils His plans for their lives.

“Two of my favorite quotes are displayed in my MNU office,” Dunn says. “One states that the call to ministry takes many forms in a servant’s heart. The other proclaims that I am ‘Living the Dream!’ Both are true because of the promise in Jeremiah 29:11: ‘I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord… .’ God knew the lifelong plan when I could not see how all the puzzle pieces fit together!”

When Partnership at Work Turns into a Passion to Serve

Forensic teamParker Snedden (’08) and Quinn Carr (’07) played basketball for MNU while earning their degrees. Neither expected to work together after graduation, but both say God led them to this place and their MNU experience helped shape their journey.

An injury ended Parker’s athletic career at MNU. Losing his athletic scholarship, he went to work in the warehouse at his father's company, Arrowhead Forensics, Lenexa, Kansas.

“I never sensed my calling was to be in business at all,” he says. “I was dead set against working here after graduation. I thought I would be in sports journalism.”

Majoring in communications and ministry, he started working for a Kansas City sports broadcasting company shooting and editing Friday night football games. He worked weekends for next to nothing. Thinking his calling might be in some sort of sports ministry, he took an unpaid internship to explore that idea. It didn’t work out. After several similar experiences, Parker shifted gears.

“I had a lot more to learn than I thought,” he says. “All those experiences drove me to do something that I thought I might not enjoy, but I had to start somewhere,” he says about going back to work at his dad’s company.

In the years since, Parker has worked in every department of the business and now heads up sales and business development as chief revenue officer.

“I started out doing a little bit of everything and it has been so helpful. I’m very grateful that I was able to learn so much about every part of the company.”

Arrowhead Forensics’ products are used by government crime labs at the federal, state and local levels domestically and worldwide. The Kansas City Police Department and Johnson County, Kansas, Crime Labs are two of the company’s biggest customers. As the business grew
the company needed a new catalog to showcase these critical law enforcement products. That’s where Quinn came in.

Quinn worked a summer job at Arrowhead Forensics while earning his degree in graphic design and art. He even stayed with the Snedden family over breaks. After graduation Quinn was working as a graphic designer at Title Boxing, when the Sneddens called on his expertise.

“Some of the things I was doing at my job really worked well with what they were trying to do,” Quinn says. “So, when they asked if I wanted to take on the project of building this supplemental catalog, I thought it would be fun.”

The work helped Quinn understand more about the business and he enjoyed the creative freedom the project gave him. Happy with the finished product, the Snedden's asked Quinn to come on board to head the company’s creative efforts.

“But the prospect of working here— thinking about who we could serve and who I was going to work with—it seemed too good to be true,” Quinn says.

Parker and Quinn believe that what they learned at MNU from playing sports, from professors who prayed for them and from a community that became like family, shaped who they are today. And while the journey to their current calling took many twists and turns, they believe God’s hand was in it all the way.

“Something I don’t take for granted is working with people who have the same beliefs,” Quinn says. “How it shapes our decisions, the way we think, our attitudes toward the way we treat vendors and the competition; people in other companies would say, ‘man, you’ve got it really good.’”

Inspired by these stories?

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Sources: Higher Education Research Institute. U.S. Department of Education

Explore & Discover
MNU provides opportunities to help students find their unique purpose.

  • Freshmen are exposed to resources, activities and assessments that help pinpoint their interests and strengths. Early exposure provides ideas, encouragement and exploration of various career paths including what is required to be successful.
  • MNU’s Spiritual Life Office conducts The Epiphany Retreat to help students explore the idea of calling. University Chaplain Brady Braatz meets with students regularly as they talk through “a theology of vocation.”
  • Most majors encourage or require internships, practicums and other field experience. Students in ministry, marketing, pre-med, kinesiology, teacher education, graphic design, criminal justice and many other fields graduate with valuable experience that takes them one more step toward finding their purpose.
  • Beyond the classroom, MNU professors take a personal interest in students mentoring those seeking God’s call, a fulfilling career or next steps to their goal.
Career & Life Calling

Whether students have a strong vision of their future, question a calling on their lives or lose one dream only to find a better one, there is something transformational that can happen at MNU. MNU’s Career & Life Calling office offers one-on-one support for students and alumni as they explore their talents and calling.
Learn more at

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