Finding freedom in the liberal arts: Outlook church-college partnership winner

Screen Shot 2015-10-17 at 5.31.54 PMby Mickensie Neely

There is a false yet pervasive myth that students graduating high school know what they want to pursue in higher education – and by extension what it is they want to “do” with their lives. The truth is, almost none of us did. I certainly did not. Yet God ordered my steps to a school whose belief system and faith-infused learning would guide me in straight paths by clearer waters than I had known on my own.

I began attending King University in the fall of 2011 as a photography major. All I really knew about where my life was headed was that I desperately wanted to make a difference. What I wanted to “do,” was to “do good.” I felt then, and still do today, that art can do just that. I wanted to cause people to feel something. I wanted to create. I wanted to help people meet Jesus. I had countless courses to pick from and myriad options for a minor. This left me a little perplexed. What was the right option? How was I to choose?

In the end, or rather from the start, I didn’t have to. The beauty of attending a Christian school that still blessedly believes in a liberal arts education is that it gave me an open opportunity to try anything I felt pulled toward. Another brilliant thing about King is the people who fill it. King’s atmosphere is one that invites questions (big and small), promotes community in a way I had never experienced before and allows Jesus to be a real part of the overall conversation. This would not have been possible had it not been for King and their PC(USA) association. The environment cultivated within the school allowed for a soul-searching approach to my future.

Stepping onto campus, a bright-eyed freshman, people instantly crossed my path who were influential in the direction that path began to take. My mentors, advisors and professors, across all different and diverse fields of study, offered insight into my future, and deeper still, into my faith. I had the fleeting pleasure of catching the curiosity of the enigmatic English professor, the one who held fast to the somewhat whimsical belief that everyone was an English major at heart. His acquaintance changed me, emboldened my writing and enriched my faith. I was overwhelmed with wisdom from my married Bible professors. They tag-teamed the New and Old Testament in a way that has changed and informed the way I read the Bible. My freshman orientation leader gently, yet passionately, suggesting I look into the college’s youth ministry program, which eventually became my major. I had the exhilarating opportunity to attend a mission trip to Camden, New Jersey, with the youth ministry major’s fearless leader where I faced my fears of the unknown and found a hope unparalleled within the inner city. I found something akin to calling outside of the borders of my comfort zone.

This sort of fear-facing, risk-taking attitude was fostered, quietly and resolutely, within my four years at King. I have to believe that this attitude was able to flourish because of the type of people that this school attracts: people that invest in students. People that are passionately entrenched in their beliefs. People that long to lead you into deeper understanding and better ways of relating to our savior. In small and large ways, I have been molded and readied to go forth and do good; wonderfully and providentially, I have also been granted the chance to understand the width and breadth of the scope of what it looks like to “do good.” In the community I have cherished over my time here, I have seen God work through accountants and biologists, through economists and historians, through every page of every novel read and through countless chapel speakers and songs. I am proud to say I have tasted and seen, even if it was just a glimpse, the immense glory of our God, of God’s ability to use whatever means God deems fit to make God known.

197-21 IF Award Neely photoNow I get the privilege of becoming a means that God might use, and praise-be for that.