This fall, Biola launched a vibrant new series of billboards, advertisements and mailers, each bearing the tagline: “College is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Make it Matter.” The marketing campaign’s visual aesthetic includes handmade paper miniatures of campus buildings, cutouts and even a home-baked blueberry pie that doubles as a map of the globe. The tactile, “made with care” look reflects Biola’s commitment to offer a personalized education to each and every student, equipping them to live out their faith in this physical world. (Find more on Biola's new undergraduate website.)
For Biolans, “Make it Matter” is a call to action — to make the most of the valuable resources, brilliant faculty and enriching community that comes with an education at Biola. But it’s also a reminder that our faith is not some disembodied, ethereal notion floating invisibly in space. No, the Christian faith plays out in the realm of matter — in the hands-in-the-dirt, bricks-and-mortar, sickness-and-death world where humans daily strive and struggle to make things happen.
At Biola University, students learn what it means to be Christ’s ambassadors in the world, reflecting his character and his mission in everything we do — whether as nurses, bankers, painters or poets. It’s about the integration of faith and learning, but also living and doing. How can a Biola education prepare us to make our lives matter for Christ by working in his created world, with the creative faculties he imprinted on each one of us?
Here, we highlight four Biola students — one sophomore, two seniors and a recent graduate — who are making it matter. They are students who have approached their college experience at Biola not as a break from life but as a catalyst for kickstarting their own productive part in the ongoing mission of God. Below, you’ll find excerpts from four conversations between these students and the Biola professors who have helped shape them. It’s a glimpse into the ways in which students and faculty at Biola University are interacting and partnering in the pursuit of a Christ-centered, world-impacting education.
Heather, interviewed by Prof. Jonathan Anderson
Heather is a senior art student whose award-winning art piece, “Dwelling Within,” was displayed in Edinburgh, Scotland this past summer.
Jonathan Anderson is an associate professor of drawing and painting, whose own works have been exhibited nationally and internationally. jonathanandersonpaintings.com
Jonathan: Heather, how would you say that an artist follows God differently than the biochemist?
Heather: One way would be simply in the process of making art. This summer I went to Spain and worked with graffiti artists there, creating an art installation. I taught them origami. So imagine a group of guys with tattoos all over their arms creating little origami birds. It was a community process, working together with a variety of people to show the love of God.
Jonathan: It seems to me that the way you are looking at art is not just as a cultivation of visual thinking — which is one way of defining art — but as something with a real social dimension to it as well. Both the art-making process and the art-viewing process are a social thing for you. It’s a place for social healing, reconciliation …
Heather: Dialogue, yeah. … What was interesting is that when I was teaching these graffiti artists to make origami art — and we had to create hundreds of these paper cranes for our installation — there were also Muslim women who came in to the art center to work as well. It was really interesting to see these Moroccan Muslim women working alongside these tattooed graffiti artists, engaging in art projects. I was amazed and overjoyed to see this.
Jonathan: Out of curiosity, how did this summer in Europe come to be? How did you set this up?
Heather: I won a trip to Europe to display my art in Edinburgh, so I got over there and had the first couple weeks planned out, but I was going to be there the whole summer — for three months. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but after looking online, I found this organization in Spain — Art 360 — and just contacted them by myself. I asked them if I could do an internship with them. They said yeah, sure. It had just opened, so they asked me to create an installation piece in the center of town to bring awareness to the center.
Jonathan: Tell me about the art piece that won you the trip to Europe in the first place.
Heather: It was a tent installation. I found out about this art competition in Scotland. They put out a call for artwork for this conference, and about 15 days before the deadline I decided to make this piece. I worked painstaking hours with my grandpa to make this 15 foot long, 15 foot tall, 6 feet wide Bedouin tent, kind of commenting on how we are tentmakers involved in mission, filled with God’s Spirit in order to fulfill God’s task. I’d never used a sewing machine before, but I sat down at a machine and taught myself how to use it. It was fun! So I documented the work and sent it in to the competition, and three months later I found out that I won a trip to Europe!
Jonathan: I have to really applaud your go-getting attitude and ambition. I think there’s this mystery about how things happen in the art world or in the world in general. We all sort of wonder how things happen. It happens by people going out and making decisions to do things — decisions that are somewhat audacious and ambitious. You just have to go and make things happen. And that’s what you did.
Jason Roszhart, interviewed by Dr. Sue Russell
Jason Roszhart, a senior socio-cultural anthropology major and a student in Torrey Honors Institute, goes down to Los Angeles’ Skid Row weekly to serve the homeless at Union Rescue Mission.
Dr. Sue Russell is an associate professor of intercultural studies and author of Conversion, Power, and Identity.
Sue:You’ve been involved in ministry in downtown Los Angeles. How’d you get involved in that?
Jason: When I used to go on mission trips in high school, it struck a chord in my heart and I realized I loved doing ministry like this. And reading the Bible, I can’t get away from passages like where Paul says, “This is one thing I want you to remember: Don’t forget the poor.” The first time I went to Union Rescue Mission on Skid Row was when I was taking day retreats about once a month. I didn’t have classes on Tuesdays, so I thought I’d take little retreats to explore the area. I found out that Union Rescue Mission actually had the same founder as Biola — Lyman Stewart — so seeing that we had that common founding and the same Christ-centered vision was inspiring. So I started going to Union Rescue Mission and instantly connected with the people there.
Sue: The people you were serving? The people you were serving with?
Jason: I worked in the kitchen, pretty much all day, which is what I still do. I’ll be there this afternoon working in the kitchen actually! So I started building relationships with the people I was working with in the kitchen and those I was serving. My time is less focused on me trying to tell people about Jesus than on me just being there, trying to do social justice work — which is kind of trendy with our generation. Former generations sort of scarred us with their lack of tact in witnessing, so we’ve reacted to that by saying, “Well we can move people toward knowing about Jesus without actually asking the question.” That’s actually been a conviction on my heart recently: Why don’t we take people to the point of decision? Why don’t we ever just go ahead and tell people about Jesus? Why can’t we do it on the streets? Is it really going to harm them to have heard the gospel in 15 minutes from someone they don’t know? What if that truth echoes in their head that night, and they end up in a church on Sunday and come to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior?
Sue: I think there is that balance — there is the long-term relational, and there is the proclamation — and this is where every generation struggles. How do we balance those? I think this is something where we have to be open to the Holy Spirit moving people in different ways. At Biola we learn that people have so many gifts and talents — that different people have different visions. It sounds like you’ve developed a vision at Biola, and now the question is, how will you continue you that vision once you graduate?
Jason: If I were to run through my average day in L.A., it would look like this: I get on the bus in the morning, ride two hours, reading/sleeping, then I explore L.A. a little bit. I’m getting knowledge of the city, experiencing the various cultures in Los Angeles. Then I’m working at Union Rescue Mission, which is really just a lighthouse in a very dark place. Those conversations I’ve had there have taught me so much about the gospel. So there’s this great mutual enrichment of going to the city and being at Biola, where I’m learning very rich, deep things in class, how to minister to people, how to reach people of different mind and background. So I learn the knowledge, and then I go to the city and I have these conversations where I get to test it all out.
Sue:It sounds like you’re living out integration. You have this theoretical understanding of the city from sociology, you have some practical tools from anthropology, but then your theology classes are asking the deep questions of what we should be doing and who are the people we are serving. So you’re taking these things and putting them together and living it out, and that’s pretty cool.
Jason: That’s been the neatest part. It drives me to want to live out the Bible in every way, because it’s the richest, most fulfilling way to live.
Natalee Morales, interviewed by Dr. Michael Longinow
Natalee Morales graduated from the journalism department at Biola in December of 2008 and landed her first job two weeks later. Natalee has worked as an anchor/reporter for KTVL in Medford, Ore., and is now the morning news anchor for KIVI-TV in Boise, Idaho.
Dr. Michael Longinow is the chair of Biola’s journalism department and the adviser of The Chimes newspaper.
Michael: If I remember right, you walked into a CBS internship in a way that just knocked everyone back on their heels. How did you get the internship?
Natalee: I was working at Angel’s stadium and I met a scout there and he said he had Laura Diaz with him — who is the No. 1 news anchor in L.A., though I didn’t know that at the time because I wasn’t from L.A. She came down and met me in the team store where I was working, and mentioned that CBS News had internships. So she helped me get an internship there. It wasn’t until after I finished the internship there that I found out that one of the requirements was you had to be a junior or senior in college. But I was only a freshman in college. So I don’t really know how I got it, but you know God has his ways and opens doors!
Longinow: When you were at Biola, the equipment situation was not the best. How did you persevere through those difficult times to become successful, despite the odds?
Natalee: That’s funny because really the equipment situation is not good anywhere you go. It doesn’t matter if you are at CBS in L.A., or Medford (Ore.) where I’ve been, or now Boise. It’s a mess. You’re sharing equipment, there’s not much to go around. You just have to persevere. If this is what you want to do, equipment issues are the least of your worries, once you get to the real world of journalism. You just have to push through it. When you look at the finished product — convergence of sound, picture and you telling the story — that’s got to be worth it to you.
Longinow: You shocked me early in your coursework at Biola when you told me that you were half Mexican and half Ukrainian. I didn’t believe you at first, because that’s me too. It’s a really unique combination of ethnic backgrounds. Have you found it to be an advantage or disadvantage to you so far in your career?
Natalee: Growing up I don’t think it was much of an advantage. I spent about half my time in Mexico and half in the U.S., and so in the U.S. I was the Mexican girl and in Mexico I was the American girl. So I felt like I wasn’t accepted in either place. It’s just about learning to love who God created you to be. I’ve had people tell me, “Natalee, you have to be more Latina,” or “You have to be less Latina.” But really, you just have to be you. It’s been kind of a struggle throughout my life, but in my career I’ve mostly just tried to be me. God made me the way I am — half Mexican and half Ukrainian — for a reason, and maybe it was because I could appeal to a broader audience.
Longinow: One question parents often ask when their students start in the journalism program at Biola is, how is it possible to be an ardent, committed follower of Christ in a medium that looks by all appearances not only non-Christian but even anti-Christian at times? You’ve been successful, and you’re a believer. How’d you do that, and what would you say to those who say it’s not possible?
Natalee: It’s really just about finding time to be with the Lord on a regular basis. Instead of spending so much time on Facebook, you should be reading a devotional, praying to God, seeking his wisdom. I have friends who are working in this business who are Christians, and they call me and ask me, “How are you surviving in an environment that is so critical and superficial?” But I think if you’re humble in the sight of God, there’s no criticism that can really bring you down. Because I answer to God and no one else.
Jake Davis, interviewed by Dr. Matt Williams
Jake Davis is a sophomore Bible major and communications minor who recently published a line of notecards, “Revealed in Nature,” featuring wildlife and nature photographs he took during summers in northwest Wyoming.
Dr. Matt Williams is an associate professor of biblical and theological studies, and recently released The Life of Jesus DVD Bible study through Zondervan.
Matt: So you’re from Kentucky, but you go to Wyoming every summer. Who’s there?
Jake: My dad plays in the Teton Music Festival for about three weeks or so in Grand Teton National Park. So every summer, that’s where we go. I kind of grew up there. Last summer I spent pretty much the whole summer out there, taking pictures.
Matt: Pictures of what?
Jake: Whatever I can find. It depends on what I’m going for. If I want to do wolves than I’ll take a few weeks and track wolves. It’s fun.
Matt: No way. You track them down? By yourself?
Jake: Sometimes with friends. Sometimes by myself. It’s kind of lonely if you’re by yourself, because it’s a lot of hours of waiting.
Matt: So give me a list of animals you’ve taken pictures of.
Jake: Wolves, grizzly bears, black bears, elk, moose, badgers, coyotes, birds, owls, eagles, deer, fox. I really want to get a mountain lion. That’s next on my list.
Matt: So how’d you get started in this? Is this just to take pictures to take pictures?
Jake: Well I’ve always liked taking pictures. But a year or two ago I was thinking, “What can I do with this?” I knew I wanted to use it for some type of ministry. And so we prayed about it, and we came up with the title “Revealed in Nature,” and my mom — who has her own line of cards — helped take my photos and turn them into a line of notecards (www.revealedinnature.com). When people go into galleries to look at wildlife photography, or when they watch something like Planet Earth — the purpose often seems to be glorifying nature. But it ends right there. So with “Revealed in Nature” I’d like to communicate that nature isn’t the end unto itself. It points. We celebrate God because of nature, not nature because of nature. Normally with art and prints, you sign your name. But I’m thinking of learning the Hebrew way of writing “Yahweh,” to make the point that all I do is push a button. He is the true artist. So I think that could be a cool conversation starter.
Matt: Let’s think about this for a minute. “Revealed in Nature.” God didn’t spell it all out. He could have made clouds with letters that said “Hi, I’m God. I made you. I love you. I have a wonderful plan for your life.” But he just makes puffy, cool clouds of different sizes. So he wants to start a conversation. He wants people to start reflecting on who made all this. So then you take a picture of that and you continue the conversation. You can take those people who are just in to nature, and take them one step closer to God. That’s pretty cool. Are these cards being sold in stores?
Jake: Yeah, they haven’t been out that long, but they’re out in a few stores, including the Biola Bookstore.
Matt: Didn’t you start a scholarship fund?
Jake: Yeah, for the ones that are sold in the Biola Bookstore, the money goes to into a fund for scholarships for Biola students.
Matt: What’d you do that for? You’re only 19. Not rolling in money. Why would you care about other students at this point?
Jake: Well, because I feel like every other day someone is coming down the hall saying they can’t afford to stay another semester, asking for spare change. There are so many people who just can’t afford to stay. So not that this will make a ton of money or make much of a difference, but it might help a little. And it might motivate people to buy them.