For Christians engaged in careers other than vocational ministrythat is, for most Christian adultsprofessional ambition is informed by two questions: how can I do what I do well? And, how can I do it for the Lord?
These days, graduate students in Christian colleges and universities are answering both questions in a growing number of fields, including education, business, music, creative writing, nursing, counseling, and clinical psychology.
"Our educational goal for graduate students is to help them develop both professional competence and personal character," says John Glancy, Director of Graduate Admissions and Marketing at Seattle Pacific University in Seattle. "To that end, professors in all disciplines seek to model both scholarship and service, and to inspire students to carry out the vision of SPU to engage the culture in order to change the world," he said. "A look at the post-graduation activities of our graduate alumni shows that they have heard the message and are carrying it into their homes, businesses, and communities at large."
Among SPU's recent graduates, Glancy offers two examples of this kind of impact. Dustin Robinson (MBA), a regional director of global strategy for the Boeing Corporation, puts his professional expertise to work both on the job and at his church, where he leads a service team, co-hosts (with his wife) a marriage and faith mentoring group, and has participated in formulating a strategy for long-term outreach. Stephanie Pickering (Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology) is serving in a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Washington's Center on Human Development and Disability, working with interdisciplinary teams to provide comprehensive assessments and accurate diagnoses for children with neurodevelopmental issues such as autism. These graduatesand many othersGlancy says, "are living out the University's vision of 'engaging the culture, changing the world.'"
Graduate schools commonly recognize that a meaningful career requires both depth of knowledge and effective application. "At the undergraduate level, classes focus on knowledge, analysis and some application of the cognitive learning," says Leroy VanWhy, Graduate Programs Admissions Counselor at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida. "In the graduate programs, students are further expected to take that knowledge and understanding and, not only apply it, but be able to analyze and evaluate it at a higher level of process."
Opportunities for application within the context of graduate level preparation abound, with a variety of requirements and options even within a single degree program. "Dallas Baptist University uses many tools during and at the conclusion of our masters programs to prepare students for effective practice in their professions," says Denny Dowd, Vice President of Corporate and Graduate Affairs at the Dallas, Texas school. Each graduate program, he says, includes a service-learning component, "in which participating students are required to complete an assignment that involves providing a professional service to an organization under the direction of their instructors, in conjunction with the management of that organization." Depending on the program, students might complete an internship, prepare a comprehensive professional portfolio, prepare for state certification exams or professional licensure, and/or complete an integrative capstone course that brings together the various elements necessary for effective practice. Graduate schools also bring the field into the classroom through extensive use of case studies and guest lectures by current practitioners.