Happy 175th Birthday, A. J. Gordon!—Here’s what your vision’s yielded:
As the most prestigious scholarship at Gordon College, the A. J. Gordon Scholarship is awarded to students in elite academic standing, showing Christian commitment and leadership qualities. The four-year program prompts young scholars to discover their passions while giving them the tools to become leaders in their disciplines through mentorships, seminars, service projects and individual learning plans. The A. J. Gordon program exists to graduate young women and men dedicated to A. J. Gordon’s founding values: education, evangelism, global missions, servant leadership, social justice, theology and worship.
Through the year we’ll be profiling current A. J. Gordon Scholars in celebration of A. J. Gordon’s 175th Birthday.
Hometown: Tyler, Texas
Shooting for the Moon
There’s no shortage of youngsters in the world who’d like to be astronauts when they grow up. And by the age of 18, Morgan Shook was halfway there as she scored herself a summer internship at NASA.
Shook, a soon-to-be sophomore at Gordon is originally from Tyler, Texas, studying preengineering. She’ll be one of the first students to complete the preengineering degree at Gordon, which for her will consist of three years at Gordon as a physics major, earning her a B.A. in physics, and two years at the University of Southern California as a chemical engineering major, earning her a B.S. in chemical engineering.
“Ideally I’d get a job working in the aerospace industry,” says Shook. Currently she’s interning in the radar systems department at Raytheon, a missile defense center in Woburn, Massachusetts.
Even after interning at NASA, the transition from school to the internship at Raytheon was intimidating. “I’m working with professionals who are leaders in the high tech industry,” says Shook. “But I remember on the morning of my first day I read a verse in Timothy that reminded me, God is here: He’ll get me through—I don’t need to be afraid.”
Shook isn’t afraid in her goals as a student either. “I’m trying to figure out where my passions—physics, math and engineering, play into my faith,” she says. “I love the technology side of things but I also love how it interfaces with people and how it influences daily lives. I want to be doing something I can tell is impacting our culture.”
While Shook certainly has big plans for the future, for now she’s focused on working hard in her classes and enjoying Massachusetts.
“I got to see The Nutcracker in Boston last winter and when the weather got nice in the spring there were many trips to the beach,” she says. “And of course, I enjoy bi-weekly visits to The Cheesecake Factory.”
Hometown: Mequon, Wisconsin
Major: economics and international affairs
Sandals for Justice
Since the New England weather stopped pelting snow, and temperatures started climbing above freezing, Jenna Breitbarth has been wearing sandals. And not just any pair of sandals. They were handmade by the Nicaraguan family that she lived with during her semester abroad to Central America in the fall of 2009.
Breitbarth, an A. J. Gordon Scholar from Mequon, Wisconsin, who’s studying economics and international affairs, has always had a knack for business and a strong call to stewardship. Wearing the sandals is a combination of both passions.
“When my host family told me that they were being paid a single dollar for their sandals and their buyers were turning around and selling them for $10, I knew I had to do something,” said Breitbarth.
So with the help of friends and the funding of a professor, Breitbarth and other students from the CCCU in her study abroad program brought the sandals to folks at their home universities for a test run.
“My hope is to iron out the kinks in design and eventually set up transactions where students of schools in the CCCU can buy sandals directly from families in Nicaragua,” said Breitbarth. “Americans would get quality sandals and the Nicaraguans would earn 20 times what they make going through a vendor.”
Coupled with her learning at Gordon, Breitbarth’s experiences in Nicaragua have shown her the importance of stewardship and compassion in every vocation. “I do want to go into the private sector of business,” said Breitbarth. “But I also know I want to be on the board for a nonprofit. I always want to have one hand working in a philanthropic role.”
That’s why she chose to intern this summer at the Essex County Community Foundation. The organization works to fund nonprofits on the North Shore and gave $2.5 million to nonprofit organizations in 2009.
“I know I have been given so much,” said Breitbarth. “I have a responsibility with the skills I’ve learned at Gordon to help bring about justice in whatever way I can.”
Hometown: Wheaton, Illinois
Major: communication arts
Scribbles, Dots and Lines
Alysa Obert writes because she has to. It’s how she engages life and interprets the world around her. Sometimes it’s through a feature story, other times with an editorial, but more recently, she’s been creating children’s books.
“I’ve had some of these stories and characters running around in my head for years,” said Obert, an A. J. Gordon scholar and senior communication arts major from Wheaton, Illinois. She’s finally found the venue to let them out as the owner of five local Learning Express stores recently hired her to author a series of books, of which the first is titled, The Blue Whale on a Pale.
“I’m compelled to write children’s books because of how influential books were to me as a child,” said Obert. “For me, writing is a form of evangelism because I can creatively share who God is in a subtle way.”
For Obert, the communication arts major has not only honed her skills as a writer but also given her a framework for understanding the art of storytelling. “Words are important,” says Obert. “Scribbles, dots and lines influence the way we think, talk, and act towards each other. They can motivate and move people to action or cause world wars.”
While writing children’s books is one of Obert’s main projects this summer, she’s also an inaugural Fellow in the Gordon College News Service where she writes regularly for local newspapers around the North Shore, including the Boston Globe.
“The news service is a huge challenge for me because it means that I’m weekly coming face to face with strangers, trying to understand them and tell their story,” said Obert. “That’s allowed me to really get into the North Shore community and put into practice all that I’m learning in my theory classes.”
And that intersection of theory and practice is what Obert most appreciates about her Gordon education. “I’m required to engage with my academics, to have a standard of excellence and then a response to what I’m learning,” she says.
"At Gordon it’s all about the process of becoming—spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, socially and academically.”
Rachel and Joshua Bell
Hometown: Harare, Zimbabwe
Rachel: Pike Scholar, international development major
Josh: Biblical and theological studies major
Training for a Mission
When twins Rachel and Joshua Bell began looking for colleges in the U.S. from their hometown of Harare, Zimbabwe, they had no intention of sticking together. After scouring the websites of many Christian colleges across the country, they separately settled on the same place—Gordon College, where they were accepted as A. J. Gordon Scholars.
“I liked how at Gordon academic excellence was equally as important as Christian character,” says Josh who’s majoring in biblical and theological studies. After completing the Jerusalem and Athens Forum (JAF) honors program this past year, he can attest to both Gordon’s excellence and character.
“JAF instilled in me a desire to learn but more than that, a desire to learn properly through comparing texts and thinking critically,” he says. “At Gordon you’re paying for good quality education.”
As a Pike scholar majoring in international development, his sister Rachel also finds Gordon to be rigorous in ways that stretch her thinking. “I’m being exposed to a wider world and a variety of different opinions and beliefs within Christianity,” she says. “It’s stimulating but also very challenging.”
Taking on challenges is something that Josh and Rachel seek out on their own—from Rachel participating in the Model United Nations each year to Josh taking on a resident advisor role. “There are so many options, opportunities and ways to become involved at Gordon,” Josh says.
But while the Bells appreciate the opportunities, adjusting to the abundance of life in America hasn’t always been easy. “When we left Zimbabwe, food was very precious,” says Josh. “Here in America people are often times materialistic and wasteful.”
Still, the lessons learned in America have inspired both Josh and Rachel to return home to Zimbabwe someday and bring about restoration in the ways they’ve been trained: Rachel in government and Josh as a teacher of theology.
“When I was in Zimbabwe, I didn’t think I could make much of a difference,” says Rachel. “But from here—from Gordon—I’m realizing I can.”
Hometown: San Jose, California
Class of 2014
Turning a Challenge into a Call
Each morning Trevor Hinshaw wakes up with a headache. By midday it’s a migraine, and soon normal tasks become major challenges. It’s been this way ever since he was in elementary school.
Still, the 18-year-old from San Jose, California, graduated in the top 4 percent of his class and will be entering Gordon in the fall of 2010 as both an A. J. Gordon Scholar and a member of the men’s soccer team.
“The prospect of leaving my family and dealing with the migraines on my own is scary,” says Hinshaw. “But I know it will be healthy for me as an individual to come to grips with this because as far as I know this could be something I deal with for the rest of my life.”
Not only does Hinshaw deal with his migraines with a positive attitude but he’s also intending to study biology and someday try to solve the problem that he and many others deal with daily.
“Rather than having the migraines be the worst part of my existence, I can try to turn them into the best part,” says Hinshaw. “I’ve spoken with so many doctors and tried so many things, all to no avail. I won’t pretend that I have all the answers, or that I will find them, but I’m going to try.”
Hinshaw plans to double-major in biology and neuroscience as a Pike Scholar at Gordon before going on to higher education.
“The way I think of it is that we have the technology to go to Mars and map the ocean but we don’t understand the driving force behind the brain, which makes it possible to think about those things,” says Hinshaw.
While Hinshaw’s academic aspirations are high, for now he’s gearing up for Gordon’s soccer pre-season.
According to the head coach of the men’s soccer team, Jake DeClute, Hinshaw will bring a lot to Gordon’s soccer program “I’m really excited to have Trevor as a part of our team,” says DeClute. “He’s a great fit both as a player and an individual with high aspirations and a hard work ethic. I’m glad to have him at Gordon.”
Hinshaw joins Gordon College as one of 489 new students for the academic year of 2010-2011.
Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina
Major: economics and political studies
Finding Value in Diversity
Growing up as the son of missionaries in Moscow, Russia, Tim Campbell wanted to understand cross-cultural diversity and share it with others.
The junior whose United States home base is in Charlotte, North Carolina, is studying economics and political science. He’s also the leader of the on-campus group Advocates for Cultural Diversity, an A. J. Gordon scholar and the student leader of an upcoming missions trip to Sri Lanka—all of which speak to his passion for understanding and working towards diversity.
“The formation of culture is linked to community, identity and faith—and those are all ways of understanding who we are,” says Campbell. “That’s why it’s so important to explore those elements.”
One way Campbell has explored community at Gordon is through the Elijah Project, a year-long program including seminars, community living and an in depth exploration of vocation. The Elijah Project is funded in part through a grant from the Lilly Endowment program for the Theological Exploration of Vocation.
“I was really challenged to answer the question ‘What does good community look like?’ says Campbell. “I realized I learn about who I am by interacting with others.”
Campbell sees huge value in understanding others, especially others who are different. As the leader of Advocates for Diversity he facilitates discussions around relevant issues such as the controversy over the Ground Zero mosque, black history month, and larger issues such as how Islam relates to the West.
For Campbell, discussing diversity is just as important as experiencing it. In the summer of 2011 he’ll head to Sri Lanka, where he and a team will work in conjunction with Gordon alumnus Prashan DeVisser ’08 and the organization Sri Lanka Unites—the purpose of which is to create a “youth movement for hope and reconciliation” in the war-torn country of Sri Lanka.”
“Gordon really encourages students to express their opinions and perspectives through thoughtful dialogue,” says Campbell. “It’s so important that students have these cross-cultural experiences—like serving in Sri Lanka—to prompt our thinking about diversity and our role in bringing justice to it as Christians.”
Hometown: Blandon, Pennsylvania
Major: Political Studies
Dreams of Justice
After playing the lawyer in her sixth-grade school play, The Trial of Goldilocks, Sarah Pitts had her career goal set. Someday she’d be a Supreme Court justice.
Pitts, a junior A. J. Gordon Scholar from Blandon, Pennsylvania, studying political science, has always found the foundations of law interesting, but through her classes at Gordon and community involvement, she’s coming to see that justice is more important than law.
“Jeremiah talks about knowing God by doing justice,” says Pitts. “And I want to know Him.”
Which is why she’s chosen to live in the city of Lynn through the Gordon in Lynn program, an initiative designed to develop faithful student leaders through guided civic engagement in the diverse urban neighborhood. Her involvement includes interning at the Ford Elementary School, where she organizes Gordon first-year students volunteering as teaching aids.
“There’s so much culture and so much happening in the city of Lynn,” said Pitts. “I’m amazed by the sense of community despite the diversity of Lynn. When there’s a Latino festival, everyone shows up!”
Pitts’ work in Lynn is part of what she considers doing justice. “To me, justice is the Golden Rule, the law of love. It’s figuring out how to respond and engage in each situation,” she says.
For now that process is serving elementary school children, but Pitts’ dreams of becoming a Supreme Court justice remain in tact as she’s gaining the tools at Gordon to be ready for graduate school. She hopes to study in Washington D.C. next semester through the American Studies Program.