Theresa Hoffmann – attending from Houghton College:
After a semester at the OE, I felt like I had tasted a new paradigm for what learning could be, and I hungered for more. I did not feel I had to rush-rush-rush to keep up. I had time to think, time for thoughtful conversation, time to write reflectively, time to walk in nature, to exercise, to ponder who I was. I felt supported in exploring and growing all of me.
Rob Skidmore – attending from Seattle Pacific University:
Since leaving the OE, I’ve earned an M.Div. at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary in New York and have been ordained as an Orthodox priest, in which capacity I’ve served for seven years. I consider my time at the OE to be amongst the most valuable academic and personal experiences of my life. My studies fed my mental and spiritual hunger at that time and clarified my direction for the remainder of my undergraduate studies. In terms of experiences that have taught me how to learn, how to think, how to revel in the excitement of ideas, nothing competes with my time at the OE.
Anna Cook – attending from Hope College:
Instead of having to spread my attention wide, while also trying to delve deeply into the content of each course, I was able to give my full attention to each text, each discussion, each assignment before we moved on to the next. Four years after my term at the OE, I find myself referring to the authors and ideas I encountered there more often than those I encountered in any other period of my undergraduate education. It was the OE that helped me lay the groundwork for a deeper understanding of the philosophical frameworks that shape our intellectual, spiritual and political endeavors–to understand history, current events, and personal experience in all their irreducible complexity. It was also important for me that, at the end of each unit of study, the faculty insisted we take time off. For myself, someone who has never been good at saying “this is good enough,” it was a gift to have a community model serious play–rafting, backpacking, leaf-raking, theater, potlucks–as well as serious intellectual exertion.
Aaron Fuller – attending from George Fox University:
I arrived at the OE as an enthusiastic, decent student with little direction academically or vocationally. I left the OE an engaged, confident, and more articulate human being. The academic rigor that infuses all facets of the OE program was challenging and transformative, enabling me to perceive myself as a serious student with important work to do. I left the OE burning to discover answers as well as new questions, and now not a day passes when I don’t consider a person or idea from the OE. My closest and most enduring friends today are people I met at the OE. I also consider each of the OE professors a friend as well, even though we spent only four months together; I can make a similar claim about only one other professor from all my other years of undergraduate and graduate studies.
K. L. Going – attending from Eastern University:
As a Michael Printz Honor-winning author currently working currently working on my seventh book, I constantly draw from the lessons I learned at the Oregon Extension. I credit the intensive writing experience and the opportunity for critical thinking that the OE provided with my success in my chosen field. Now, as a speaker at conferences, libraries, and schools, I share that knowledge with aspiring writers across the country. Attending the OE was one of the best choices I ever made.
Kent Davis Sensenig – attending from Eastern Mennonite University:
My time at the OE was a significant time of preparation for my later master’s studies at a Mennonite seminary and my doctoral studies in Christian Ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary. The OE enhanced my capacity to think theologically, write with greater clarity, articulate ideas in conversation with fellow believers from diverse Christian traditions, and integrate a range of disciplines. It was also a wonderful learning community in which serious thinking and daily living flowed together organically, as their old motto of “read a pile of books and chop a little wood” aptly captured. The rich diet of reading brought together the enduring themes of classics like The Brothers Karamazov with the best of contemporary social analysis and cultural observation. And the biblical narrative and Christian story through the ages were pastorally but unintrusively woven throughout. It was as much about learning to live rightly and graciously as learning to think cogently and deeply, and all within the encompassing reality of God’s creative activity in history and nature (which was abundantly available outside one’s cabin door!). It provided a context for sustained listening—to each other, Scripture, great books, our own hearts, and living things—free from much of the distracting “white noise” of our fragmenting, frenetic and consumption-driven postmodern environment. I can safely say that the OE was the most academically stimulating season of my college years.
Katherine Garvelink – attending from Calvin College
I went to the OE at a time when I was dealing with challenging issues and found it an honest, compassionate place. I had spent years studying theology and philosophy but never encountered any feminist theology or philosophy. It was wonderful to be able to study those areas and others in an environment where any question or struggle is okay. Also, since I’m currently working on my M.Div. at a somewhat conservative seminary, it was invaluable to encounter varied perspectives on theological issues before starting my program. I also learned about myself that semester and am healthier for it. The community was close and some of the friends I still trust most deeply are people I met at the OE.
Kevin Filocamo – attending from Gordon College:
As a junior in college, I was a person in spiritual crisis, with the foundations of my faith crumbling. I had the very good fortune to attend the OE during this very critical time in my life. I experienced the faculty at the OE as a team of very compassionate and dedicated human beings who were committed to the wholeness and well-being of each student. They helped normalize my experience of “spiritual breakdown” and offered a structure with which to work through this process. In the context of this communal spiritual inquiry, in which I was intellectually and personally challenged, I began to develop tools of engagement and inquiry that have remained with me to this day. At the OE, I was able to come to a spirituality that is based more deeply in integrity and ongoing inquiry. As a result, my spiritual life is very much alive.
Rachel Ingraham – attending from Houghton College:
I came to the OE fairly disillusioned about the status of the American church today and the possibility of my remaining in it. Although I attended a Christian college, I found that most of my peers seemed to lack curiosity and a sense of urgency in exploring their faith and their world. At the OE, interactions with books by Simone Weil, Kathleen Norris and James Alison allowed me, my classmates, and our professors to be in dialogue with a Christianity that was not just content with the status quo but that wanted to move out and change the world. Before I attended the OE, I had almost given up on the world of Christian education. Following my time in Lincoln, however, I was able to return to my home campus with a renewed sense of how I might more fully integrate my intellectual, spiritual, and emotional selves. Now that I am in the midst of an MDiv program at Harvard Divinity School, I realize that it was the particular kind of Christian education encouraged by the OE that has helped to bring me to where I am today–intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally. I am still learning to “live the questions” that I began to pursue in Lincoln, and hope that this will be a journey I can continue for many years to come.
Bonnie J (Geelhood) Davis – attending from Calvin College:
As a science major, and a pre-med student at that, I was not a typical OE student. I was very excited that I could arrange my schedule so as to get a lot of my liberal arts credits taken care of at the OE. It was wonderful to come to a place where everyone enjoyed reading and discussing ideas. I was able to get my first taste of serious philosophy, theology and social thought as well as instruction in how to read and understand these disciplines critically. As a family practice doctor in a rural community, I see people in challenging situations every day. It is not just knowing which drug to prescribe or how to put in sutures. I have found I am a better and more caring doctor when I can understand a patient’s social situation, family setting, religious background, and what it is about us humans that makes us really human. Had I just marched straight through college and medical school without having had my experiences at the Oregon Extension to introduce me in an in-depth level to the humanities, I would be much less successful as a doctor.
Michelle Curtis – attending from Messiah College:
(An excerpt): Some things I was learning at the OE (this may not have been the first time learning all of these, but my semester at the OE contributed significantly to my process of learning these things):
- Novels are important. They are not just beach reading. You can learn a lot from them and they are worthwhile reading.
- Even if I become a mom, I’m still a person, a flawed human person. I cannot have all the answers for my kids. I cannot fix all things for them. I still need to live my own life in some manner.
- Spaces matter a lot to me. I need sacred spaces like the chapel in my life. Also, place and land matter. I love Oregon itself. I love the land here.
- Being physically present with people is incredibly important to me. I love living a life of being fully present where I am. Taking a break from my email and phone can really help me be present.
- My academics and my spirituality can walk hand-in-hand. That is a beautiful thing. It’s difficult, but it’s completely worthwhile.
- It is important to listen to my body. On backpacking I realized that food is fuel and that enabled me to eat when I was hungry, to eat what I needed, and to stop when I was full. I realized that I have not often trusted my body in many things. I have separated my mind from my body. I hear it in my language when I say, “my body hates me.” I learned that my body has rhythms and that I can be in tune to them. I learned that my body can tell me a lot about what’s going inside me.
- There are many ways to be Christian. And maybe our specific doctrines aren’t the most important thing. They matter for sure! Theology affects how we live. But we can pray together and learn and explore together and respect the differences.
- Life does not have to be as extravagant as it often is. I can be very content (and it’s actually easier to be content) with a much simpler life—with a smaller wardrobe, less technology, a much simpler schedule.
- I learned to write a thesis-driven paper.
- I learned to be much more playful, particularly with ideas, but also with myself, God, and even a little bit with how I plan and live my life.
- Discussion matters. Talking about things opens up the possibility to change them. It’s really important to talk about things that matter. “Just” talking is not a waste of time.
- Telling stories matters. Hearing other people’s stories breeds compassion and understanding. And that can open doors to working together.
- God does not have to be one who fixes things. God is One who is present in the midst of the darkness, the grief, the anger. And therefore, I am allowed to be present with those things within myself.