The Class of 2013 gets a jump-start on its future
By Kimberly Felton
Seven graduates. Seven stories of remarkable determination and success. Each person wise enough to know the path they are on is somewhat unusual; each one grateful.
Of course, there’s always more to these stories than a smiling face and a list of early-career achievements, always something that could not fit in these pages. No life – not even lives as young as these – is summed up so easily. Each person had challenges to overcome. Family trauma or tragedy. Serious financial difficulties. Forging a path in a foreign culture that offers few favors. Or simply having the guts to live up to a gifting that revealed itself.
Despite the challenges, the men and women here are stepping into their futures, eager and perhaps a little nervous. What’s next? One never knows for sure. But each of these graduates is confident – most of the time – that this next step is the one meant for them to take.
Ministry Through Medicine
For Deborah Champagne, a medical degree isn’t about making money – it’s about making a difference
Champagne has visited 20 countries, and has studied a semester abroad in both England and Israel. She intends to build a home and life in a developing country.
From age 8, Deborah (Ross) Champagne knew she would live and work in a developing country. By 11, she’d narrowed it down to India – until she visited in 2007. “I realized I can’t eat their food,” she says, laughing. “This was a pretty serious impediment.”
This speed bump on her fast track overseas threw her. “I came back freaking out, until I realized I was still called in the same direction. I was swimming under my own strength for so long that I’d forgotten how to float and let God take me along.”
When family finances forced Champagne to drop out of school as a third-year English major, she saw the second speed bump as a God-given opportunity to reconsider her goals. A year later she began another three years of school, this time as a biology major.
“I always wanted to do ‘sort-of’ missions,” she says, “I want to connect with people relationally and invest in their lives, before hopefully reaching beyond that and investing in their souls as well. Medicine allows me to do that.”
With a biology degree under her belt, Champagne is again on the fast track; Duke University accepted her into its accelerated nursing program. Of the 700 who applied, she is among 75 who made it in. Students who finish well may transition into Duke’s master’s program to be a family nurse practitioner. Once licensed as a nurse practitioner, Champagne and her husband intend to go overseas, where she hopes to open an independent practice or join an existing clinic or hospital. Either way, she says, “I’ll have a skill I can use to support myself and connect with
those around me.”
When the WNBA Tulsa Shock learned of Halverson’s aspirations, they created her position to work exclusively with nonprofits and charities.
Swallow the Terror and Smile
Carly Halverson knew what she wanted to do – she just had to convince
the right person
“When I get an idea, I just do it,” says Carly Halverson. That explains how she managed to root her feet to the floor of the Rose Garden during the NBA career fair, standing in line to meet an NBA executive who ripped apart the hopefuls in front of her, destroying their resumes and
calling them liars.
She quaked. She wanted to run. She had other job options. But her dream is to work for an NBA team. “I told myself I had to do this,” Halverson says. Finally she smiled, shook his hand and told him she wants to plan NBA events for kids. He laughed
and turned away.
“No. I’m not done talking with you yet,” Halverson said. “You don’t understand why I want to do this.”
He turned back. “Tell me.”
“I want to work in community relations because there’s a ton of power to change the world in these pros. Kids look up to them. To change the world, you have to start with the kids in your backyard.”
Out of hundreds at the job fair, Halverson was one of 20 the scout pulled aside. Three weeks later, she had a job as an account executive with the Tulsa Shock, a WNBA team, the women’s counterpart to the NBA. It’s one step closer to her eventual goal. Halverson will plan events for nonprofit and charity groups who come to the games. “Planning something that’s just a night of fun for them, that’s what I’m excited about,” she says. Not the NBA, but Halverson isn’t finished yet.
“It was good to be challenged,” says Vela-Moreno. “It made me stronger.”
‘Work Hard, and It Will Take You Far’
Gustavo Vela-Moreno refused to let anything but his dreams – and some good advice – define him
His parents always told him, “Work hard, and it will take you far.” Gustavo Vela-Moreno, an engineering major, reminded himself of that several times each semester at George Fox, keeping his eye on the far-off goal of grad school.
“I came here on a pretty emotional high,” he says. While friends in his Hispanic community chose gangs and drugs, he chose school. His 3.9 GPA helped nail down an Act Six urban leadership scholarship – a scholarship that was needed because money was tight in his single-parent home.
Then he failed his first two exams. “In high school I could do it on my own,” he says. “I got here and quickly realized I couldn’t. It was weird to ask for help . . . but I was doing what I could and it wasn’t working, so I had to try something new. I learned to collaborate with
my peers and seek advice from my professors and advisors, who
were always supportive
In March, Vela-Moreno achieved
his goal: acceptance into Stanford University’s prestigious civil and environmental engineering graduate program, where he will focus on sustainable design and construction. His goal after Stanford is to redesign ports around the Northwest to help them adapt to the changes brought on by climate change. First,
though, he is deferring Stanford in
favor of on-the-job experience
working for the Oregon
Department of Transportation.
Vela-Moreno remembers a trip to Mexico when he was a teenager.
“I saw my family there. They have it worse, and are still able to smile
and enjoy life. It really pushes me
to do my best.”
After five rounds of interviews and a month of waiting, Van der Werff was offered a job with Deloitte, the largest CPA firm in the world.
Mr. Van der Werff Goes to Washington
With his future headed exactly where he’d hoped, Andrew Van der Werff has a new reason to pursue it
Andrew Van der Werff’s resume is already impressive: internships with the United States House of Representatives and the Federal Reserve; lead author on a paper that garnered a Young Professional Scholarship to present at the American Council on Consumer Interests’ annual conference; and a new job at Deloitte, the largest CPA firm in the world, where he works with federal government agencies.
It’s a promising start for the business administration major.
“I have a desire for money,” Van der Werff says. “That’s in me; it’s part of who I am. Coming into George Fox, I knew I wanted to make money. I didn’t know what I’d do
with it; I just wanted to make it.”
Then Van der Werff took philosophy professor Phil Smith’s ethics class. “[Smith] presented all these different rationalities, and then presented Christ in Matthew 5,” he says. “I began to study what love is and
how to apply it. That began to change
what I thought.”
During his internships in Washington, D. C., he connected with a professor who had worked on a sustainability project in a developing country. “Like me, he likes money and is a business guy,” he says. “He taught me that you do everything for love.” Christianity isn’t about “don’t sin” and “do go to church,” Van der Werff says; it’s about doing what you do to show love to others. “God opened the door [at Deloitte],” he says. “And that created a chance for God
to work through me in people’s lives.”
One of the perks of making the pro tour? Having a caddy, Morrison says. In addition to a caddy acting as personal strategist, “I feel like I’m walking so much taller when I’m not weighed down.”
A Drive to Succeed
National Player of the Year Kelsey Morrison likes
the surprise of being the underdog
When Kelsey Morrison, then a senior on the George Fox women’s golf team, asked a visiting professional golfer if she had any tips for qualifying tournaments, they realized they were headed to the same LPGA qualifier – as competitors.
“It was kind of surreal,” Morrison says. “I was going up against her to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open. The pro who was giving me tips, I would compete against.”
Morrison comes from a dusty California town too small for a golf course. She graduated from a school with only a men’s golf team (so she joined it) and had never swung a club in the rain prior to playing for George Fox. But she bonded with her dad – who once hoped to go pro himself – on the golf course in the nearest town big enough to have one.
Though unusual for a Division III golfer to go pro, Morrison has a good shot. She dominated regular-season play, leading all D-III women golfers in scoring average, winning eight of 11 tournaments and claiming Ping National Player of the Year honors. Now she will enter qualifying tournaments that offer the chance to join the professional tour. She missed qualifying for the Safeway Classic
last year by only two strokes.
“Golf is such a journey,” says Morrison. “It’s just about how much passion you have
and how hard you’re willing to work at it.” Morrison again is the underdog from a small school. She embraces the identity. “It’s harder to be at the top and keep winning, rather than coming up from the bottom.” And, as Morrison has
discovered, she likes to win.
Cisneros had his pick of PhD programs. Instead, this first-generation Mexican-American chose a path that would help bridge the gap between his cultures.
PhD or OPB?
Sergio Cisneros chose to influence culture
at ground level
“I felt like I was participating in an academic draft,” Sergio Cisneros says.
Cloistered at Duke University with 19 other scholarship recipients last summer, Cisneros researched and wrote about the challenges surrounding immigration. By summer’s end, with his paper under consideration for publication, PhD programs at Stanford, Duke, Michigan, Vanderbilt and the University of Washington courted him.
Yet back home in Oregon, Cisneros’ Hispanic community did not understand
his paper. “Friends thought it was cool,
but they didn’t know what I was
talking about,” he says.
“The people who are most affected by some of the legislation don’t know
about it. This fosters fear . . . they
feel like the government is against
them. I’m trying to teach them this
isn’t true by informing them.”
Cisneros tried a new route, writing opinion editorials about immigration law. His first op-ed in The Oregonian incited more than 250 comments. “They were interacting in a way I was hoping for dialogue from my paper,” he says. “In academic publishing I can interact and influence culture, but not in the same way as journalism.
“Knowledge is power, but for knowledge you have to have communication. I want to be a voice for the voiceless – without becoming too much the activist – by giving them knowledge.”
Striking PhD programs from his plan, the politics major instead signed up for journalism classes and got a job as a reporter at Univision, a major Spanish-language television network. Days before graduating from George Fox in 2013, he accepted a position at Oregon Public Broadcasting, working in the newsroom and with its radio program Think Out Loud. “The people working at OPB are nationally recognized,” he says. “By working alongside them and learning from the best, hopefully some of that will rub off on me.”
Growing up in a bilingual family in Portland, Ore., Nguyen’s imagination was fed by a mixture of Disney animation and Asian action movies.
Photo Lenses and Fairy Dust
Toby Nguyen’s conceptual photography catches the eye and fuels the imagination
“I can’t do a movie of my whole imagination,” Toby Nguyen says.
“But I can do photos.”
Flowing dresses. Brilliant flowers entangled in curling tresses. Striking makeup.
Yet Nguyen’s photos don’t stop at soft-focus fairy tales. Style sharpens their edge – and caught the eye of magazine editors before Nguyen graduated from George Fox this spring. Italian Vogue and Portland Monthly are among the publications that have spotlighted the young photographer who does not yet have his own studio; his dad will help him build it this summer. With or without a studio, Toby Nguyen Photography is already
a bona fide business.
“I love it that you can pursue your passion and get paid for it,” says the art major. His passion began as a pastime a few years ago. A friend asked him to shoot her senior photos, and he pushed her to do something that showed personality. “She wanted to be a fairy, and we went from there,” he says. Soon others asked for portraits, and then wedding photography. “That’s when I thought, ‘Whoa, this is legit. People like my photography, so I need to pursue this.’
“I’m young, and have a lot to learn. Just because I get featured in magazines doesn’t mean I know about life. Before any of this, I thought I’d finish school, find a job, settle down. Now I want to do something in the world that will be known. This is a God-thing. I feel like he brought me here.”