Faculty Spotlight – Stefanie Ertel

by Paul Devine

Anyone associated with Manna University over the past decade or so has experienced a positive impact from Stefanie Ertel. As Dean of Students from 2012-2019, Ertel oversaw many parts of student life and managed the school’s alumni association. Dean Ertel also directs the undergraduate program in Christian Leadership, a program she helped create in 2014. This role includes teaching several courses per year in the program. As an instructor she strives to guide her students toward the practical application. “We want to take it past the book knowledge. We want to take what we are learning and apply to where we are in life,” Ertel explains. “It should be practical in a way they can apply it to their leadership and their life.” Though Ertel teaches courses online she works toward providing a highly interactive experience. “It is important to have interaction with students as much as you can,.” Ertel asserts. “I want them to feel like they are interacting with me and that there is relationship.” In 2019, Dean Ertel moved from Dean of Students to Dean of Distance Education, where she leads a team that ensures both faculty and students have a smooth experience in their online classes.“ We want to make sure that the students have everything they need and that they feel they are part of the Manna U family,” Ertel notes. Her DE team also works to make life easier for the faculty to free them up to work with students. In 2019, Ertel also agreed to take on oversight of the Manna U’s branding and creative teams.  

While maintaining her impact in the Manna U family, Ertel now hopes to play a role in the larger world of Christian leadership education. Dean Ertel’s Master’s thesis in Organizational Leadership has blossomed into a project where she is co-editor and co-author of on an upcoming textbook on women in leadership. Ertel will manage and edit contributions from several distinguished scholars on the subject. She is quick to emphasize the project is collaborative and though she has been given a lead role she will be relying on her more experienced co-editors to guide her during the project. 

The textbook will be an in-depth treatment of the topic. The first part of the book will feature an analysis of various Biblical texts concerning women in leadership. Ertel will take on the challenging task of providing a chapter on Paul’s message in 1 Timothy 2 where Paul addresses a group of women concerning teaching and having authority over men. The book’s second section will feature chapters on contemporary topics in study. For example, Ertel will author a chapter analyzing what various churches believe about the role of women in ministry.  

Dean Ertel’s journey to her growing role at Manna U and as a thought leader on Christian leadership involved many potential turning points where she needed to follow God’s lead. Ertel enrolled at Grace College of Divinity (the former name of Manna University) at sixteen years old and earned a certificate, an associate’s degree and eventually a Bachelor’s of Divinity. “Each step of the way I re-evaluated,” Ertel explains. The first few steps were not toward an academic career.

After completing her certificate, Ertel looked at entering a more intensive program involving one of her passions, dance. Instead, she continued to pursue her degree at GCD.  She also considered a Master’s immediately after completing her undergraduate degree but did not feel called to further academic work at that time. Instead, the recently married Ertel moved in earnest toward a career in dance. Ertel spent the next four years as the artistic director and one of the primary instructors in a dance studio. Ertel was offered a chance to join a professional dance company but did not feel it was God’s leading to take the position. Ertel returned to the idea of the Master’s degree and this time the advanced degree was clearly God’s leading. It allowed her to grow in her role at Manna U and eventually lead to the book project.  

However, Ertel remained involved in dance for several more years until she could not handle her dance role,  her growing responsibilities at Manna U, and her duties as a wife and mother.  

Dean Ertel is married to Nick Ertel, site pastor of the Hope Mills site of Manna Church. She and Nick have three children: Alice (6), Stevie Ray (4) and Charlee(1).