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Occupational Hazards: Navigating a Career in Biblical Higher Education

by Frank Brazell

I’ve taught ENG 495- Senior Seminar and Capstone at Manna U for a few years now, and it has been such a pleasure to see so many of our bachelor’s degree students finish out their academic careers with Manna University. This sense of accomplishment has been all the more striking when I consider that many of the students who have graduated over the last few terms were students that I helped through the admissions process while serving in a variety of admissions-related roles between 2019 and 2022. I derive deep satisfaction whenever a student comes through Senior Seminar and I can remember them as an applicant to either Manna U or Grace College of Divinity.
But this year, what was already a little bittersweet turned even more painful. I managed my first commencement ceremony in the role of registrar. I called the names of students I realized I might never speak to again. In so many roles: Enrollment Counselor, Director (later Dean) of Enrollment Management, Professor, and finally Registrar, I served these students. Now, they stepped into the next chapter of their calling, I realized how much I would miss them.


Daniel, a worship ministry student, was someone I met on a recruiting trip to his local church years ago. Then, I was his professor in three different courses. Now, he walked across the stage as I called his name.


Emily was an intercultural studies student. I remember her recruitment process. I remember being her professor in multiple courses. Now, she was walking across the stage with distinction, the recipient of multiple student awards. She has the added distinction of being the only student to bake cookies for the faculty prior to graduation.


I remember doing Taylor’s acceptance paperwork in 2021 as I exhibited the first symptoms of COVID-19, sitting in my apartment and praying that I wouldn’t have it bad. It ended up being an awful experience as I dealt with a particularly bad case of that illness. I served as her professor in one course, and now she was receiving her Bachelor of Arts in Christian Counseling degree.


So many students have come and gone, and I wonder if I’ll ever get used to it. It’s easier now that I’m not meeting students on the front end of the process as I did in the past, but even in my role as a professor, I still feel it. It’s the mission of Manna University to educate, equip, and empower emerging leaders to change the world, yet every time we finish our part of that process, I feel a sense of loss. Students graduate, time moves on, and the university remains. As I get older, and as my time with the university nears the ten-year mark, I have started to realize how fast time progresses.
It’s an inevitable paradox for an educator. If students graduate, it means that you did your job, at least superficially. But nobody prepares you for the pain that comes with that success. The other day, I looked through the roster of the first class I ever worked with. I was a teaching assistant for Dr. Steven Crowther in the Spring of 2018. All of those students have graduated except for one, who is still enrolled and working their way through their degree. The rest have all graduated.
Students move on, but I am still learning how to react to that success. If I’m honest, I miss them deeply. There’s no resolution to this, no feeling of accomplishment. It’s a cycle. Students are admitted, then God-willing, they’re equipped to lead and advance the Kingdom of God, and then they’re gone. It’s a pain I didn’t expect when I answered God’s call to Biblical Higher Education, but it’s an occupational hazard.

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