By Mike Kilen
GCU News Bureau
A spot in the residency program is tough to land at Central Leadership Institute. It’s full time for a year and it’s paid, so applications pour in from all over the country for Central Christian Church’s program, which prepares graduates for a career in full-time ministry.
Yet in the past four years, seven of 23 residents have been Grand Canyon University graduates.
Torie Smith, a GCU graduate who landed one of the residencies for this year, said her experiences in GCU's College of Theology made a difference.
"We talked a lot about the importance of serving people. I think that stood out. That was a lot of what we talked about in the interview,” she said.
She joined other recent GCU alums who love to come back to campus to recruit students, including at Tuesday’s Lopes Launch Senior Sendoff Event, designed to introduce those who will graduate in December to the 20 organizations and businesses who set up display tables on the Promenade.
“GCU is turning out some good quality people that we feel like they are wanting to go into ministry, and they are prepared,” said Kevin Larder, Pastor of Central Leadership Institute, which has six campuses in the Valley.
“What we’re looking for is people who are humble and ready to learn. GCU happens to turn out good people every year, which is good for us.”
Smith, who graduated from GCU in December with a degree in Christian Studies, was busy greeting students Tuesday.
“I say, hey, this is an opportunity to continue learning but also make money and do hands-on ministry,” she said. “In the classroom, we do a lot of theory, which is super great, but sometimes when you’re actually doing ministry it hits in a different way. Those theories become practical.
“So I’m a voice who can say six months ago I was where you are at. And here I am six months later doing this.”
Smith hopes to go into youth ministry to inspire people “based in solid theology with a heart that is bent around Jesus and loving people out of that.”
The Lopes Launch, led by GCU's Academic and Career Excellence (ACE) and Strategic Employer Initiatives and Internships, is part of the University's mission to match students with career opportunities.
It “provides students the opportunity to connect with their colleges, prepare for graduation and network with employers if they’re looking for employment opportunities,” said Marette Hahn, ACE Director. “We’re also extremely grateful to partner with the Office of Alumni Relations, the Student Loan Assistance team and Grand Canyon Education to ensure our soon-to-be graduates are aware of all the incredible resources available to them.”
Said Haley Fagerlie, Executive Director of Strategic Employer Initiatives and Internships, "To me, this event is a true representation of what we all work toward -- students graduating one day and starting their successful career the next."
Helena Mcie is a 2016 GCU graduate in Health Care Administration who was busy talking with students in her role as a nursing recruiter at Phoenix Children’s Hospital.
“I wanted to be a nurse,” she said. “But you have to be 110% in, and I had to work a full-time job. I felt like I was stuck.
“I had a come-to-Jesus moment that maybe I was more of a business-minded person. I switched to Health Care Administration and never looked back and graduated in three years.”
She credits GCU for helping steer her toward a path that was right for her, yet one in which she still could assist others.
“I know now that although I am not hands on helping patients, I am hiring people who are hands on helping patients, so I still feel like the decisions I am making are helping people,” Mcie said.
Hearing those first-hand experiences can inspire students on the cusp of their launch into the work world.
“We are always looking for partners will local colleges,” Mcie said. “But I feel like I have loyalty to this school. It’s a sweet spot to come back to a place where you were in the same position they are in now.”
Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.