University Foundations courses require students to examine what they believe. Three Seattle Pacific students explain how the courses impacted their faith. (As originally published in the Autumn 2013 issue of etc magazine.)
"Not who I thought I was" by senior Taylor Greig.
At the end of my freshman year at Seattle Pacific University, I landed wrong on a volleyball block and tore my ACL. The surgery that followed went disastrously wrong, and I almost lost my leg and life. As an SPU volleyball player, in an instant I lost everything I thought I was. Learning how to walk again was painful and hard, but it brought me “to my knees” before God asking questions about his sovereignty and my suffering. Where was he in all my pain? Who was I? Was the gospel still true and applicable for today or only for church on Sunday morning? Thankfully I didn’t have to ask these questions alone. I limped to my University Foundations classes searching for truth. My professors met with me after class and went to great lengths to address my questions and aching heart. It was in these classes that I was able to establish a new identity based upon the truth of the Bible and the identity of Christ.
The second course, Christian Scriptures, gave me a new love of reading Scripture. I saw God’s love extended to doubting Thomas, a crippled man, a lost sheep, a straying nation, a blundering disciple, a woman at the well, and me — a university student seeking answers. I loved my University Foundations courses because they helped me establish a new foundation upon the gospel and hope. Even though I still have physical scars on my leg and knee, I’ve realized my identity is not in my ability to play volleyball. It’s found in Christ, who died on a cross and rose to renew the broken.
"Finding Connections," by senior Sosun Nayemi.
I could’ve easily approached my University Foundations classes with the intention of setting a barrier between my religion, Islam, and Christianity. On 9/11, when I was in fourth grade, a stranger asked me if I was related to Bin Laden, and I’ve dealt with plenty of teasing and staring since then — especially when I wore my Hijab. I chose SPU, a Christian university, because of its rigorous premed program. When I learned that I would also have to take University Foundations, I decided to take the courses with an open mind and seek to make connections between the two faiths.
I already knew that both the Quran and the Bible contain stories about Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus. But I also found a lot of connections between morals and how we think we should live. In my Christian Scriptures course, people treated my faith with respect. My professor, Dr. Nijay Gupta, sparked my curiosity. He was always so happy and upbeat about life, despite outside circumstances. I came up to him once after class, and asked him why. He told me he had a strong connection with God and the Bible that brought him joy. I realized I wanted to understand and apply the Quran more to my life.
In the end, my faith was strengthened as I dived deeper into the Quran and explored the historical context. After all, it is human nature to look for purpose in all that we do, including life decisions.
"Conversation, not Indoctrination," by senior Jake Crammer.
When I walked into my first session of University Foundations 1000, the first thing I noticed was the classroom arrangement. Rather than a classic configuration with the desks in rows facing the front, our UFDN class was set up with five different round tables where students faced each other. Once the professor walked into the center of the room and the class began, this arrangement made sense. Throughout the professor’s lecture, we paused three times to turn from the professor and face each other, providing us space to share our own experience and learn from the experience of others.
Along with centering the class around dialog with each other, professors also make the class about discussion between disciplines. In my first UFDN class, we read more novels than theology textbooks, looked at art from masters such as Albrecht Dürer and Masaccio to illustrate concepts about God, and watched the Macklemore video “Wings” to talk about Christian engagement in a materialistic culture. Rather than having a class where only people with the “right” beliefs and backgrounds could bring their perspective, my UFDN classes were able to remain open while maintaining integrity as a class on Christian life, thought, and history. This conversation has opened me up to seeing God not just as someone I meet for two hours once a week, but someone who is seeking us out in surprising places. Even a Macklemore video.