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College Graduates Tout Benefits of a Faith-Based Education

by Staff
May 11, 2009
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Phoenix ( -- Many college students have a mentor to guide their path. At a faith-based university, the mentoring comes from a higher source.

The highest.

Pastor Mik Milem, Director of the Office of Spiritual Life at Grand Canyon University (GCU) in Phoenix, believes adding a spiritual component to a student's education enriches that experience in two ways.

First, he says, "It addresses the needs of the whole person, not just the academics."

Second, "We have support from the Christian community" as a whole that students can turn to in time of need.

At GCU, faith is woven into our coursework, Milem says. Students see how faith plays a role in every field, whether it's Liberal Arts, Health Sciences or Business Administration.

But like other faith-based universities, GCU does not restrict enrollment only to those students who follow one religious dogma. The GCU campus includes students who embrace a multitude of faiths, including Catholics, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Protestants, Methodists, Baptists, or profess no faith at all. While such tolerance wasn't necessarily instilled by the school's founding fathers, Milem says, "It's evolved."

Sarah Surrey, a Collinsville, Ill. resident who graduated from GCU May 2, believes the school offered a perfect balance between faith and academics. "A lot of religious schools ignore the secular," she says, "and secular schools ignore religion."

One of the University's strongest supporters is Ken Blanchard, who lent his name to the GCU Ken Blanchard College of Business. Renowned management trainer and author of the business bible The One Minute Manager, Blanchard is a soft-spoken man who advocates a kinder, gentler approach to business practices. Forget the cutthroat, he says. Letting God into the classroom and the boardroom will prepare students for a fulfilling career.

"That's why we as a University want to keep a spiritual base," Blanchard said during graduation activities. "We're here to serve, not to be served... Profit is the applause you get for doing it right."

Jordan Demos is one of those GCU students following Blanchard's notion of "servant leaders" and letting God direct his path. The North Scottsdale, Ariz. history graduate says the University has bolstered his faith and made him more eager to share his beliefs. He found his professors to be great spiritual leaders who also became his friends.

But while classes incorporate a Christian point of view, GCU's curriculum, Demos says, "is very well rounded and very tolerant."

Students seemed to be less competitive than at secular universities. Now Demos, 22, is prepared to conduct his professional life the same way.

"GCU students will make a difference in the world," he says.

Phil Sjoquist, 21, is a Roman Catholic who found a home at GCU. Originally, the Tucson native pursued a degree in Business Administration at Grand Canyon only to play golf on the University squad. Then he discovered God working in his life in different ways.

He met another student, and now the two have formed a band that will incorporate Christian music into their repertoire. He learned servant leadership from his professors, who built a curriculum of ethics into every course. In marketing classes, students learn how to put customers first.

At a secular institution, Sjoquist believes, "I'd be at a completely different place in my life."

Pastor Milem believes that a faith-based education gives students a firm foundation as they leave the comfort of the university and begin their careers.

"They have that inner strength and confidence in their faith," he says. "They're not alone. The hand of God is on their life path."

But the real world could present challenges, even for the most spiritual, Sjoquist agrees. Does a committed Christian take a job at a company with less than Christian ideals?

"It's an ethical dilemma," Sjoquist says. "Where's the point where it's a deal breaker?"

As the new graduate follows his passions for music and golf, hoping to change hearts in either field, he says he has just one ambition.

"The ultimate goal for me is to make a difference in peoples' lives."

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