Honoring God Through Nursing – Student Reflection

Post by Amanda Couch, junior nursing major

Amanda Couch portraitExperiencing nursing school has taught me many things such as dedication, empathy, and faithfulness. Most importantly, I am learning to rely upon the Lord for my strength and peace, because every source other than Jesus is too easily depleted in comparison with the infinite depths of Christ’s love and grace — a fact I need reminding of every single second of every single day.

Honestly, nursing school is hard, making it tempting to complain; yet, it’s in those moments that I need God’s grace to remind me of what a blessing it is to be called to become a nurse and what a privilege it is to attend a school like Union that is dedicated to the spiritual wellbeing and professional success of its students.

Being a nurse affords the special opportunity to work one-on-one with a person who is often going through one of the worst parts of his or her life. In those moments of pain and suffering, the patient is looking for a source of assurance, pain relief, and explanation of what is going on and what is to be expected in the hours to come. It’s the nurse’s privilege to anticipate and meet these physical and psychological needs.

Yes, this may mean fulfilling the doctor’s orders for such things as medication administration or IV insertion, but it also entails meeting the seemingly “smaller” needs of patients such as simply being there for them and listening with an empathetic spirit or holding their hand during a painful procedure. For example, I still remember my first patient teaching me to place the rolling bedside table back in its original position prior to leaving the room if the table had been moved during a procedure so that he could reach his possessions. Caring could also mean offering to help tidy up the patient’s appearance before having visitors if the patient is unable to do so.

The point is to show God’s love in everything we do, remembering Christ’s words found in Matthew 25:40: “As you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (ESV). I would challenge you to identify specific and unique ways in which you can honor Christ in your chosen profession and then purposefully work “as for the Lord and not for men” every day of your life as you live as Christ’s ambassador (Colossians 3:23, ESV).

Students Present Research at Scholarship Symposium

More than 300 students from across Union’s campus presented research Tuesday at the Scholarship Symposium. 

160426_KMW_SymposiumPresentations005Ashley Akerson, art

Ashley presented research on the importance of African-American art. She said African-American art has been seen as insignificant or inferior, but it has had great influence on culture and art.

 “African-Americans began to develop a distinctive voice to tell the story that was different than any other American story.”

160426_KMW_SymposiumPresentations018 Gray Magee, cell and molecular biology

Gray’s research involved a regeneration method for African mahogany, an endangered tree. He researched a process called organogenesis, where hormones are added to mature leaf tissue to create calluses which can produce viable plants.

“If we can come up with a technique of organogenesis, this could have a significant impact on the African economy.”

160426_KMW_SymposiumPresentations011 MiKalla Cotton, Christian ministry and missions

MiKalla presented her research paper titled “Created to Create: Why Do We Create.” She said people create because they are made in the image of a creator, and creativity manifests itself in different ways.

“Men and women reflect the image of the creator through making something of the world they have been given. Not only is creativity a reflection of our creator, but it also allows us to reflect him to the world around us and build up the community of creative minds in our midst.”

Read more about the Scholarship Symposium in our news release.

Story by Nathan Handley, photos by Kristi Woody, Elizabeth Wilson and David Parks.

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Meet Our Alumni – Part 1

Union University is known for shaping the next generation of great leaders. Our alums go on to elite graduate schools, meaningful careers and mission and ministry opportunities around the world. There are scores of Union alums doing amazing things, and here are some we would like you to meet.


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“Union gave me the confidence to apply for opportunities that were outside my comfort zone. I had always been a good student, but Union really helped me thrive as a leader. It’s the combination of a small student body, really supportive professors, spiritual growth and great opportunities within campus — I felt like I could try new things and succeed.” – Claudia Valasco (’13) – Client Solutions Manager, EMC Corp., London  

Learn more about Claudia’s work with EMC Corp here.


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“Union allows you to feel valued. I felt that I truly mattered as a member of this community and, in turn, it gave me a desire to serve that community. Union felt like home.” – James Barbee (’13) – Math Teacher, Lauderdale Middle School, Ripley, Tenn.

Read more about James’ goals as an educator here.


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“Choosing a college is one of the most significant decisions you will make, because the friendships and relationships you form in college are likely going to be some of the most important and lasting relationships you’ll have throughout your life. And I can’t think of a better place than Union University to find and form those kinds of relationships. Not to mention, you’ll receive a top-tier Christian education at one of the finest undergraduate institutions in the country.” – Justin Wainscott (’02) – Pastor, First Baptist Church, Jackson, Tenn.

Learn more about Justin’s journey to becoming a pastor here.

Union EDGE – It’s All About The Eggs

Post by Jennifer Graves, director of The Union EDGE

Recently I was at a family gathering and was asked about our Union EDGE Program and how it was going. We are teaching our students how to cook, and we had just had our very first cooking lab. For those who know me, I’m not the cooking teacher!   My assistant director, Kevin Ung, is the head chef for the Union EDGE program. The first lesson for our students was cooking eggs. Kevin demonstrated to his eager students how to scramble eggs, fry eggs, make eggs over-easy, and how to make an omelet. Each person chose the type of eggs that he or she wanted to make, and there were examples of each type.   Ethan likes his eggs fried. Seth wanted scrambled. Taylor does not really like eggs, but had fun making them. All eight students enjoyed learning a new skill. You see, the EDGE program is all about building independence. It is about teaching skills that will allow our students to be productive, independent, and safe in the community that we all share.

Two EDGE students enjoy learning to cook eggs in class

Back to the family gathering. As I shared all about the program and what it meant to each of our student students, one person said, “It really is all about the eggs.” Yes, it is. EDGE is about eggs last week, sandwiches the next, and vegetables in the near future. It is about living life.

Jennifer Graves is the director of the new Union EDGE program, which is a two year, 48-hour Postsecondary Education Program for students with Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities (IDD). This program is based on the Think College national standards. To find out more, check out our website. Below are some photos taken during EDGE events.

Union EDGE employees

Kelsey laughs with her mentors during the kick-off event.

Faculty mingle with EDGE students during the kick-off event The first group of Union EDGE students Blanche participates in a music therapy lesson with her mentors Maria participates in an art therapy lesson with her mentors Seth participates in an art therapy lesson with his mentors. Faculty and staff mingle with EDGE students at a shower hosted by the first lady of the university.

Alum Reflects on Student Teacher Placement in Thailand

Naomi in Thailand

Naomi Pietenpol is a 2015 mathematics alum with a teacher licensure, who spent eight weeks in Thailand for her student teaching placement. Naomi worked in the Grace International School there and took some time to share a little about her experience.

I don’t think I’ll ever make it through another day without thinking about my international student teaching experience. The community that I was welcomed into was beautiful, godly, loving, encouraging and challenging.

I worked with students from all over the world, yes, but that’s not what made them so great; they were just great kids who made a point of telling me funny stories and saying ‘hi’ in the halls. Because of the nature of the ex-pat community I was a part of, I would see my students as I biked to the market and ran to grab lunch, and I loved every time I got to see one of them. I got to go to church with them, sit in on their Bible studies and live life with them a bit.

The co-op teacher I worked with had so much experience, and from him I learned how to teach math well — those tips and tricks that make the content more accessible to students, the kind of things you usually only find out five years into it. He and the rest of the staff were patient and encouraging, and I loved being invited into their homes for meals and watching their adorable little kids so they could have a night out, or being taken along on adventures.

Families and friends took me on adventures, and I got to see places that usually reside on postcards and in dreams. I stayed with families that made me feel like family and I learned so much about the world, relationships and the Lord just from their stories. If you’re thinking of going overseas for student teaching, know that it will be a lot of transition and good-byes that are hard, but also know that it will be an amazing experience full of beautiful sights and people.

My motto was “just do it,” and it served me well. Take every opportunity to be among the local people and the people of the school, to see beautiful things, to listen to stories and make new friends; take every chance to serve and to learn, even though you’re supposed to be the one teaching.

Naomi has accepted a position teaching middle school math at Parnassus Preparatory School in Minnesota, which is based on a classical education model.

Union University Welcomes Many for New Student Registration Day

Registration Day. You could describe it as hectic, jam-packed, overwhelming or any other term that basically means “busy,” but one word sums it up best: exciting. For some new students, it is the day when their journey to college starts to feel real. When we posted a photograph on Facebook of the morning orientation crowd, several alumni commented how well they remember their own registration day. It’s hard to forget the first time you registered for college classes, opened the door to your first college bedroom and met the roommates that may become your very best friends. These are moments that students never forget, and so many new students got to experience them Monday.

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The day began with new students and their parents gathering in the gym for an introduction and instructions for the day. Everyone was treated to a light breakfast before moving on to other areas of campus.

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After leaving the gym, new students registered for classes with their advisors, learned about student organizations and received their residence assignments. During this time, parents of new students heard from leaders in several areas, such as University Ministries and the Vocatio Center for Life Calling and Career.

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Lunch was held in the chapel, where new students and their parents heard from Dr. Dub Oliver. This was his first registration day as president of Union University, and he spent much of his time greeting and welcoming guests. It was a great day for all involved, and the Union University family is very excited to see our new students back on campus in the fall!

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