Image Credit: Chris Drake

Prepared for a Purpose

Between changing job markets and talk of student loan debt, more families are questioning the value of a college degree. However, the core outcomes of a liberal arts education — the ability to think critically and creatively, communicate clearly, work collaboratively and adapt to new technologies — are not only desired by today’s employers, but critical to minister to an ever-changing world.

At Walla Walla University, rigorous academic programs integrated in a faith community are primed to train the next generation to excel in their vocations while understanding the higher call of being a light to the world, always.

Meet four WWU students who are combining their academic pursuits with experiences that will prepare them to be the service-minded world changers God calls them to be.

Portrait of Taylar Peterson
Chris Drake

Taylar Peterson

Major: Business administration, accounting

Hometown: Palmer, Alaska

The habit of service is one Taylar Peterson, junior business administration major, has been practicing for some time. She has volunteered on 14 short-term mission trips over the last eight years and continues to find service an important part of her life. “Service fills my cup. It might not be like that for everyone, but for me it’s such a special way to step out of my comfort zone and make real connections. I find so much energy serving alongside others,” she said.

Deciding to work at the WWU Center for Humanitarian Engagement was relatively easy for Peterson. She met executive director David Lopez on a mission trip with Maranatha as a high school student, and he encouraged her to join the team. She’s been working in the office since last year as a volunteer coordinator where she connects with local partners to create service opportunities for students.

“I love that I’m working to make service accessible,” said Peterson. “Students often think they must travel abroad or spend a year as a student missionary to make an impact. It’s cool to shine a light on the great organizations in our area and what they are already doing for our community.”

Her commitment to serving others also led Peterson to begin college as an education major and to earn her EMT license last year. It wasn’t until she stumbled into an accounting class this fall that she discovered her interest in the field and switched her major to accounting.

Accounting might seem a little out of left field, but Peterson sees the value a strong accountant can have. “I’m a small-town girl, and my parents ran a private practice. I see myself working in a smaller organization like that where I can treat people like people and not just numbers,” said Peterson.  

The close-knit and service-minded campus community is one perk of studying at WWU. Peterson loves the small class sizes and mentorship from faculty that she found here. “The professors will say, ‘Hey, I want to make sure you succeed. I’m going to set up time outside of class for study groups.’ And they’re just funny,” said Peterson.

Peterson is sure to take this personal touch into her own career, wherever that may be. “I just enjoy being able to use my love of service to show what it can do in other people's lives. We can use the gifts that God's given us in a way to help make somebody's day a little better,” she said.

Portrait of Eddie Coberly
Chris Drake

Eddie Coberly

Majors: Mathematics and computer science

Hometown: Battle Ground, Washington

Somewhere along the way, Eddie Coberly, mathematics and computer science double major, developed a whole lot of good-natured warmth. Perhaps it is for that reason that Albert Handal, lead campus chaplain, reached out to Coberly about becoming a dorm chaplain. Even a short chat with Coberly makes it easy to believe he would be a valuable resource to the residents of Sittner Hall.

“I'm kind of like a localized support system. They don't have to go anywhere or call anyone. The guys can just stop by my room and say, ‘Hey I'm not doing so great. Can I talk to someone about it?’” explained Coberly.

As a dorm chaplain, Coberly organizes a weekly worship alongside his support of students and resident assistants. He appreciates that his job reminds him of the value in pursuing Christ intentionally and in supporting others. “I love what I do, and I want to help people. My work is a really easy way to do that in a way I’m proficient,” said Coberly.

Another thing Coberly is proficient at is math. Coberly has loved math since he was in high school, and he's now simultaneously majoring in mathematics and computer science. It’s part of what makes him the perfect candidate to serve as a front desk worker for the mathematics and computer science departments. He hopes to one day share his love for math as a college professor, but for now he’s channeling that passion and intelligence as a tutor.

Coberly tutors all lower-division math classes in the Student Development Center on campus. He explains that his work is more than just helping students grasp math concepts. Coberly is learning how to meet students where they’re at and communicate in ways that encourage as well as instruct.

“It's a really good way to reach students and help them salvage whatever enjoyment they could possibly have left for math. I sincerely wish other students could enjoy math as much as I do, but the older I get, the more I realize sometimes you have to pick your battles,” he laughed.

It’s clear that Coberly is finding ways to serve on campus that utilize his unique combination of skills and give him a sense of fulfillment. And while learning differential equations, Coberly is also discovering how to support others spiritually and academically. All in all, he is just the kind of open-hearted, math-loving, service-focused Christ follower you might hope to have as a math professor.

Portrait of Liberty Anderson
Chris Drake

Liberty Anderson

Major: Business administration, marketing

Hometown: Orlando, Florida

These days you’re likely to find Liberty Anderson, sophomore business administration major, playing pickleball on the new courts, leading out at a Black Student Christian Forum event or picking up coffee before a study session. “I enjoy school in general, so I enjoy going to class,” said Anderson. “However, I’ve found that my deepest relationships have been built outside the classroom.”

Anderson is involved in many things outside of class that build on her marketing studies. Her initial interest in marketing was born out of the work she did with BSCF her freshman year. “We get a lot of positive feedback from students of color on our campus that it is so nice that we are able to provide spaces where they can worship, interact and express their own culture,” said Anderson.

Anderson is now serving as BSCF president, assessing the community’s needs, planning and advertising events, and coordinating volunteers to create a wholesome space for club members. Her hard work and expertise have clearly paid off. The club has grown significantly in the past two years, despite the extra challenges created by former pandemic restrictions.

Anderson seems to have a clear understanding of the importance of forming purposeful relationships with those around her. “I think there's a unique experience, a bond, that you share with people when you serve together,” said Anderson.

Recently, Anderson and 12 other students sacrificed their weekend study schedule to spend Saturday cooking for more than 400 people, only to wake up at 6 a.m. to continue ministering to members of the small Wallowa community that was devastated by a hailstorm. “Afterwards we got incredible positive feedback from the community members expressing how grateful they were, and how amazed they were that students would choose to spend their weekend cooking and installing windows with them,” she said.

Every weekend, Anderson can be found leading similar service projects in the Walla Walla Valley. Her work as Care Weekend coordinator for CHE requires her to create consistent, varied opportunities for students to find joy in service. As a pastor’s kid, she grew up with service-dedicated lives exemplified to her, and she’s building on that heritage in her own way.

“My ultimate goal with my business degree is to work in the nonprofit sphere,” said Anderson. “I’ve seen my parents dedicate their lives to service and giving to others, so I just can’t imagine doing it a different way.”

Portrait of Rachel Langford
Chris Drake

Rachel Langford

Major: Nursing

Hometown: Yukaipa, California

Rachel Langford, nursing major, has known she wanted to be a nurse since she was a kid noting imaginary symptoms on a toy laptop. “As I was growing up, my mom had a disease, so I got to meet a lot of different healthcare professionals from a young age. I grew up thinking, ‘I want to care for people the way they cared for her,’” she explained.

That childhood dream has grown and developed along with Langford. Briefly, with the wisdom of a kindergartner, she wanted to be a “baby doctor.” Now she admits she’s considered a few different careers in the medical field and landed on being a baby nurse. “I definitely want to work with kids,” she said.

In summer 2020, Langford was struggling through quarantine requirements to serve as a student missionary on Majuro, an island of less than 4 square miles in the Marshall Islands. After weeks of travel and isolation, she was finally able to see what she had come for — the kids. “Every day I was touched by the noise in the classroom of the laughter and the excitement of the kids to learn,” remembered Langford.

Since returning stateside, Langford has leaned on the connections she made as a missionary. She also brought home a new independence, appreciation for the privileges of her education and assurance that she did not want to go into teaching. “I gained so much respect for teachers, and I gained respect for myself in being able to do something I didn't think I'd be able to do,” she said.

Now Langford finds herself doing things she wouldn’t have considered before her time of service. She spoke at a student missions-focused vespers this fall and is volunteering at Circle Church, a student-led Sabbath service. “Being involved with Circle Church gives me what we call a circle family,” she said. “It gives me more people to get out there and meet, even though I have that stress and anxiety of not knowing anyone on campus anymore.”

While in many ways her year of service was challenging, Langford also saw it as highly rewarding. Her love for kids and penchant for service were confirmed there.

More than anything, she feels she learned to step out in faith in a new way. Langford said, “My motto is, if you hear the call, follow it. If you think God is calling you to do something with your life, trusting His process is hard, but it will be extremely worth it in the end.”

Featured in: January/February 2023