Why Graduate from Four Colleges? – Anabaptist Perspectives Ep. 019
Well, hello everybody! Welcome back to another episode of Anabaptist Perspectives. I’m here at Faith Builders with Kyle Stoltzfus which happens to be my brother-in-law actually. It works out quite nicely to do this. You’ve taught a few classes here at the school. You run the communications department obviously from all this tech stuff we see around you. Yes, the thing with this is obviously you didn’t just show up in this position overnight. There was just quite a lot of preparation that went into this. So, you’ve been a student at four different colleges. Penn State at first, and then you went to Liberty University. Now you’re in grad school, and you graduated here from Faith Builders as well. Why? Well, it was actually Penn College. I’d like to take the title and state, but that one goes to my superiors, I suppose. The question is then, I’ve been a student at four different colleges including here. Why would somebody do that? Right up front, immediately, when I saw the question that you were going to be asking here, I felt this wave of guilt and shame come over. Isn’t that just the stereotype? A little bit. People who are just perpetually students they become of no earthly good after a while. So, I think as much as I’d like to say that I had some kind of big ideals in seeing great value in college education, I went into it hoping to become an academic or hoping to end up here at Faith Builders and being on staff, that’s just not the reality. So, I’m going to have to tell something of the backstory to actually make sense of why I ended up at four colleges. That even just helps me understand why I would do that and be a little bit more forgiving of myself
and maybe get over the shame. So if that’s ok, I’ll dig into some backstory. Why would somebody attend four colleges? Well, basically for me, it’s because I couldn’t build mini barns. Interesting. Got to go back to coming out of high school. I had some ideals of course, but they’re very vague. Very poorly defined about where I even want to go, where I could begin. On top of that I (looking back) realized I had very few labor skills. I could be a decent student. I knew a little bit of something about computers maybe, but I had very few manual skills. So I come out of school when I’ve got very few skills. I’ve got some vague ideas of who I want to be maybe, and try to enter the workforce. I think a lot of people coming out of school, they just go for something that’s immediately available to them. A low-level job. You apply. You get the job. My application went to a place called Yoder Barns. They build mini barns. The storage sheds where you put all of your extra stuff. Of course you apply. Got the job. Then you’re a laborer. It turns out that I’m actually really bad at building mini barns. So, it got to the point where…I guess some folks can learn that sort of thing more quickly. They’re more skilled. They’ve got some background in it. They’re not so self-conscious. I brought this incredible amount of overhead to the job. I never got very good at it. I get to the point where I’m just coming to the time clock every morning. Faithfully there a little bit before the day is supposed to start at 7 o’clock, be there at 6:50 or something. I’m just looking at the time clock. I’ve got my time card in my hand. I’m absolutely miserable knowing that I punch in, I’m gonna go out there on the floor, I’m gonna hate every moment of the day, and I’m not even good at it. So some of just that gnawing, ache in there, of the misery, the sadness, the depression that goes with it. Well, it was this goad that was just coming along saying, “You’ve got to do something different.” The place to start. That’s what pushed me toward college. It was just that feeling of “You’re not good at this, and you know that now. You’re miserable most of the time, and you don’t enjoy your work, so what can you do?” College said (well if it could speak) that, “You can gain some skills otherwise.” So, that’s how I got started. My first experience at Penn College. They offer degrees that work. I’m just borrowing from their tag line there. Very skill focused. Like technical degrees basically? Yeah. It’s kind of like a technical school except you can go all the way to a bachelor’s level. Looking back at it now, it’s a good place if you want to gain technical skill, a great place to go. So I worked for two years there. Got an associate’s degree in computer science, and it delivered. I began to see other possibilities other than just manual trade skills. Through that was able to actually apply for a job that otherwise I wouldn’t even have considered. It was just out of my league. Got that job and moved out of my home area to a place about two hours away and began to actually apply those skills. The thing with developing skills like that with college, they can’t cover all the ground. They don’t intend to, but it gave me the confidence I needed to actually settle into a new job. It was there I met my wife, Marlene. She was teaching school. We were making pretty good money. We were working long hours and even though the skills job was giving me meaningful work, and I was enjoying myself, one thing we came short on was a feeling of meaning. In other words, we’re doing all of this stuff. What’s the significance? We were beginning to feel kind of burned out around the margins. just the lifestyle. We were uprooted. Away from our homes. Working hard. I think we were just running kind of thin. So, that brought us to Faith Builders. Faith Builders is a place we came to. Okay, we know how to work now, but how do you make sense of all this stuff? Yeah, okay. So, you had gotten to that level where occupation-wise, you’re sitting all right? Yeah. So, yeah, again in that vacuum that we’re operating, we wanted to find ok, so, we’re doing okay financially and things, but what’s a meaningful life like, and how do we learn to serve people that we care about and contribute something back? I don’t know how it was communicated to us, but that was the niche that we saw Faith Builders doing. This faithful view of life instead of just the one that’s about meeting the bottom dollar or getting to the American dream. Sure. So, we come to Faith Builders then. I was here for two years, and not really knowing it, but at the end was asked to come on staff. The bachelor’s degree that I have with Liberty University online is really in my mind a way of preparing for graduate studies. I didn’t see that one as an end in itself. If you want to draw a line through it, it’s like there was this two-year degree which gave me technical skills. There was the meaningful part of it which was at Faith Builders saying, “We’ve got something going here, but how do we make sense? How do we begin to serve? How can I participate more fully in God’s kingdom? .” The third part of my education, I’m seeing combines both the Liberty experience and the graduate school experience. It’s almost like your first college experience gave you a foundation for life, for occupation. Then Faith Builders kind of gave you a sense of purpose to it all. Now you’re bringing all that together, to push into grad school, to really prepare to you to do something with that meaning you’re seeing, and to pass that on to serve others. Now you are in grad school having graduated from Liberty University as well. I like what you’re pointing out here. There is a progression to it. There is. The one step in and of itself — I don’t see it as being complete that I got the skills, but I would not have had the ability to come here for Faith Builders for two years with no debt if I had not done that first step. I wouldn’t have had the confidence even I don’t think to move ahead like that. Then coming to Faith Builders prepared the way for the next step. Okay, so you’re talking about how this has brought a level of preparation and also a more complete picture of a lot of different things, really, especially because you’ve had a lot of diverse experiences. What’s your recommendation for people? Should they pursue a path similar to this or is this something you don’t necessarily recommend? You’re asking… Like the path you took for colleges. The kind of path I took? Oh, boy. Well, first off, I’ll make this clear, I guess. If the question becomes, “Should I continue to grow and develop and change?” Yes, absolutely. I think everybody needs to do that, or else life just quickly becomes very stale and you stagnate. So, regardless of what field a person is interested in getting into whether it’s carpentry or the manual trades or whatever, well you’ve got to grow, you’ve got to change, and you’ve got to find sources of input to make that happen whether it’s more difficult projects or challenging co-workers. Whatever it is you’re gonna have to change. You’re going to have to grow. If I could derive a second question off of that. Would I recommend people going to four colleges? Would I recommend that everybody goes to college at all? Well, no. Recognizing I guess two things for one is just that the skills that people bring to life are different. Some people are more suited to do manual labor, and I think that’s fine. Also, just realizing that anybody who goes to college trying elevate themselves above the common laborer, they’ve probably got a defective view of it, okay? There’s a lot of different kinds of intelligence, and some kinds of intelligence like being a farmer are more applied, okay? That doesn’t make them less intelligent. It’s just a different kind. The people who go to college might be more gifted in abstraction and being able to spin yarns and theory. Their education isn’t really complete until they actually get a bit of a contempt, a very gentle contempt maybe for those abstract abilities. You see the limits. Yeah. So again, it’s kind of reiterating there. A farmer is going to be a very intelligent person in the diversity of skills that he needs to have. He needs to be a diesel mechanic. He needs to be able to keep books. He needs to be able to care for cows. He needs to be able to take care of his plants, so he’s a horticulturalist, right? He needs all of these various skills. It takes a certain kind of person to do that well. That person may not be able to be well suited for academics, but the academic person, if you put him in that same situation would probably fumble. So, I think to do well with thinking about, should you do this yourself, well you’ve got to give yourself the grace of saying, “Well, not everybody ought to.” And for you, even changing directions somewhat as time went on. And as you were saying, adjusting, growing, learning. I think that’s something worth keeping in the forefront of our minds instead of just this is just the way it is. The difficulty there being this: there’s some fields if you want to, say, get into medicine, you want to be a doctor, medical doctor. There’s an enormous amount of commitment that you just front-load into that whole process. You go through years and years of school. There’s residency. There’s medical school. You come to the end of it with a massive debt. You’re in it. So, for that person to talk about being flexible or just allowing school to kind of shape you through the process, it’s going to be very, very hard. Yeah. I do think there’s still, even in that, if you’re thinking about college to allow yourself to be flexible, to allow things to shift, and don’t just get stuck on the rails too hard. Based on your experience then, what is some some real, tangible value that someone can extract from college if they would choose that path. There’s various levels you can interact with this. You’re going to be paid more if you graduate from college if you can find a job. So, that’s always an incentive. You realize immediately, that’s pretty superficial. So would, I think, any sense of “finding yourself.” You go to college to see what’s authentic about yourself. Once you find the perfect career, and the perfect set of skills, that somehow animates you or brings you alive — not that being animated or bring brought alive is a bad thing. If you look at it as “finding that core identity” and it coming alive, you’re probably going to be disappointed. There’s relatively superficial ways of saying why would somebody to do this even though that might spark with us and it might jive once in a while. As you begin to descend down through, and you ask the questions of value, you can begin to say, “I want to do this job because I want to grow in my capacities. I want to enlarge my abilities as a person. The way to do that is to go to college to gain particular skills and ways of looking at the world.” It’s true. You come out the other end of college training, and you see new possibilities in the world that you didn’t see before. Kind of opens up other ideas and possibilities. Okay, that makes sense. The possibility may be as simple as saying, “Oh, you’re having trouble with making sense of your finances. I actually have tools and training that can help you sort that.” You’re seeing a possibility on the other side of all of this muddled up financial mess. It begins to change how you see the world. As long as you don’t get bitter about it, it becomes full of possibilities and imagination. Even when things break, you see on the other end of it the possibility of a system that’s actually working again. You see the possibility of health in patients that are really sick. I think that’s what motivates a lot of people. It begins to bring their imaginations alive. They say, “Okay, well, I’ve got skills now.” Where there used to be something is really murky and difficult to sort out, I see a possibility. College education helps a person to see the world that way. So there’s beginning to send down to a deeper level of meaning, but for the Christian, I think we can go even deeper than that. There’s a statesman, Abraham Cooper. Kind of loosely paraphrasing him by saying that there’s not one place in human experience, or one place in all of the breadth of what we’ve done as humans, wherein Christ doesn’t preside over it, and lay claim to it, and say, “This is mine and this belongs to me.” That call of Christ extends into that space of imagination where we begin to see possibilities of the world, okay? The call of Christ extends into these disciplines that a person begins to gain, into the skills that they’re getting. It begins to change and inform how they see the possibilities. There is this talk in today’s world about the sacred and the secular. The great bulk of these trades that people learn whether it’s nursing or mathematics or technical skills that they gain in college, it’s all just chunked off in the secular. Really at a fundamental level what all that’s saying is that that world hasn’t been influenced yet by the Christian imagination. But it’s already been claimed is what that quote is saying about Jesus laying claim to that, and saying, “This is mine. This belongs to me.” The task of the Christian then is to see those possibilities in the raw material of their education and claim them for Christ, okay, and to rehabilitate them or reform them, and say, “What’s a Christian way of doing nursing? What’s a Christian way of doing IT? What’s a Christian way of doing agriculture?” There’s incredible opportunities out there for that because that’s all been chunked off as being secular. It really just means again that it needs to be reclaimed. It needs to be redeemed. College is what allows you to get access to both worlds. I like that. That’s really good. That’s a really different way of looking at it that some people just don’t have. Some people just want to go for computer science, and that’s it. We’re going to a level so much deeper than that. That’s good perspective. Good stuff. Anything else you want to add? I think I’m done. Thanks, Reagan. Thank you, Kyle, for being on this episode. You give us a lot to think about. Thank you everyone for watching. New videos each week so come back for more. If you like what you see, let us know. Leave a comment if there’s a question you have. Maybe we will get Kyle to respond to those if you feel like it. Thank you for watching, and we’ll see you all in the next video.