What’s to Love about Grad School?

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As a graduate assistant (GA), Andrew Malack (’18) lives a busy schedule each week. Working toward a Master of Divinity through Pensacola Theological Seminary, Andrew takes classes, works as a Dean’s Aide in Student Life, and invests at Heritage Baptist Church as an intern. Whether in class or on the job, Andrew’s post-undergraduate experiences have helped him improve in his dedication to service.

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After finishing his morning devotions, Andrew prepares for his Greek exegesis and pastoral theology courses and tends to work responsibilities. As a graduate assistant, Andrew works as a Dean’s Aide to pay his tuition while pursuing his degree. In this position, he goes out of his way to reach out to students. “The overarching theme Student Life has this year has been ‘Invest, Serve, Lead,’” he said. “I am there to take opportunities to invest in any student I interact with. This involves anything from praying with a student who has several tests that day or buying a coffee for a student who is having a rough week.”

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During his three-year internship at Heritage, Andrew preaches weekly in local nursing homes, teaches Sunday school, introduces guest speakers, and assists with anything else the church may need worked on. “One of my goals as a church intern is to take as much off of my pastors’ plates to allow them to focus on the areas of ministry pertinent to the office of pastor,” he said. “This involves everything from cleaning the restrooms in preparation for Sunday to teaching a Sunday school class.”

Like Andrew, Simon Haughey (’19), a GA earning a Master of Fine Arts in Dramatics, carries out many responsibilities. Simon teaches freshman speech labs, assists with Dramatic Production classes, and serves faculty as a teacher’s assistant. “As a GA, I am always excited and thrilled by the opportunities I have to work with the undergrads as a teacher or teacher’s assistant. They have taught me far more than I have taught them!” Simon said. “The opportunities that I have had as a GA have given me practical experience that goes beyond my field, [and] the things that I have learned in leadership, time management, and communication have helped me grow in more ways than I could have imagined.”

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Jenneth Dyck (’19) is continuing her education in an area different than her undergraduate degree—Master of Arts in Graphic Design. “I was a professional writing student during my undergrad, so now I get to work alongside all these amazing designers and learn how to make professional designs myself,” she said. “The GA program is structured much differently than undergrad. The classes are fewer but [a] bigger [work-load]. Art-related degrees focus heavy on projects, and instead of learning through daily lectures, we learn through those projects, practice, hands-on work, and bringing our designs to our teachers who help us hone our craft even more. It’s a totally new experience, and I’m so glad I took the plunge.”

When nearing the end of their undergraduate degree, some students aren’t sure how to begin considering further education while others wonder if they should consider studying in a new area. “Pray about it,” Simon said. “Find people who are currently in the program you are considering and ask them about their experience. Your teachers are also a good source to talk to about the programs available, and of course, the heads of your department are the ultimate source of information. Even if you are not interested in pursuing an advanced degree in your field, you may still be able to pursue a master’s in a different field that does interest you. There are so many things that you learn in the program outside of class. It is a valuable experience in every way.”

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“GA life is totally different from undergrad,” Jenneth said. “It’s a free degree, essentially, and you get work experience and affordable housing. You get the chance to test out your faith on your own between classes and work, and overall it’s a very fun experience. You get the chance as a GA to really bond with other graduates, whether that be going off campus and doing fun things, playing volleyball in the Field House at midnight, or just seeing people around campus. I’m really glad God pushed me to take that next step and pursue a degree that I’ve fallen in love with.”

When he’s not in class, helping students, or serving at Heritage, Andrew likes to relax on his hammock in Pensacola’s clear mornings, play basketball during an evening with his colleagues, challenge his friends during game nights at a local coffee shop, and practice playing guitar. Andrew’s time as a graduate student is now halfway over, but he has appreciated the practical experience he’s received while working on his M.Div. degree.

“Experiencing all that goes on in ministry on a week-to-week basis has provided me a better understanding and appreciation for the office of the pastor and his role in the local church. To learn and study about the pastor’s role and to experience it firsthand are two different things,” Andrew said. “The internship has given me a place to serve and to directly apply everything I am learning in the classroom.”

Published 2/11/2020

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