There are many facets of Christian higher education, and at NNU, nuances of faith and learning play out in the classroom, in chapel and in the dining and residence halls. NNU’s beauty is in its various shades of experience—worldview shaping; faculty and staff with integrity and kindness; safety to explore thought and belief; a warm place of compassion, community and belonging. NNU is unique in its steadfastness to a foundation built on Jesus Christ and over a century of tradition and excellence. As evidenced in the testimony of two alumni, Franklin Cook and Bre Sheldon, NNU is uniquely transformative as students are challenged in their thinking or offered a place of reprieve.
I will never forget my friends’ faces when I told them I was moving to Idaho.
“Where even is Idaho?!” they asked. Not only that, they wondered why I would leave the sunny, sandy and beautiful central coast of California for a rural state I had barely heard of that definitely had a winter season. It was a valid question.
Growing up in California, I didn’t even know what “Nazarene” meant. And I definitely didn’t know there was a denomination identified by the name. My childhood was spent in the California mountains surrounded by a family that simply couldn’t be defined without Jesus. Jesus was who we prayed to, looked to for guidance and whose presence we felt in the conversations we shared around our warped wooden dinner table. I was raised to love and follow Jesus, but I didn’t ever consider attending a Christian university. Sure, college was always my plan, but I had my hopes set on the central coast.
I think my visions of attending Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, stemmed from the same reason many students choose NNU. My mom was a student-athlete on campus and my grandfather was an English professor there for many years before I was born. It was in my blood; its green and gold school spirit practically coursed through my veins. And so, in the fall of 2013, I took my first steps on campus alongside approximately 20,000 other undergraduate students who already called Cal Poly home.
As I look back, Cal Poly truly changed my life. It was a large campus with great diversity of thought, rigorous classes and hundreds of events meant to broaden my thinking and immerse me in the greater community. I had the opportunity to push back and to disagree. Not only was it a space to grow my intellect but also my leadership and interpersonal skills. For two years, I was a Resident Advisor for on-campus apartments that housed around 1,000 students, and through that experience gained friends from different countries, religious backgrounds and walks of life. And while there was a considerable Christian representation on campus, Cal Poly opened my mind to a world without Jesus as its compass. It was instrumental in my development of self and offered a judgment-free space to figure out who I was and what I believed. Cal Poly helped me realize that if we never question our beliefs, are they ever truly ours?
After three incredible years, I decided to transfer. While I had countless memories of campus fun and late-night trips to the beach (a whopping 7-minute drive away), I was also coping with losing my dad to stage four lung cancer. My entire life, my dad was my best friend; he was a beautiful depiction of what a follower of Jesus should be. Unfortunately, cancer does not care about the state of a person’s heart—it is too intently focused on stopping its rhythm. When I lost my dad, I knew I could no longer stay at Cal Poly surrounded by all the memories; I needed time to heal. And NNU opened her loving arms at just the right time, coaxing me to a place of rest and recovery.
So yes, I was a transfer student. And I didn’t choose Christian higher ed until halfway through college. But after over six months of prayer, my mom and I agreed that NNU was where I was supposed to be. And if I am honest, I don’t know that I really did choose NNU. As silly as this might sound, I like to think the campus beckoned me. She was magnetic—drawing me in like a tattered childhood blanket and a warm cup of cocoa after a long walk in the rain. And she made quite the first impression. I remember visiting one weekend in early February to see what this Boise (pronounced boy-see) place was all about. I was instantly enamored with the beauty silently reverberating off the old brick buildings. I felt like I had gone back in time—and as if I had found the place where I belonged.
That is why I chose Christian higher education and, more specifically, NNU. From its band of welcoming students and professors that are the lifeblood of campus to its unyielding peace amidst the seasons of change, NNU is a place that pulls people in and becomes exactly what they need for that season. NNU is where I met my husband (and believe me, I was not hoping that would happen); it’s where I found my best friend. It gave me professors who are still mentors and peers, and it was a soft landing when I needed it most—a place to protect me as I healed and grew. My time at Cal Poly was incredibly impactful, but it didn’t fully transform me from the inside out. For me, NNU was the great role model, pushing me ever closer to becoming more like Jesus. I needed her community, her guidance, and her warmth…even if I didn’t fully realize it until I no longer walked through her seasoned halls.
Without a doubt, I am better because of the time I spent on NNU’s campus and the people it brought into my life. And while Christian higher education is a good option for some people, NNU—with its deeply rooted love for Christ, transformation and community—is a great option for many. It absolutely was for me.
Bre Sheldon, 2018, Communications & Public Relations
Bre is currently the Communication Director at Midtown Church in Boise, Idaho.
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