In May 2021, Southwestern Adventist University graduated 137 students across various disciplines. Nearly a third of these students were the first in their family to graduate from any college or university, while a quarter of them have family members who previously graduated from the university. While their stories are as varied as their studies, one thing ties them all together: they were prepared to step into the rest of their lives, even doing so in the midst of a global pandemic. Eight months later, they are starting careers and impacting lives as SWAU alumni!
Aribelle Metzger | Education
Aribelle Metzger was so impacted by her fourth-grade teacher and high school English teacher that she decided to go into education and become a school guidance counselor. As she began studying psychology, she really felt convicted that working with children was part of the Lord’s plan for her life.
What she didn’t see coming, however, was a switch in focus, which came during her required year of teaching before she could qualify to be a guidance counselor, when she was hired to teach first and second grades at Fort Worth Jr. Academy.
“Now that I’m actually teaching, I really feel called to it,” Metzger says. “I love teaching, and I feel God placed me here right now for a reason, and it was where he was guiding me all along.”
During her time at SWAU, Metzger’s involvement with Spiritual Life and Development (SLAD) gave her opportunities to flex the wings the university was giving her–creating and organizing events, working effectively with people, and being a servant leader.
“For a while I wasn’t sure how working with SLAD would help me with my career,” she says. “But being in a leadership position at SWAU gave me tools to work well with other people, even when they’re different from me. Now I work at a small school, and we must work together to serve our students. Thanks to SWAU, I have been blessed with an incredible foundation for success.”
Teaching has its challenges, and there are certainly students who have pushed Metzger into deeper thinking, especially when a student is being particularly disruptive.
“In those moments, it’s easy to just be angry or send them to the principal’s office,” she explains. “Instead, I simply pull them aside and tell them it’s okay to feel things–we just need to talk through what to do with those feelings.”
Metzger says these experiences have helped her understand the concept of grace in a whole new way–and that includes extending grace to ourselves.
“God offers us grace, but we don’t often give it to ourselves or others,” she says. “I try to always keep this in mind in the classroom, and imitate God’s grace-giving in my teaching every day. It’s a good way to remind myself to be kind to myself, too.”
Tania Schmitt | Business
Tania Schmitt knew SWAU was the right choice for her when she visited during her academy days. She chose to study business, and was in the middle of her junior year when the pandemic left her stranded at home in Mexico without any of her textbooks or any way to get them. Her teachers worked with her, and together they found a way to make sure Schmitt was able to complete her coursework.
“When we finally did get to go back to campus, there were many new requirements, so that was hard, and a lot of the sports I was involved with were cancelled, but I was grateful we got to march in an in-person graduation ceremony.”
After graduation in 2021, Schmitt was hired as an auditor with General Conference Auditing Services for the Adventist Church. She spends 1-2 weeks at a time at each of her clients’ offices, poring over transactions, cash disbursements, payroll, expenses, and balance sheets, making sure records are accurate. It’s a job she enjoys, and one she may not have found if not for SWAU.
“More than just attaining theoretical knowledge in the accounting field, SWAU gave me tools to implement in my daily activities that would later come into play in practical ways on the job,” Schmitt says. “The many job fairs at SWAU helped me find a path I was passionate about and allowed me as a student to see the endless opportunities and directions I could take with my degree.”
Critical thinking, time management, problem-solving, and following through on commitment are all important and applicable skills Schmitt says she developed during her time at SWAU. But one skill stands out to her as invaluable: communication.
“It’s not just numbers in accounting,” she says. “You have to know how to deal with people, how to ask for specific things, how to respond to different situations, and how to say you don’t know something. People skills and keeping it professional are a must as an auditor–and that includes email.”
Though she never saw herself as an accountant, Schmitt loves her job with General Conference Auditing Service, and is excited to be taking the tests to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA).
“SWAU was a good choice for me,” she adds. “I’m really happy with my life right now.”
Micah Illingworth | Nursing
Micah Illingworth chose to attend SWAU because he was looking specifically for instructors who would push him both academically and spiritually.
“My professors taught me to work for my dreams, and that nothing worth getting comes easily,” he says. “But they also taught me no matter how tough or stressful life gets, I should always start my day with God.”
Illingworth’s professors also encouraged him to do a summer externship, which he says gave him invaluable professional experience. Incredibly, his professors were also able to maintain a clinicals program during the pandemic, something a lot of other schools weren’t doing.
“A lot of new grads got hired without ever working at an actual hospital,” Illingworth explains. “SWAU worked really hard to ensure our clinicals continued, and that aspect gave me a much easier transition than what students from other schools experienced.”
Today, Illingworth is in his second month on the job as a progressive care unit nurse at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth. He works with up to four patients at a time, and has found the time-management skills he developed at SWAU have become one of the most critical aspects of his work.
“You have to know how to manage your time wisely, but you also have to be flexible,” Illingworth acknowledges. “In nursing, nothing ever goes as you expect it to, and you have to be able to adapt.”
As he looks back, Illingworth says the biggest difference between his 18-year-old self and his current self is the level of his confidence–and a lot of that tracks back to his time at SWAU.
“When I was younger, I couldn’t really visualize myself being able to get where I wanted to be,” he says. “SWAU really boosted my professional confidence and bridged the gap between simply studying the material and becoming a professional. When I got out into the field, I truly felt like I knew what I was doing.”
SWAU offers an affordable, high-quality education in a vibrant, faith-based campus community that not only provides an engaging and holistic educational experience, but also prepares students for whatever their next step is. And for a limited time, first-year students from within the Southwestern Union can stack an additional $3,000 scholarship onto everything else in their financial package. Visualize your own future with SWAU at swau.edu/enrollment.