Kyle Kutz never wanted to be a “commuter student.”
“I wanted the ‘college experience,’ not just to climb into my car and drive home after class,” Kutz said. “I have had people ask me, ‘Why do you do all of this? You can just go home.’ I’ve learned that the time I invest in other people is way more important than just creating time for another part-time job. What I’m getting is an education in relationships.”
The junior Accounting (CPA) major at Maranatha drives 25 miles to campus from Cambridge, WI, every morning but rarely drives home until late in the evening. He is too busy playing on the men’s soccer and men’s basketball teams, helping organize activities as student body vice president, and singing in an a capella group as well as Tonal Defenders, a vocal music group made up of soccer players.
The lessons Kutz has learned about relationships, leadership, and involvement are not unique among Maranatha students. The College has long promoted these ideals as an important facet of spiritual development.
The Student Life Office has intentionally set up a leadership structure that can involve hundreds of students in vital roles in their residence halls, classes, and student societies. That structure, coupled with the students’ passion for service, creates a unique campus experience most students love.
“It was time for me to grow up, make decisions, and rely on God in those moments,” said Audrey Smiley, a junior Cross Cultural Studies major from Paulding, OH. “If I had lived at home and gone to a community college, I never would have grown in the ways I’ve grown here. There were lessons God needed to teach me in an environment that is focused on Him.”
Many parents are examining community colleges and other higher education options as a cheaper alternative.
What their children may be missing, however, are opportunities to learn spiritual and practical lessons vital for adult life.
The campus experience opportunities at Maranatha include leadership, local church service, dorm life, student activities, athletics, and fine arts. “Once you get out of college, you aren’t guaranteed opportunities like this,” Smiley said. “If I hadn’t come here, and had found out later what I missed out on, I certainly would have regretted it.”
What would Smiley have missed out on? How about playing flute in the Symphonic Band, singing in the Madrigal and Handbell Choir, serving as class vice president and a dorm residence assistant, and participating in a street witnessing ministry.
Athletics and fine arts groups are not limited to a select few students at Maranatha. In fact, nearly 25 percent participate in intercollegiate sports and nearly 25 percent participate in vocal or instrumental groups.
Many students also take part in ministry activities and community service. Maranatha students volunteer in tutoring and mentoring programs for disadvantaged youngsters, host a cookout for the Watertown police and fire department employees, rake leaves and sing Christmas carols for senior citizens, and host a youth basketball tournament where the gospel is presented to competing players. All of those activities help form a humble servant’s heart in the future Christian leaders who participate.
Few colleges can provide such diverse experiences, and few colleges can claim such a diversity of positive results. A survey of Maranatha graduates from 2008-11 indicated 99 percent still attended church regularly and 94 percent were actively involved in ministry at their local church—miles ahead of national norms for the young adult demographic.
“The way (Business Department Chair) Dr. Corey Pfaffe counsels students and the way the deans counsel students has had a huge impact on me,” Kutz said. “It’s something I want to reflect in my life when I graduate.”
Another positive aspect of the campus experience is peer relationships. Kutz said many of the friends he expects to retain long after graduation are those young men who shared his experiences in athletics, music, and student leadership. Smiley said her “best friends forever” are likely to be the young women in Day Hall with whom she conducted meaningful conversations in her role as a residence assistant.
“A girl on my floor got saved, and it has been great to see how she has grown,” Smiley said. “The other encouraging part of that is to hear back from girls who thanked me for helping them. I may not have thought those conversations were a huge deal at the time—a brief talk or sharing a few verses. But to hear how those girls grew or were encouraged has really encouraged me to focus on others.”
A well-rounded, professionally capable, and spiritually mature end product is what Maranatha aims for in its campus experience. Those graduates who take full advantage of the opportunities available to them provide terrific examples that the College is fulfilling its mission statement: “To develop leaders for ministry in the local church and the world ‘To the Praise of His Glory.’ ”