Q&A with Winter Revival Speaker Aren Rennacker

By Becky St. Clair

Aren Rennacker is currently the youth and college pastor at the Calimesa Seventh-day Adventist Church. After graduating in 2007 from Sacramento Adventist Academy, Aren went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in PR and journalism from PUC in 2011, then his master’s in theological studies from La Sierra University in 2017.

One of four kids, Aren has myriad stories from his childhood, during which he dreamed of winning a spot on an NBA team.

He will be speaking during PUC’s Winter Revival, Jan. 22-25, and his theme is “Authentic.” We caught up with Aren so we could all get to know him a little better (how did he go from basketball star to youth pastor?) as we prepare to receive his insights on authenticity and God next week.

Why did you choose “Authentic” as your theme?

It’s such a unique time to be alive right now, and particularly to be in college. Students are forming their identities in the midst of a lot of distrust, competition, pressure, and confusion. These can all contribute to misunderstandings about oneself and what it means to be human. My hope is for one week, we can practically examine the journey of growing as a child of God, and how that actually is meant to allow for more authenticity in our lives, not less. I truly hope our time together is engaging, practical, and genuine to the students’ experiences.

What was your experience with church and worship as a college student, and how has that affected your life today?

Friday night vespers at PUC were always a highlight. I spent most Sabbaths with Kidz Reach, a group that mentored at-risk youth in Napa. Also, the religion classes were outstanding. Truly, the entire spiritual environment at PUC helped me grow in a lot of ways and led me into pursuing ministry. I remain grateful to this day for the teachers and leaders I had as guides during those years.

What’s something that challenged you as a young adult, and how did you handle it?

At the end of my freshman year, I was asked to take a year off to serve as the youth leader at a local church. At that time I still wanted to be a sports journalist and had no desire to be a pastor; however, I felt saying “no” would upset God.

I met with a mentor of mine to process the decision, and he helped me see God was not for me or against me based on my decision, but both “yes” and “no” could be the right or wrong answer based upon how I chose to spend the next year. That took a lot of the pressure off and helped me see God in a healthier way.

I decided to return to PUC that year recommitted to serving God on campus. And, what do you know, by the end of that year I decided I wanted to pursue a career as a youth pastor instead of as a journalist.

What were you like as a kid?

I was the youngest of four and I’m sure I acted like it. Fortunately, my mom and siblings were patient and helped create a great childhood for me. Sports were my passion, and I always wanted to be watching, playing, or reading about them. Reading the sports page in the newspaper every day helped cultivate my love for writing, and obsessing over the Sacramento Kings helped me acclimate to taking losses. Despite that, I was a generally happy kid who enjoyed school and loved my family.

What is your favorite food to eat?

My favorite food category is ice cream. (Is that a category?) Seriously, though, if I were to have one plate of anything, it would be my mom’s French toast. She’s the only one in the world who can make it her way.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I still enjoy playing basketball, and I’m hoping to play some while I’m up at PUC. I’m currently in the middle of several good books, including Under the Overpass, an account of two guys who chose to become homeless for five months to better understand what others experience. But my favorite free time activity is spending time with my girlfriend, Paige, which usually means a game of Uno, an episode of The Office, or a bowl of acai. Better yet: all three.

What are some items on your bucket list?

This is a timely question because I turn 30 this summer, meaning I should probably do some life reflecting. Some of the things I’ve done are travel the U.S., work at a job I love, and see the Giants win the World Series (three times). I’d still love to run a half marathon, write a book, and star on Broadway. Dream big.

What would you say is your main goal for Winter Revival?

My ultimate goal for the week would be for those listening to be willing to process or wrestle with at least one new idea or perspective they hear. Living within a faith community can often numb us to yet another message (myself included), so if any student or staff actually feel something they hear is worth consuming and thinking over, perhaps even discussing with a friend, I’d be honored and grateful. I simply long to be a small part in the journey of growth for anybody who will allow me to be.

If, in the course of said discussions or ponderings, a student has questions or just wants to connect with you about things, how can they reach you?

I would love to talk in person while I’m on the hill, or they can reach me at asrennacker@gmail.com.

#FacultyFriday: Meet Marie Pak

Dr. Marie Pak, professor in the department of chemistry, has been teaching at PUC for close to two decades, since 1999. She specializes in biochemistry and spent six years as a postdoctoral research fellow at the National Institutes of Health in Rockville, Maryland. She enjoys reading, going to state fairs, and watching movies. Let’s spend a few minutes getting to know Dr. Pak!

Name: Dr. Marie Pak
Title: Professor of Chemistry
Email: mpak@puc.edu
Faculty since:  1999

Classes taught: Introductory Chemistry, Survey of Organic Chemistry, Survey of Biochemistry, Biochemistry, Biochemistry Lab

Education: B.S. in Biochemistry from Indiana University, M.S. and Ph.D. in Developmental and Molecular Biology from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine

What made you decide to be a teacher?  

Teaching allowed me to share my passion for chemistry and to have time for my son.

What are some of your hobbies?  

I enjoy cooking, watching documentaries, reading, going to state fairs, and nurturing plants.

What’s something people might be surprised to know about you?  

I know some NASCAR trivia.

What’s your favorite thing about PUC?  

PUC’s serene environment and its trees.

What’s your favorite spot on campus?  

Chan Shun 328 laboratory with windows.

What’s your favorite movie? (pick one)

“Seven Samurai”

What advice would you give to an incoming freshman?  

Follow your heart when choosing your major.

Professional activities (Note: Only the most recent three in each category are listed.)

Publications

  1. Pak, J.R. Hoskins, S.K. Singh, M. Maurizi, and S. Wickner (1999).  Concurrent chaperone and protease activities of ClpAP and the requirement for the N-terminal ClpA ATP binding site for chaperone activity.  The Journal of Biological Chemistry, 274, 19316-19322.
  2. Anderson, L. Phan, R. Cuesta, B.A. Carlson, M. Pak, K. Asano, G.R. Bjork, M. Tamame, and A.G. Hinnebusch (1998).  The essential Gcd10p-Gcd14p nuclear complex is required for 1-methyladenosine modification and maturation of initiator methionyl-tRNA.  Genes Dev., 12, 3650-3662.

Presentations

  1. Pak and S. Wickner (1996).  Molecular chaperone function of ClpA in plasmid P1 RepA activation and degradation. Protein folding and assembly in the cell, FASEB summer research conference, July 27-Aug 1, Saxtons River, Vermont.
  2. Pak, H. Pelka, I. Willis, and L.H. Schulman (1993).  In vivostudy of E. colitRNATrpidentity.  15th international tRNA workshop, May 30-June 4, Cap d’Agde, France.

Five Commonly Asked Financial Aid Questions

As you can imagine, college finances are a hot topic for prospective students and parents. While some things are more difficult to explain than others, here are five of the most commonly asked questions and very simple answers to help get you started. Reach out to PUC’s team of financial aid counselors if you have additional questions or need clarification on anything!

How do I apply for financial aid at PUC?

The most important thing you can do is file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is an online form you will submit each year that determines your eligibility for student financial aid. Filing the FAFSA also potentially qualifies you for a Pell Grant, which is a subsidy from the U.S. federal government, and is something you don’t have to pay back. Amounts can change each year, but for the 2018-2019 award year, the maximum Pell Grant award is $6,095.

According to a study by NerdWallet, in 2014 U.S. high school graduates left a whopping $2.9 billion in free federal grant money on the table just by not completing the FAFSA, which made them ineligible for a Pell Grant. In our great state of California, over 100,000 seniors would have qualified for Pell Grants if they had filed their FAFSA, but as a result, they lost $396,401,205. See how critical it can be for you to take the time to do the FAFSA?

If you live in California, we also strongly recommend you apply for Cal Grant. Cal Grant is a financial aid program administered by the California Student Aid Commission that provides aid to California undergraduates, vocational training students, and those in teacher certification programs. The short version: A Cal Grant is money for college you don’t have to pay back!

Cal Grants can be used at most colleges in California. If you’re planning on attending a private non-profit California college like PUC, Cal Grant is worth up to $9,084 per year. That’s over $36,000 to help pay for four years of college—and it’s free!

Don’t forget to apply for PUC scholarships as well. Visit puc.edu/scholarships to see everything we offer as well as scholarship requirements, deadlines, and their applications.

How can I get an estimate of what PUC might cost me?

Once we have your FAFSA data on file, our team of financial aid counselors can determine how much financial aid you are eligible for and create a personalized estimate where you can see how much per month it would cost to attend PUC. It’s incredibly helpful and absolutely an essential thing for you to have when making a decision about where to attend college.

While you wait for your estimate, you can also use PUC’s net price calculator to receive a free preliminary estimate of your aid eligibility, including grants, loans, and PUC scholarships.

Should I apply for aid anyway, even I think I won’t qualify for anything?

Yes, absolutely! Even if you think you won’t qualify for financial aid, or if you aren’t planning on taking out loans, it’s still recommended you file FAFSA. It might surprise you what you qualify for! Many families mistakenly think they won’t be eligible for aid and prevent themselves from receiving financial aid by failing to apply for it. There are a few sources of aid such as unsubsidized Stafford and PLUS loans that are available regardless of need. You also never know when your circumstances may change, and it’s always better to have the option of more financial aid available, should you need it.

Where should I look for outside scholarships?

It’s estimated there are 1.5 million scholarships in the United States alone, so it’s time to get to work if you haven’t already started your scholarship search!

Here are several scholarship websites worth checking out: 

Are there jobs at PUC to help pay off my tuition bill?

Having a job while in college can help defray the costs of obtaining a degree, and equip you with some of the necessary skills needed to enter the workforce post-graduation. In 2017-18 approximately 500 students were working on-campus at PUC, some with multiple jobs. Learn more by reading our “How to Get a Student Job at PUC” blog post!

Our Student Finance team is here to help if you have questions about financial aid and scholarships. Call (800) 862-7080, option 1 or email studentfinance@puc.edu to get connected with a financial aid counselor now.

Five Reasons to Come to PUC’s College Days

If you’ve never heard of College Days, it’s PUC’s special visitation event, held three times a year, and is two and a half action-packed days where you can experience what life at the college is like. It’s a great way to see if PUC is the right fit for you.

The next College Days event is scheduled for February 10-12, 2019, and we would love to have you here for it! Come experience everything PUC has to offer as you decide where to attend college. Sign up now!

Here are just five reasons why you should consider coming to College Days next month!

You will get to know more about PUC’s prime location

One of the best things about PUC is our location. Not only is it a beautiful place to live with many opportunities to get out in nature, but the campus is also blessed with a close proximity to incredible places like Napa, San Francisco, Mendocino, Tahoe, and lots more. You can visit a museum in the city or spend time on the coast. Your options are limitless.

During College Days you’ll get to experience both Napa and San Francisco in person! So be sure to have your camera handy to capture some really Instagram-worthy sights. We’ll take you downtown Napa for an afternoon and you’ll also get to spend time at Pier 39 in San Francisco.

You will gather insight into academic programs

During College Days students will discover more about college academics. Between dinner with faculty, sitting in on real college classes, and experiences showcasing many of PUC’s departments, hopefully, you’ll walk away with a better understanding of what program you want to join!

You get to attend a special financial aid workshop

Monday morning offers College Days participants a financial aid workshop allowing you to learn all about how to pay for college. From PUC specific scholarships to information on FAFSA, you’ll be able to speak with a knowledgeable financial aid counselor to learn how an Adventist education is possible at PUC.

You can hear about PUC directly from PUC students

While you’re visiting PUC for College Days, you’ll constantly be interacting with current students, which is the perfect way to really understand the heart and soul of the Pioneers community. You will stay in their rooms, join them for meals in the cafe, sit in on their classes, worship with them, and attend a panel where you can ask them any question you might have.

You will immerse yourself into college life

Come be a Pioneer, if only for a few days! One of the best things about visiting PUC for College Days is being on campus for several days and really getting to experience what it’s like to be a student here. As you walk around campus, try picturing yourself as a PUC student. Envision how great it will be to make this place your home for your college years. Make the most of your visit by asking questions and taking advantage of every opportunity to talk with current students and professors to see if PUC is the right fit for you.

We hope you will join us for our February College Days. Don’t forget to sign up! You can also email visit@puc.edu or call (800) 862-7080, option 2 to learn more and for information about our travel reimbursement policy.

Start Your California Adventure at Pacific Union College

We think California is such an incredible place for you to spend your college years, we’ll even help you get here!

The special Out-of-State Scholarship is for students choosing adventure. If your residential address is outside of California, you will receive an automatic award of $1,500; depending on other qualifications, up to $4,000 may be awarded.

There’s so much our state has to offer you! We may be biased, but we think this area is a pretty special location that offers just about everything you can imagine, and it is a great place to spend your college years. Visit our Northern California webpage to start exploring.

  • The heart of the tech world in Silicon Valley has countless internship and career opportunities
  • San Francisco has museums, sports teams, shopping, and other exciting cultural destinations and events
  • There’s also plenty of outdoor excursions to be had at Lake Tahoe, on the coast, or in the mountains
  • The nearby quaint towns of St. Helena, Calistoga, and Napa offer an array of activities and more importantly, incredible restaurants

We can’t wait for you to experience everything life in Northern California has to offer. If you live outside of the state and have been considering PUC, contact the Student Finance office for more information about the Out-of-State Scholarship, and other scholarships and aid you may qualify for. Call (800) 862-7080, option 1 or email studentfinance@puc.edu to get connected with a financial aid counselor now. You can also learn more at puc.edu/scholarships.

#FacultyFriday: Meet Jon Carstens

Long-time art and history lover Professor Jon Carstens has dedicated three decades of his life to PUC. His interest in various styles, eras, mediums, and artists brings a lot to the table for our students, and we’re glad to have him on our faculty. You can discuss all this and more if you catch up with Professor Carstens in Fisher Hall between classes—and trust us: bring a maple bar.

Name: Jon Carstens
Title: Associate Professor of Art History
Email: jcarstens@puc.edu
Faculty since: 1979-2004, then back in 2014

Fall Quarter Classes: History of Western Art I: Prehistoric to Medieval, History of Western Art II: Renaissance to Modern, History of American Art, History of Women Artists, History of Asian Art, History of Modern Art to 1945, History of Contemporary Art Since 1945, History of Photography and History of World Cinema

Education: B.A. in art history and history from the University of Redlands; M.A. in art history from the University of California, Riverside

What started your passion for history and art?

Ever since I was a young child I always had an interest in history and the biographies of noteworthy persons in particular. In the tenth grade, I took a college prep class called Humanities which incorporated history, literature, philosophy, and art history into an integrated three-hour block. I was immediately taken with the interdisciplinary nature of art history as it combined the best of all worlds for me; that is, the study of history seen through diverse cultural events of artists/architects/designers and their respective works. Art was more than just a pretty picture hanging on a wall; it was an expressive document which told me about the creator and their relationship to their supreme being(s), their fellow humans, themselves and to their environment.

So what made you want to teach?

In part, it is in my genes. I come from a family of teachers. My mother fostered a progressive educational environment both at home and at school; her approach stressed the joy of learning in all academic areas with special emphasis on the humanities. She never missed a chance to observe our fascination with something and provide us with the requisite learning materials to enhance that interest. I can still remember my excitement going to the mailbox to get the most recent issue of Life magazine when I got home from elementary school on a Friday afternoon. Little did I know Henry Luce’s prospectus for the magazine to be “Show Book to the World” would become my mantra as a teacher: “To see and take pleasure in seeing; to see and be amazed; to see and be instructed.” Ultimately, as Pablo Picasso once said, “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” That is why I am a teacher.

What is your favorite period in art history?

Attempting to answer that is akin to responding to a question as to who is my favorite child or grandchild. As a generalist, I genuinely have a passion for nearly all art historical/cultural epochs. If pressed, I am all over the place, as I have a special affinity for the paintings of American Realists Winslow Homer and Edward Hopper, while at the same time I am enthralled with the woodblock prints of the Japanese Ukiyo-e masters Hokusai and Hiroshige. If I could turn back the clock, I could easily add to my specialty in late 19th Century American Realism by concentrating anew on the art and architecture of Japan and Islam.

Which artists inspire you?

One of the most inspirational artists for me is Maya Ying Lin. Her ability to respond to the divisiveness of the Vietnam War by creating a memorial in Washington, D.C. which miraculously heals and unifies at the same time was and continues to be a remarkable achievement. From a stylistic standpoint, her work in such a minimalist fashion touches humanity at an incredible number of universal levels. I never cease to be amazed at her ability to remain such a picture of dignity and grace when faced with intense criticism when she was awarded the commission as a college student.

Where did you grow up?

At the age of two, my family moved from my birthplace in Beatrice, Nebraska, to San Bernardino, California, where I grew up. There I attended Barton Elementary, Highland Junior High, and San Gorgonio High.

What are some of your hobbies?

I don’t know if these are considered hobbies, but I enjoy home renovation both in terms of interior and landscape design. The research which goes into choosing and coordinating colors, materials, furniture, plants, trees, and lighting is my mode of personal expression and I enjoy it very much.

Going local, what is your typical order at the Grind?

Since my wife makes me different blends of tea which I bring to work from home, I don’t go to the Grind; that could all change, however, if I find out they offer maple bars and cinnamon rolls.

Tell us something about yourself we might be surprised to learn.

For eight years I raced karts at road courses in Davis, Dixon, and Prairie City here in Northern California.

Where is your favorite place in the world, and why?

If we are talking somewhere in the U.S., my favorite place would be Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, with its four-seasons climate and spectacular scenic combination of lakes, forests, mountains, and rolling hills. In Europe, it would be the Tuscan region of Italy as I never cease to enjoy the thought of being transported back to the Renaissance while strolling the streets and attending the museums of Florence.

Halcyon: An Interview with Diana Majdumar

As a child, Diana Majdumar loved watching her father draw. She learned the basics of watercolors from him, and accompanied him to art museums in Estonia (where she grew up), Russia, and Armenia, and was honored to receive as a gift his large set of art books printed in Russian.

After immigrating to the United States, Diana graduated with a Master of Fine Arts degree in drawing and painting from Academy University in San Francisco. There she learned to appreciate and explore different subject matter from traditional landscape paintings and still-life to portraiture. She has studied clay sculpture, charcoal figure drawing, acrylics in mixed media, and, her personal favorite, oil and watercolor painting.

An opening reception for Diana’s show, “Halcyon—Encaustic,” will take place Saturday, Jan. 12, from 7-9 p.m. in PUC’s Rasmussen Art Gallery. The collection of Diana’s encaustic paintings will be on display through Feb. 10, and will be available for viewing every Thursday-Sunday from 2-6:30 p.m. Both the opening reception and admission to the gallery are free and open to the public.

Diana was gracious enough to offer us a glimpse of her world as we prepare to enjoy her work throughout the coming month.

What are encaustic paintings?

Encaustic is basically a beeswax with some damar resin mixed in as a binding element to provide elasticity to the wax, making it less brittle and more long-lasting. In order to apply encaustic, it has to be melted. I use a special electric plate that lets me keep wax melted and hot at a consistent temperature without it getting too hot and smoky or not hot enough. While it is melted it can be applied with brushes one brushstroke at a time like you would with regular paint, except wax starts to harden the second it leaves the hot plate so I have to work fast. After wax is applied it has to be melted on the panel once again; this step is called fusing. This allows for multiple layers of wax to be applied. As long as each layer is fused layer upon layer can be built up.

What is the space like where you work?

My studio is in rural West Petaluma, where we moved six years ago. We fell in love with mature California Coastal oaks and how remote and rustic it feels here, even though we are only few minutes from town. My studio is attached to the back of the garage, away from the house and facing the backyard. I have a few windows and one is very large. My view is of the oaks, a meadow, and a wood stack, but my favorite thing to see out of the window is all the bird activity. In one day, I can easily see up to 20 different kinds of birds: titmice, bushtits, and sparrows in the morning; towhees, crows, and scrub jays later in the day. I usually have my camera handy.

My space is pretty well organized—usually, I know where to find what I need! Though depending on what I’m working on, it can get pretty messy. Especially if I’m just in the collage stages of the process. Lots of boxes and baskets get pulled down from the shelves while I look for the right piece of wallpaper, scrap of fabric, or page from a book.

I’m fortunate to have a studio; not having one for a long time and having to use a corner in the garage instead, I know firsthand what a huge difference it makes to have a special space. And to me it’s not just space for creating art; it’s a refuge—a place I go to first when I get home, a place I go to get away.

What inspired you to become an artist?

It was actually my dad’s dream to become an artist, not mine. In fact, he planned on applying to art school upon graduating high school in Armenia where he grew up, but his parents insisted he pursue a more ‘useful’ profession, and he became an auto mechanic instead. He did some drawing and watercolors, but casually. Years later both my sister and I sat an entrance exam to an art school in Estonia which was the only way to study art with proper instruction. Both of us failed. Only my dad was devastated. From my perspective, getting into that school would mean spending hours with strict, unfriendly teachers (we met few during the exam) after school, coming home in the dark, having to take a couple different trams to get there, and learning art from the basics up, while all I wanted to do is doodle princesses and fairies. My dad’s dreams must have stayed with me, because when I moved to the United States and career choices were in front of me, somehow art was among the options, and I took it.

Every artist has a muse or muses; what inspires your work?

Nature! I know how cliché that sounds, but it’s true! I don’t mean the grandeur of Yosemite Valley or the awesome vistas of the coast. The most mundane and small objects of nature catch my eye and stay with me, like the Queen Anne’s Lace that grows freely on the side of the roads all over Sonoma and Marin. If you slow enough while driving, you will see the white blossoms glowing in the sun in the spring. Now they are brown and have the most interesting shapes.

My painting, “Oak Branch,” (above) was inspired by the impossibly bright leaves on the branch of a fallen oak tree in the Petaluma countryside. It seemed so strange something dead could be so bright, but the saturated yellows and oranges seemed to glow when the sunlight hit them a certain way. I dragged the branch to the side of the road where I was able to take photos of it. The graceful arc of the branch and the colors of the leaves, though dead, is what I tried to capture in the painting.

Who is an artist whose work you enjoy?

My favorite artist is Andrew Wyeth. There are a couple quotes of his that really speak to me; one is, “It’s a moment that I’m after; a fleeting moment, but not a frozen moment.” That captures exactly what I’m trying to achieve in my work. When I paint birds I try and seize a moment in time. How a perfect pair of finches is poised on the branch of the apple tree right outside my window—but just for a second. Of course, I paint from photos—the birds never sit still—but I hope that I can express how lively they are in reality.

In another quote, Wyeth says, “I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape.” Fall and winter and are my favorite seasons as well. I love the sculptural quality of it where you can see shapes more clearly, and the colors are more earthy and intense. Most of my paintings use elements of winter and fall: bare branches of trees in winter, red berries with all the leaves gone, brown leaves of late fall. The color palette of Wyeth’s paintings really resonates with me. At first sight, it might seem limited with its few muddy browns, but if you look longer you see his brushwork—the delicate lines. I especially love his winter landscapes.

What is the meaning of the title of your show, “Halcyon,” and how did you come to choose it?

“Halcyon” has two meanings. First, it denotes a period of time in the past that was idyllically happy and peaceful, and second, it’s a tropical Asian and African kingfisher.

I love unusual words. English is my second language, and I always feel somewhat lacking in my vocabulary. A few years ago when my son had to study for his SAT, I was more than happy to help him with the 200 words that might show up on the test. I still get excited when I hear words like “boon” and “assuage” on the radio.

I especially love words that have anything to do with nature and often use them for the titles of my paintings. I have most of the books by Robert Macfarlane, who travels the countryside of Great Britain and collects the words and sayings that might be disappearing. Several years ago Oxford Junior Dictionary got rid of many nature words such as willow, pasture, and acorn, replacing them with tech-related words. I find that incredibly sad. I say we need more words like “smeuse” which is a gap in the hedge made by regular passage of wild animals, and “zwer:” the noise of the wings of a flock of birds taking flight.