Category Archives: Alumni Profile

What I Should Be Doing: An Interview with Music Alumnus Brennan Stokes

By Becky St. Clair

Brennan Stokes graduated from Pacific Union College in 2013 with a degree in piano performance. Having discovered a love for composition while studying with Professor Asher Raboy in the department of music, Stokes chose to continue his education at San Francisco Conservatory of Music, graduating in 2019 with a Master’s of Music in composition. Today he maintains a teaching studio in San Francisco’s Sunset District, passing on his love of music to the next generation of pianists. 

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How did you discover your love for music?

My parents are both musically inclined; they both sang in the church choir, Mom took piano lessons as a kid, and Dad plays the trumpet. They started me in piano lessons when I was in kindergarten, but there was always music in our house. I just took it and ran with it.

How did you settle on the piano?

It was the first instrument I learned, and it was a match from the start. I really liked it, and according to my teachers, I showed some promise for it, so I kept playing. Piano just made sense to me. 

How did composing become part of your musical life?

I always assumed I was going to be on one side of the page. I knew I was going to learn it, research it, analyze it, but I never considered creating it myself. When I found out I had to take a composition class for my degree, I wasn’t sure how it was going to go, but after our first assignment I realized how magical this process is and I fell in love with it. I continued to take classes with Professor Raboy even after the requirements were done. Creating new music was incredibly exciting for me. 

Tell us about your studio.

I teach 30-35 students a week, all between the ages of 5 and 13. My schedule is very flexible; since most kids are in school, I am relatively free during the day. I start teaching around 3 p.m. three days a week and teach until 8 p.m. I enjoy what I do. I consider myself very fortunate to be working in my field, teaching young musicians.

When you’re not teaching kids to create music, you create music yourself. Describe your approach to practicing.

Really, it starts slow. Paying attention to fingerings becomes essential; training my hands to do smaller tasks automatically. Then I focus on rhythm, hand by hand, figuring out what each part of the piece sounds like, then I put it all together. A valuable tool Dr. Wheeler gave me is reverse practice. If you only ever start your practice at the beginning of a piece, that’s always going to be the strong part. But if you start at the end, which is often the hardest part, you ensure the end is also strong. Then you feel even more comfortable with the piece. 

What is the difference between hearing a piece and playing it?

It’s a totally different experience to hear a piece than it is to see what the hands have to do to make the piece happen. You may feel like you know a piece after listening to it multiple times, but when you sit down to actually play it, you realize there are little rhythmic or harmonic nuances you didn’t realize were there. For example, the harmonies in some Chopin and Rachmaninoff pieces are super crunchy. It sounds like you’re playing something wrong and you check the notes three times, but that’s really what it is. You learn it, and suddenly it’s not crunchy anymore; it works. 

Aside from providing a way to make a living, how has studying music contributed positively to your life?

The last several years I’ve been getting into poetry and it has turned into a cycle of self-enrichment. I read poetry and feel like it was meant to be an art song, so I create some vocal music to go with the poem. Also, music allows me to meet really incredible people from all over the world. Music is the most universal thing; it doesn’t matter where you come from or what language you speak, you can bond over music. I love how it brings people together.

Who is your favorite composer to play, and why?

I’d say Chopin and this relatively new 20th century English composer named York Bowen. Chopin changed the game for solo piano. Yes, it’s technical, but once you get it in the fingers, it becomes so fluid and so natural. There’s playfulness, there’s sadness, and the composer’s intentions are really clear. Bowen utilizes really rich harmonies and has a bit of a jazzier feeling. I don’t think he’s well known but he’s written a ton of music; in particular, his preludes and ballads feel really nice to play.

Who is your favorite composer to listen to, and why?

There are two to whom I constantly return: Ravel and Beethoven. I have yet to encounter a piece by Ravel I’m not stunned by. He was a wizard of music and his chamber and orchestra music is stunning. Every instrument’s shape and technique is magic because he thought about more than the obvious ways to use the instrument. He utilizes every aspect of shading to get different tone colors and sounds.

Beethoven takes his time with his surprises. What he did to change musical form is a reminder that if you feel like doing something, you can. He’ll pull a fortissimo out of nowhere or move through his harmonies in an unexpected way. His sonatas are really rich; one movement is fiery and passionate then another is lyrical and serene. It’s incredible to realize you don’t always have to do the same thing all the time. He reminds me to come back to things that are good and innovate. I’m still looking back to these masters and finding ways to influence my music-making process. 

What is something you want to improve about your musicianship, and what are you currently doing to move in that direction?

Right now, rhythms and the finer points of notating what I want, maintaining my ear to get the intricate harmonies I love. I constantly have to work at how I put the complicated pieces together in the way I want them. During my first year of grad school, I took a musicianship class, and it was insane but incredible. Walking out of that class, my ear was so much sharper than it had been walking in. I still use techniques from that class to keep track of what has happened in a piece and what I’m doing next. 

What is the highlight of your career thus far?

Definitely my first composition recital in November 2017—the first time I heard one of my pieces performed. I had composed two songs for mezzo soprano, violin, cello, and piano, and I was terrified. I’m so used to being in the driver’s seat, and it was terrifying to be the composer just sitting in the audience watching four other people do my music and having zero control over what happened.

It was an immense learning curve handing my music over to other musicians; what I think works initially may not actually work after a second pair of eyes looks it over, especially when I’m composing for instruments that are not my primary. I also learned that how performers interpret music is also a part of the creative process.

A lot of people came up to me afterward and said it was amazing. It was a moment when all of my fears of not being good enough vanished. To be positively received by an audience was wonderful, but for my music to be positively received by the musicians playing it was even better. It was confirmation I was doing what I should be doing.

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If you could change one thing about society’s perception of classical music, what would it be?

I wish more people understood if you have the context of 20th century music, it will make more sense. The 20th century saw a lot of horrible things happen, and that’s reflected in dissonant 20th century music. It’s not necessarily pretty to listen to, but if you understand what they’re trying to say you don’t necessarily disagree with it. It takes a moment to transcend what you’re hearing and realize what the composer is saying; for example, a minor key with shrieking strings can express how a Polish composer feels about the Holocaust. If you understand what it is they were experiencing or reacting to, it contextualizes their voice and makes the music more accessible. 

How do you deal with performance anxiety?

I read a book on performance anxiety and the author said if you don’t get nervous, if you don’t feel anxious or get a boost in energy (whether positive or negative) before a performance, it’s apathy. You don’t really care. If you’re nervous before you perform, it means you want to do a good job and perform to the best of your ability to make sure what you put out there is wonderful. That really changed my way of thinking. I’ve learned to recognize what happens to me and where my nervousness affects me the most, then find a way to adjust. I try to fully relax my body and tell myself I’m going to give a wonderful performance. I reassure myself I’ve practiced, I’m ready, and I’m a good enough musician to find my way through the performance. This is music and music is fun, and sharing it with others should be enjoyable. That nervous feeling just means I’m doing the right thing. I’m doing something that matters to me. And that’s how it should be. 

 

Sensibilities: Douglas Sandquist at the Rasmussen Art Gallery

By Becky St. Clair

In the early 90s, Douglas Sandquist attended PUC as a bio-chem. Upon being accepted into dental school after his junior year, he left PUC and headed to dental school. He went on to become a dentist back in his hometown of Las Vegas, Nevada, where today he curates the unexpected combination of his dental career and photography. 

In 2016, a photo Sandquist took in Iceland with his iPhone and shared via Instagram was requested by Apple for use in a worldwide marketing campaign. This resulted in mega exposure for this Nevadan dentist-photographer. (More on this in the Q&A—keep reading!)

Some of Sandquist’s photographic art will be displayed in an exhibit in the Rasmussen Art Gallery beginning this Saturday, Oct. 12, with his opening reception at 7 p.m. He will present an artist talk and refreshments will be served. Before you go, though, you may want to learn a bit more about the artist himself. We did, so we asked him a few prodding questions. 

Introducing: Douglas Sandquist.

Where did you grow up, and how did that environment contribute to how you view the physical world? big-image-1

I was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada. It’s right in the middle of the Southwest part of the United States. California, Utah, and Arizona, along with their beaches, deserts, and National Parks, gave me the opportunity to get out and see what was out there. I’ve never stopped exploring.

 

 

What sparked your original interest in photography?

I actually dabbled with it even as a child. It wasn’t until I wanted to get better at taking photos for my day job as a dentist that I really started getting serious about it. I wanted to somehow be able to capture what I do. Most dental photography is macro photography, but it’s also portrait photography. I originally wanted to learn how to take better clinical photos, so I delved into learning how to better use a camera, how to compose a shot, and how to work with different lighting. One thing led to another, and I started to enjoy photography outside the office just as much as in it.

What was the first camera you used to start shooting artistic/intentional photography?

I bought a Canon 10D in 2004.

What camera is your instrument of choice now?

I currently use a Canon 5D Mark IV and, of course, an iPhone. 

Where do you learn your photography skills?

I’ve never taken a formal photography class. I am mostly self-taught, but I have also participated in workshops all over the world, and have engaged in online mentorship programs for over 10 years.

Okay, let’s talk about the Apple iPhone ads. (You knew it was coming!) How did this happen?

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Crazy as it sounds, I didn’t submit my photo to Apple. In January 2016 I took a photo with my iPhone and posted it on Instagram with a few hashtags—as you do—and a few months later, I was contacted by Apple and their advertising agency, requesting the use of my photo in a campaign. I agreed, and within a matter of months, my photo—taken with an iPhone 6S—was on billboards, in magazines, and on signs around the globe.

 

 

 

Where did your photo show up, that you know of? big-image-3

That photo appeared on over 30 billboards all around the world: L.A., San Francisco, Dallas, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Paris, India, six cities in China—including Shanghai—Korea, Thailand, Mexico, Tokyo, and Turkey, and on the back of magazines all over the world. 

 

What inspires you as a photographer?

I love challenging what I see and then attempting to capture it. It also means I get to get out there and go see the world. 

What are your favorite subjects to photograph?

I particularly enjoy capturing cold landscapes and the stars in the American Southwest. 

How do you think the desert of the American Southwest and the frozen tundra of Iceland are connected for you? What draws you to those environs to shoot? big-image-2

Both of these regions offer plenty of opportunities to ask, “How did this happen?” Whether it’s a massive arch-like Double Window in Arches National Park or the glacier ice that ends up on the black sand beaches of Iceland, there are always unique views and perspectives to capture and ponder. I also love the way the light transforms these elements. Different times of the day or year create different scenes that often catch me off-guard and illuminate my sensibilities.  

We have to ask one completely abstract question, so here goes: If the experience of taking the perfect photo had a color, what would it be? big-image

Sunset Orange 🙂 

 

Where Passion and Profession Unite

Every Pioneer has a unique story. Each one is different, but they all started at the same place. Here! An education at PUC prepares students for more than just a career. Graduates are equipped with the practical knowledge and the spiritual nurturing to succeed and serve and are ready for whatever the future brings. 

PUC is a place where passion and profession unite. Our grads know the combination of a beautiful and perfectly located setting; dedicated professors; and a hands-on approach to Adventist education, all play a part in starting your future. At PUC, you find more than just a major—you find your calling.

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Cameron combined his love of surfing with graphic design and is thriving as a senior designer at RipCurl.

“PUC gave me a lot of opportunities to work one-on-one with my professors. Under their guidance, the skills and techniques I developed and perfected helped me land my dream job at Rip Curl.” Cameron Mitchell, Senior graphic designer, Rip Curl

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As an animal lover, Mindy dreamed of doing more. Now she’s a vet performing surgeries to help save the lives of horses.

“Reflecting on my undergraduate education at Pacific Union College, I can’t imagine better preparation for my career as a veterinarian. The biology program gave me the foundation needed to transition into veterinary course work with ease. My professors were not only wonderful instructors but ensured my academic success through personal mentorship and course flexibility. The smaller class sizes afforded many opportunities for leadership and teaching roles that greatly enhanced my application in a highly competitive pool. PUC influenced my transition from student to educated professional equipped to face the challenges and triumphs of my chosen career as an equine veterinarian.” Mindy C. Smith, DVM, cVMA, Associate Veterinarian, Equine Medicine

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Alex is a self-proclaimed “people person” with the singular focus to one day make a positive impact. Following her passion for education and service drove her to a career in public health. 

“PUC was not only where I received an education, but also where I received the opportunity to be an enrollment counselor. That experience has trained me to be successful in my field when it comes to working with the community in countless ways.” Alex Dunbar, community education specialist

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Stefaan combined his love of the outdoors, sports and photography into a double degree in photography and business here at Pacific Union College!

“I’ve always been an athlete and I’ve always loved photography. In my junior year, I studied abroad in Spain and I spent a lot of time traveling and finding what my passions were and I came away from that year seeing photography as a very viable career for me.” Stefaan Dick, adventure photographer

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Julie found her path around the world through global service. 

“I never imagined that my degrees in English and psychology would lead me to a job in missions that takes me around the globe. Yet my professors at PUC celebrated the diversity of people, culture, and ideas. They taught me to look beyond the surface and dig deeper for new perspectives. They showed me how compassion and dialogue can build community, wherever you are. By teaching me how to think, PUC prepared me for the world.” Julie Lee, Vice president of marketing, Maranatha Volunteers International

If you’re interested in joining our amazing alums and becoming part of the Pioneers family, apply today!

 

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.

A Conversation with Fall Revival Speaker Josue Hernandez

By Becky St. Clair

Josue Hernandez is in the middle of his third year of ministry as associate pastor at the Modesto Central Seventh-day Adventist Church. He graduated from Pacific Union College in 2015 with a degree in theology and will begin MDiv classes in January. “I wanted to be a pastor to ensure the voices of young people are heard in the life of the church,” Josue says.

Beginning Oct. 8, Pastor Josue will be sharing some spiritual insights and food for thought during Fall Revival at PUC. Join us every evening Oct. 8-12 at 8:00 in Dauphinee Chapel in Winning Hall, and at 10 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 11, in the PUC sanctuary for Colloquy, to hear him speak on PUC’s Student Association’s theme of “Beyond.” Pastor Josue adds, “This theme really resonates with what I believe to be part of life’s most rewarding elements: Our ability to grow, step out of our comfort zone, and embrace the stress and tension that growth thrives on.”

We chatted a bit with Josue to get an idea of the kind of guy he is, and the verdict is he’s pretty great. We look forward to hearing what he has to say for Fall Revival.

You’re still experiencing the “new” of your career; what has surprised you about being a pastor?

In my experience, churches can be very open to new ideas when they line up with a fresh, well-communicated vision of what the church could be. For example, instead of having an extended evangelistic series we offered a one-weekend presentation on the power of hope to our community, wrapped up by a Sunday morning project where we partnered with Rise Against Hunger to package thousands of meals for families who needed them in the Philippines. Seeing the full spectrum of ages, including a few non-Adventist community members, working together toward the same goal was inspiring.

I’ve also led out in a 2-month sermon series called “Messy Church” while preaching in jeans and a t-shirt, purchased a drum set for our church, redesigned our youth room, and launched a teen leadership program. All new projects our church has fully embraced as part of our new identity. This has been a refreshing revelation because it shows churches are willing to step out of their comfort zone to share the Good News.

Tell us about your college years. What was your experience as a PUC student?

I thoroughly enjoyed the three years I spent at PUC. I was involved with SOL Club, joined the soccer team my senior year, and loved being a part of intramurals. My favorite class was beginning Greek (shoutout to Dr. Winkle for making that class such a positive learning experience) because I’ve always been drawn to different languages. I changed my major once from mechanical engineering to theology when I transferred to PUC, but If I had spent a little more time at PUC I would’ve picked up a second major in communications or business.

I had several roommates at PUC. Each one of them very different. I never really had any issue getting used to having a roommate but for some reason, they never stayed the whole year, not sure if it was them or me, except for Timmy Baze who I roomed with my first year—what a brave soul. PUC embraced me as family, so being away from home was probably tougher on my parents than on me. I missed the homemade food the most. My favorite meal in the cafeteria is still Friday morning bliss—biscuits and gravy! To get away from campus, I’d take trips down the hill to In-N-Out, Giugni’s, Sherpa … my mouth waters just thinking about those places! And of course, the back 40! Great place for a hike or a run to Inspiration Point with friends to burn off the calories from the cafeteria food.

What job did you have in college?

My first and only job at PUC (aside from Religious VP for the Student Association) was working for the alumni and advancement office as a student caller to our alumni, keeping them in touch with the latest on life at PUC and assisting with any other projects the office had, including the Maxwell Golf Tournament and Homecoming events.

Life didn’t start in college, though. Where did you grow up, and what were you like as a kid?

I was born and raised in Los Angeles. I played a lot of sports; soccer and basketball were my favorites. I also took a couple of years of piano lessons and began playing guitar.

How many siblings do you have?

Many people are surprised when I mention I have a sister, Dalia, who was at PUC during my last two years there. She graduated from PUC with a degree in biology this summer and I’m super proud of her!

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I honestly don’t really remember! But I enjoyed playing with fire trucks and legos, so maybe a firefighter or architect.

What was your experience with church and worship as a kid?

I rarely missed a weekend at church growing up. My parents were intentional about ensuring we had a positive experience getting involved with a variety of church activities such as camping trips, family events, social gatherings, etc. Church is actually where I began to develop a joy for service and fellowship. Worship has been a source of great inspiration for me through all these years and has helped me tap into a clearer picture of God’s vision for my life.

We all have defining moments in our lives—moments we can’t forget and have shaped in a significant way the person we are today. What are two of your defining moments?

The first was definitely transferring to PUC from UC Davis. A lot was happening during my freshman year at UC Davis I had to deal with personally. I was beginning to grapple with who I really wanted to be in life, questioning whether or not I belonged at UC Davis, and dealing with high school relationship baggage. There were times where I felt I didn’t have what it would take to be a successful person on such a competitive campus. If you’ve heard of Impostor Syndrome you understand there are times when we second-guess our accomplishments. We feel if we accomplished something it was because the bar was set lower for us or for any other reason other than our own effort, especially as a Latino.

Transferring to PUC was a breath of fresh air. It reminded me I did belong. My achievements were meaningful and the community on this campus helped cement my identity. I ran for and served as RVP from 2014-15 which turned out to be one of the most positive learning experiences I’ve had in life. I am the first in my family to graduate with a college degree here in the United States and PUC will always have a special place in my heart for helping me get there.

And the second: Accepting the call to be a pastor in Modesto. Taking the next step after college is never an easy thing to do. After spending three years at PUC I fell in love with Northern California. I really wanted to stay close to campus because of all the friends that still remained there. It was a Friday evening before Vespers that I accepted the offer to serve as the associate pastor at Modesto Central. I thought I’d be at peace but I wasn’t. A couple weeks later the leadership team of the Southeastern California Conference reached out to me for a second round of interviews to meet the rest of the team. I began to wonder if I had made the right decision. Fast-forward three years, and looking back I am glad I made the choice to come to Modesto.

The fall after I graduated from PUC was the toughest because I missed the PUC community, friends, Vespers, classes—everything but the homework, ha!—and everyone seemed to be posting about moving back in for the start of the new year while I was in a new place with only a couple of people I knew well, I was thankful to be doing meaningful work with lots of potential. I spent one year out of the three I’ve worked here serving as the interim lead pastor when our senior pastor at the time took a call to a different church. I’ve been challenged to grow in so many areas and the people in this community have been so supportive and generous with me. I’ve made many meaningful relationships with the young people here including several who are now PUC students. I’ve discovered God works out all things for good. Learning to trust the process has given me a new awareness about my own boundaries God wants me to go beyond.

Being a pastor is a 24/7 job, essentially, but when you do find a few moments of free time, what do you enjoy doing?

I put a team together to play in a community co-ed soccer league that plays all year ‘round, and it’s been a blast! I also enjoy a good workout in the gym while listening to podcasts ranging from Revisionist History to the Bible Project, and reading anything by Malcolm Gladwell. And let’s be honest: Netflix after a long day is just icing on the cake.

Where is your favorite place in the world and why?

Anywhere with friends. This year I’ve spent some time in Spain, France, Bolivia, Israel, and Mexico. On all these trips, I’ve gone with different groups of friends and family. Each of these trips has had their challenges but the time spent being present and savoring the moment in front of us while sharing it with people we care about has been priceless. No matter where you go, you are surrounded by extraordinary people. Sometimes it just takes a readjusting of our attitude toward the world to see the opportunities to make meaningful memories around us. Then we pause to realize we are only just scratching the surface and dive deeper into the present.

If you could dream up the best possible outcome of this year’s Fall Revival at PUC, what would it be?

My goal is to remind the students of truths they know deep inside, truths they may have lost sight of along the way, and to challenge us all to go beyond surface level living into the depths of life that await us. The best possible outcome, from my perspective, would be for students to walk away with a better understanding of what it means to be human.

Why do you think events like this are important for college campuses?

I think they really help to recalibrate our purpose and vision in life. They inspire us to be the best version of ourselves and remind us of truths about ourselves and our relationship with the Divine we often forget with all the things vying for our attention.

If you’re interested in chatting with Pastor Josue about his talks or just about life in general, feel free to catch him after the Revival meetings or even stop him along the sidewalk. He’s on-campus all week and happy to chat with anyone who’s interested.

Telling Stories: Spanish, English Honors Grad Gets Personal with Stanford University

By Becky St. Clair

As Midori Yoshimura, ’12, stood at the front of Stanford University’s most iconic entrance, watching the then-crown prince and princess of Spain step out of a black vehicle best described as “secure,” she focused on the same thing as many students in Spanish class: “Don’t use the (informal) form of verbs with this group.”

“After studying in Spain for my third year in college, I was very used to addressing almost everyone using the verb conjugation, since I spent most of my time with peers,” Yoshimura says, laughing. “In more formal situations”—such as talking with a more senior family member or VIPs—”you would use the verb conjugation for Usted (Ud.).”

Yoshimura, who graduated summa cum laude with majors in English and Spanish in the Honors Program at PUC, was working as an editorial assistant in Stanford’s Office of University Communications when the royal couple visited the campus. Although Yoshimura was relatively new to the job, her then-boss asked Yoshimura to join her in accompanying the Spanish press delegation traveling with the royal couple, on the off chance the journalists spoke mainly Spanish. (As it turned out, using the form with them was fine.)

Now, Yoshimura works as a digital media associate in Stanford’s Office of University Communications, where she and her colleagues manage the university’s official social media channels and, individually, various units across the campus. Yoshimura handles digital media for the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, and the Stanford Neurosciences Institute.

“Regardless of the topic, sharing insightful research in a way audiences are most likely to connect with, and understand why it matters, is very fulfilling,” Yoshimura says.

In this role, Yoshimura leads strategic and ad campaigns, produces Facebook Live interviews with faculty and students, live tweets events, manages social media communities, and more. One project Yoshimura particularly enjoyed managing was Stanford’s #MeetOurFaculty campaign. In it, she combined her interviews with faculty members with creative photography to highlight the personal stories that inspired them—and the diverse paths that brought them to teach and conduct research at one of world’s top universities.

Yoshimura never imagined her own career path would bring her to Stanford.

“I didn’t even have Instagram in college,” she admits. “The only filters I really paid attention to were the ones on job search websites likes Indeed.com, Glassdoor, etc.—I was pretty worried about finding a job after college. So, I certainly never imagined in a couple of years I’d be sitting in a dim, packed auditorium and tweeting quotes from Bill Nye the Science Guy.”

But what Yoshimura has realized from her career experiences as an assistant editor, freelance writer, and more, is that stories—listening to, writing, and sharing them—have been the driving force.

“Stories, broadly defined, are what shape our perspectives, inspire new ambitions and hopes, and help us better understand one another. And, the stories we tell ourselves can determine our future,” Yoshimura says. “One of the things I love about working in communications is the chance to share stories about topics that affect our lives and those of others—to be better aware of our biases, how our brains work, how we’re taking care of our planet—and to do so in a way that makes these stories most likely to resonate with audiences. I may not be the main character in the plot, but that’s fine. I care more about turning people into an important story in the first place.”

PUC’s Honors Program was a chance for Yoshimura to examine—and rewrite—parts of her own story, including her beliefs and goals.

“The Honors Program was a highlight of my time at PUC,” she says. “The nature of the program is to help you learn how to think and question what you thought before. You learn to defend or criticize your own viewpoints, while discussing questions that have perplexed humanity for centuries.”

Yoshimura continues: “Discussing these topics in a place where it felt safe—where classmates were engaged and not out to disparage each other’s views, made me stronger in my faith, yet more willing to challenge it. My experience at PUC improved my ability to reason and to be constructively critical of myself and my worldview, without demolishing everything I held true or leading me to stubbornly cling to what I simply wanted to believe.”

Aside from the philosophical, there was also the practical: “I learned how to skim,” says Yoshimura with a laugh. “The assigned reading was a heavy lift.”

If you ask Yoshimura what the PUC chapter of her life story looked like, she’d say it was a choose-your-own-adventure, undertaken with the motto: “I don’t know exactly what I want to do, but I’m going to try a bunch of things to figure it out.” The good news, she added, is in five years you can fit in a lot.

What she most recommends to students now is, unsurprisingly, studying a year abroad.

“Time spent in another culture, learning how to live vividly outside your comfort zone, is an empowering experience,” says Yoshimura. “The capacity you develop to adapt to and creatively resolve unfamiliar situations is invaluable. You can add so many new stories to this chapter of your life—and enjoy new opportunities to hear those of others.” And, Yoshimura added, conjugating the formal and informal varieties of verbs gets easier with practice.

Proactive Learning: PUC Chemistry Grad Researches, Treats Pediatric Oncology

By Becky St. Clair

From the very early years of her childhood, Holly Lindsay knew she wanted to be a doctor.

“I have no idea why I was so sure that’s what I wanted,” she says, thinking back. “I had no chronic health problems, so I wasn’t going to the doctor a lot, and neither of my parents were doctors. But I knew. I just knew.”

Today Holly spends a majority of her time doing research in a lab at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, also doing clinical care in pediatric oncology, specifically dealing with brain tumors in children. In addition, Holly is an assistant professor through Baylor College of Medicine.

“I was drawn to the field of pediatrics in particular because the diseases are so pathophysiological,” she explains. “That is, the kids don’t do anything to cause the problem, something just goes wrong in their bodies.”

Holly’s passions for serving not just the patient but the entire family, as well as for dealing with a variety of situations—inpatient, clinical, very ill, mostly well—led her into oncology. When she shadowed in a pediatric oncology clinic in her first year of medical school, she knew she’d found her calling.

“The amount of hope I encounter on this job is surprising,” says Holly. “I was expecting my field to be constantly emotionally draining, but even in the setting of recurrences and patient death, the hope and strength of the families has surprised and inspired me immensely. This is most definitely the work I wanted and needed to do.”

Holly’s experience at PUC prepared her for medical school in two notable ways.

“First and foremost, it strengthened my Christianity,” says Holly. “I rely heavily on my faith, especially with all the loss I experience in my field.”

Additionally, the smaller class sizes at PUC allowed her to interact closely with her professors, and the one-on-one experience helped her feel comfortable asking questions of her med school professors.

“At bigger schools, you ask other students or your TAs,” she says. “PUC helped me be proactive in my learning.”

Holly works in a lab focused on treating and eliminating pediatric brain tumors. She and other researchers do drug testing, with the end goal of eventually bringing the drugs to clinical trial for kids. One day a week she sees her patients in the clinic.

“Make no mistake: I’m certainly one of those people who get upset over animal experimentation, and I was extremely nervous coming into the world of animal research,” she admits. “But the mice here in our lab get amazing care. The experiments are incredibly humane and if there are any signs of distress they are euthanized immediately. On the flip side, I see the suffering children who need these drugs. The mice are serving a wonderful role to help us bring drugs safely to children.”

Most drug companies have developed products that don’t get into the brain through the bloodstream. This is because the possible side effects there are, to say the least, undesirable and risky. But in order to fight brain tumors, certain drugs are needed in the brain. This is why Holly and her fellow researchers implant tumors in the mice in the same place in the brain where the kids are getting them, as opposed to inserting the tumor into the animal’s leg or other body part. This allows for more accurate testing and experimentation.

Just as much as the other aspects of her work, Holly very much enjoys teaching medical students.

“Teaching allows me, specifically, to preemptively correct things I see wrong with communication in the medical field,” she says. “I give a lecture on the delivery of bad news. For this class, I made a video where I interviewed families and asked them to share what doesn’t go well in medical communication. I very much enjoy finding the next generation of medical providers committed to the patients and families they serve.”

Mentoring is a role to which Holly commits herself just as much as she does to her patients, research, and teaching. She actively engages with her students outside of class, inviting them out for small group get-togethers, working hard to avoid stifling her mentorship in the context of work by interacting in a less formal, social environment.

“In my own life, I have appreciated mentors who don’t hesitate to talk about their mistakes,” she says. “So, when I talk to my students, I highlight my own mistakes and talk about the things I wish I had done better, in an attempt to have them avoid those same errors. I want them to know it’s possible to fail at something and still move forward.”

As most of us know, the medical field isn’t all joy, success, and fulfillment. Death follows most medical practitioners in some way or another, and pediatric oncology is not exempt. The death of children can be particularly painful and difficult, and Holly understands this all too well.

“Everyone deals with the loss of patients differently,” she says. “I find it helpful to go to my patients’ funerals. It’s a good way to show the parents how much our team cares about their children.”

Her experience in the medical field has also given Holly the opportunity to explore her faith from a different perspective.

“One of the things I find most challenging is when I hear people praying for healing,” she admits. “I see so many families deserving of healing and it’s just not always granted. My biggest struggle in this field has been coming to terms with the fact that I don’t have understanding of who is granted cure and who is not. It’s taught me to change the way I pray from ‘please do this specific thing’ to ‘please let me accept your plan for me and to be appreciative even in agony.’ Even in a setting I would do anything to change.”

Holly’s long-term goal is to have her research lead to a clinical trial. Although she is currently writing a clinical trial, she realizes having her work directly impact her patients is still a long time out.

“This is probably a 20-year goal at this point, but I’m slowly transitioning from lab to clinical research,” she says. “The particular tumor I work with sees only about a 30 percent survival rate five years from diagnosis. I really hope to bring that number up over the course of my career.”

In her free time—which she swears she has, despite her long list of responsibilities—Holly enjoys traveling. Most recently she visited Costa Rica. She also volunteers at the Houston Zoo as an animal handler, bringing snakes, armadillos, and other wondrous creatures out into the open to show them to children.

“Despite all the naysayers I heard during medical school saying that this field is ‘too depressing,’ my work is very rewarding, with an immense amount of room for growth,” Holly says. “I encourage anyone considering oncology or any aspect of medicine as a career to have an inquisitive mind and push themselves into opportunities to learn.”

She also encourages science majors to expose themselves to fields outside of science.

“It makes you a much more well-rounded and accessible physician,” she says. “Being able to connect with people is incredibly important in any field, and I have found it crucial in my line of work. Don’t underestimate the power of relationships to serve you well in all aspects of life.”