Tag Archives: alumni

Rejoice In The Lord Always

Stephen Staff graduated from PUC with a degree in communication in 2010. He went on to receive his masters in student life and development in 2018 and is now the boy’s dean and athletics director at Dakota Adventist Academy. Stephen loves PUC and was happy to share a devotional thought with all of his fellow Pioneers.

These are troubling times. We have people getting sick at alarming rates. Countries are closing borders, people are being asked not to leave their homes, and schools are closing. You might be feeling anxious or worried about this. You may know a person that has been directly affected by this, or you might be affected in some way. So what should we do? Do we worry and give in to fear and make sure we have enough toilet paper to last through the apocalypse? In times like this, we need a firm foundation to stand on.

In the book of Daniel Chapter six, we find Daniel in an interesting situation. He has been taken as a captive when Babylon conquered Jerusalem. He served under two different kings, and both saw the power of God through Daniel. Then the Medes and Persians conquered the Babylonians, and Daniel was serving under a new king. This king liked Daniel, but the other officials did not. So they conspired against Daniel. They had the king sign a declaration if anyone made a petition or prayed to anyone other than the king they should be thrown into the lions den. Daniel heard about this declaration, and continued to pray to God just as he had before the declaration. The other officials brought this before the king, and the king was distraught. He followed through with the law and before he sealed it shut he told Daniel he hoped God would protect him from the lions. The king spent a restless night anxiously waiting to find out what had happened to Daniel. When they checked on him in the morning, Daniel was unharmed.

No matter what challenge we are facing, we can have faith that God is always going to be there with us. He is always faithful. Philippians 4:4 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” Just like Daniel in the lions den, we have faith we can trust this to God and know  He will deliver us.

Faces of PUC: Judith Mendoza

Meet PUC’s newest admissions counselor, Judith Mendoza. After graduating from PUC, Judith continued her education at Andrews University where she received her MA in youth and young adult ministry. Judith has a passion for Adventist Education and was excited to accept a position that would bring her back to our beloved tree-covered mountain. 

What brought you to PUC? How/Why did you decide to work here?

I first came to PUC as a student in 2011 and it was the trees and community feel that drew me to PUC. Thankfully that decision led to some of my favorite memories and people. After graduation, I felt a call to ministry and headed to Andrews to get an MA in Youth and Young Adult ministry. As I was approaching the end of my time at Andrews, my friend Angel (another Admission Counselor) told me about an opening here in admissions. While it may seem like I diverted from ministry, I find there are so many opportunities where I get to share my two biggest passions, Jesus and Adventist Education. Connect Ministries allows me to share in worship experiences with our youth in local churches and schools, while college fairs will let me share with others PUC and the things that make this place and our education system so special. I’m very happy to be back.

What is something you can do that might surprise people?

I am an amateur ‘master juggler’ in balls and rings, I got close to mastering the hollow bowling pins but I still need some practice. I’m also a decent goalkeeper and love participating in PUC’s soccer intramurals. Look out for my team, ‘Lakers’ (I did not pick the name-Go Portland Trailblazers!), this season.

Where is your favorite place to eat in the Napa Valley and why?

I love going to Melted, I have always been a fan of comfort food and grilled cheese always hits the spot. I also feel a little fancy there because it’s not your regular grilled cheese but like an upscale version of it.

What is your favorite thing about being part of the Pioneers family?

In the transition from a student to a staff member here at PUC, I’m happy to see I still get to experience the warm community feel which first drew me in. I was already friends with most of the other admission counselors, but the rest have been so welcoming and encouraging as I learn the ropes. Not just the team but other faculty and staff members have also made me feel like a family member who’s finally home from a trip. In a way I feel like that too, PUC was home for me for four years and while a lot has changed, the people are as friendly and this campus is as beautiful as I remember.

What is one song you’re listening to on repeat lately?

If you look at my Spotify account it’s all over the place, there’s an Anthems playlist, a Spanish playlist, an English playlist, and I also have a Disney Channel playlist. I don’t think I can narrow it down to one song, but according to Spotify it’s Hesitate by the Jonas Brothers.

Finish this sentence: On Sunday mornings you can find me…

Reading. I love reading for pleasure and since I’m no longer reading textbooks every day, I’m taking advantage and getting back into it. You may also find me at brunch, Sunday morning brunch is a big thing in my family and I’d love to continue that with my cousins and brother who are here in Angwin.

 

Faces of PUC: Gregg Gallemore

Meet Gregg Gallemore. Last year, Gregg decided to move back to his alma mater and take a welding job with facilities management. He recently got married and is he’s really enjoying being back in an area he loves, building a home with his new wife. 

What brought you to PUC? How/Why did you decide to work here?

This is kind of a long story, but essentially, I know I am here at PUC because God wants me here. I know it’s a little cliche sounding, but it is the most blatant answer I can give when I ask myself that same question. When I reflect on the whole story of how I came to work here, everything was too perfectly timed out and in my mind, that isn’t how life typically works. Every time I pray, I ask God to give me blatantly in my face answers, ” God, either shut me down hard or kick my butt through the door but I want/need an answer.” PUC was a kick through the door. Every time I ask God to give me a blatant answer, there it is right in my face.

What is the best thing about being a part of the Pioneers family?

I’ll say working with the facilities team is probably the best thing about working here. I love working with these guys and sincerely appreciate the work they do. They make working here easy, even when I have to crawl into the stinky dirty trash truck to weld something!

Where is your favorite place to eat in the Valley and why?

Tra Vigne is always good. Eat inside or outside, both offer a really nice environment or “AMBIANCE” if you want me to get all fancy with my words.

What is something you can do/want to do that might be surprising for people to learn?

I love metalwork, so much so that I built a huge wedding arbor for one of my childhood friends. I also built my wedding arbor as well. Because my craft is working with metal, these aren’t simple arbors, they are all made out of steel with intricate metal details. Aside from that, I ride a motorcycle and sometimes I do wheelies on that motorcycle. 

What is one song you’re listening to on repeat lately?

Songs? … try albums. I know these aren’t the best album’s to admit to listening to on repeat, but Tool’s new album Fear Inoculum and Stick Figure’s new album World on Fire.

Who is someone you admire and why?

I admire my dad. He just has so much more patience than I do and that is just one of the many qualities I admire about him. He’s also a really good man that I strive to be like.

Finish this sentence: On Sunday mornings you can find me … 

On Sunday morning’s you can find me sleeping in till 7 or 8 am!, working on cleaning up my place, walking my dog Amica, and then working on whatever project I’ve got going.

 

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. 

36636114_10156071716806281_3948195480516689920_n

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

53341341_10156945202839178_3558854977147371520_o

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. 

 

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.

46327237_10156768655244004_5856222478287765504_n

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

Screen Shot 2019-09-06 at 11.55.12 AM

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

2x

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

045A7554

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

Screen Shot 2019-09-06 at 11.55.25 AM

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!