Feminine strength paves a way

Five Biola professors speak on their experiences and offer guidance.

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Eliana Park/THE CHIMES

Eliana Park/THE CHIMES

Eliana Park/THE CHIMES

Samantha Gassaway, Writer

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Women’s History Month means a celebration and validation of the experiences women have fought through. Often, the tale is a tear-jerking and heartstring-pulling one.

However, five Biola professors explain their collective experience with an emphasis on equality and value from their colleagues. Against the typical theme of the month, discrimination does not define their experiences even in the slightest. Overcoming adversity was a present thought, but never became a driving factor in success — they had other motivations.

Alicia Dewey, history department chair

While growing up in a Bible-believing church in Texas, Dewey attended a secular private school, which led her to fall in love with the liberal arts. Though passionate about American history and experienced it in an eclectic collection of forums, Dewey began her higher education with an English degree from Davidson College of North Carolina.

Since then, she attended law school at Southern Methodist University in Texas, worked in a large firm and then transitioned to a smaller bankruptcy firm surrounded by other Christians. From there she pursued a doctorate in the broad field of American history, though she always found herself loving the study of U.S. and Mexico borderland history.

The fruit of her doctoral dissertation is a book titled “Pesos and Dollars: Entrepreneurs in the Texas-Mexico Borderlands, 1880-1940,” in which Dewey had the rare opportunity to write her faith subtly in between the pages. In the final chapter of her book, the philosophy of a businesswoman she expounds upon continues to hold a dear place in her own life.

“This kind of summarizes my philosophy of life, too. Work hard, but trust the Lord and leave the results to him, realizing he’s sovereign,” Dewey said. “The most important thing is to be strong in your faith and be trusting the Lord, asking him for guidance… Don’t be ashamed of your faith. Work hard, pursue excellence and don’t be ashamed of the gospel.”

Joanne Jung, professor of theology

The meaning of equality is irrevocably interwoven with value, and value transcends equality, according to Jung. In her experience with upper education and academia, she acknowledges with gratitude that her value has never been in question, particularly in the culture of Talbot School of Theology, where she feels she is a prized member of the staff just as every other faculty member.

Her education began with a dietician registration after receiving her undergraduate degree from California State University of Los Angeles. She worked in several hospitals as a dietician, and she was called by the Lord to pursue ministry work with her local church. Shortly after, her pastor pushed her to follow a calling to a master’s degree at Talbot — the day of her graduation, she was offered an adjunct position at the university teaching Biblical Interpretation and Spiritual Formation. She pushed on, earning a Ph.D. in theology from Fuller Theological Seminary and writing her dissertation on Puritan theology and practices.

“I want to worship God, not for the things he brings or allows me to see or allows me to write… That if I had none of this, I would still be found in a worship mode. If I had nothing, would I still worship him for who he is?” Jung said. “I would encourage [my students] to hold your plans loosely, and always let God have the last word… Do your homework, be a lifelong learner. Have the humility to continue to learn.”

Anna Sinclair, professor of journalism

Overcoming adversity has been a lifelong pursuit in Sinclair’s life. Graduating high school with an aptitude test pinning her down as a future mortician, she strove for a life more fulfilling as well as more people-oriented. Though she finds much of her identity in the lessons learned from an arm affected by amniotic band syndrome, the shortcomings of which have only spurred in her strength and confidence rare in those without the experience of her disability.

Sinclair spent her undergraduate education at Northern Arizona University, where she studied public relations and earned a minor in Spanish, as well. She then moved forward and earned a master’s degree from Biola University in organizational leadership — though it is no longer offered. Soon after, she provided work for a variety of different organizations, always focusing on the people she worked with and managing the image of the company with whom she was allied.

“I found as the years went by I felt more self-confident in who I was as a professional and more self-confident [in] who I was as a person,” Sinclair said. “Be confident in what you know, and choose the right time and right place to have those conversations. Be wise. Be confident, and don’t be intimidated… Be sure of yourself, that will get you a lot further along in the industry than trying to constantly prove yourself. The proving of yourself will happen naturally.”

Karin Stetina, Talbot theology professor

In a roundabout way of reaching her current post, Stetina began her journey to Biola at Westmont College, earning a degree in psychology. Though interested in studying theology, Stetina took Bible courses that interested her rather than pursuing those that would earn her a minor degree in the subject.

She then followed the path set for her by God and taught psychology seminars at Westmont before earning a master’s degree from Wheaton College. She then took a step into the academic world at a level never before known to her and fought for a doctorate in historical theology from Marquette University.

“In general, have a good support system in place, that’s one of the keys. Make sure you know your sense of calling and that it’s affirmed by other people. Be very gracious to yourself in the process, it’s a long process — getting a Ph.D. It’s not something you do without a vision or calling,” Stetina said.

Bethany Williamson, professor of English

In a long and winding road, Williamson had little intention, if any, to end up at Biola University in sunny southern California teaching 18th century literature. Though she attended Cedarville University in Ohio on a scholarship for piano music performance, she began her academic journey by earning a bachelor’s degree in English. She took a semester off after studying abroad to live in France, and connected with a Middle Eastern pocket near where she lived, which inspired her undergraduate senior thesis, her master’s program focus as well as her doctoral dissertation, both at Southern Methodist University in Texas.

She worked for a language textbook printing company prior to earning her master’s degree, where she finally realized how she desired a position on the other end of the editorial process. She wanted to meet with students and inspire people, dedicating a large portion of her higher education to studying Middle Eastern women’s poetry. One of her favorite poets to study is the Syrian-American poet Mohja Kohf.

“I think women have to be likable in a way that men don’t. As a young woman, you’re constantly navigating that desire and need to be likable with the recognition that when you are perceived as likable, you’re often perceived as less competent,” Williamson said. “Surround yourself with people who know you deeply as well… Deep relationships allow for the kind of deep conversations that allow you to understand yourself better but also give you a way for you to speak into the culture and society and the world.”

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