My Road to Religion


Inspiration can come from anywhere. Think about what you’re planning to study in college, or what career you’d like to have when you’re older. What about that decision is appealing to you? From where — or whom — did that inspiration originate?

When I started college, I thought it’d be cool to take a religion class, to see how what I learned in class compared or complemented what I’d learned from a lifetime of Sunday School and church camp. Plus, my dad is a Disciples of Christ minister, which is the Christian denomination Transy is historically affiliated with, so that connection was how I heard about Transylvania in the first place. But I never saw it being a major feature of my academic experience.

But then, during my first year here, I was asked to serve as a student representative on the search committee tasked with hiring our first-ever Associate Dean for Religious Life. I got to meet with other students from different religious backgrounds, our two religion professors, our Interim Associate Dean for Religious Life, and a member of the Board of Trustees (both impressive alumni!).

I got to read every application and cover letter for the 100+ candidates. We were included in every meeting, narrowing them down to the several we did phone interviews with, and the five finalists we interviewed on campus.

By the end of that process, I knew I wanted to take classes with those two professors I’d worked with — Dr. Barnsley and Dr. Jones because I had gotten to know them a little bit, and wanted to learn more from them. And after I took my first class with each of them, I was hooked.

Plus, the person we ended up hiring for the Associate Dean position, Rev. Dr. Wilson Dickinson, quickly became one of my favorite staff members at Transylvania. He even wrote me recommendation letters for my graduate school applications!

I ended up declaring a religion minor at the end of my junior year — even with a major and another minor, I still had plenty of space in my schedule! I took classes on Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and a fascinating May term class with Wilson on Sustainability and Theology.


One of my favorite days of my May term “Sustainability and Theology” class was our field trip to the Sisters of Loretto convent (about an hour away). It was a fun, relaxing day learning about how their community understands the connections between religion and the environment.

I look the Senior Seminar class in religion, too, and I used that opportunity to build off of the WRC senior seminar project I had completed the previous semester. That second research course was a great opportunity to expand an existing project and approach the same subject from a different perspective.

The religion classes I’ve taken have expanded my worldview and made me a better person. That’s not just because I think religion was an important subject for me to study, but because I was surrounded by people who were interested in the same subject, but for a variety of reasons.

I’m not saying everyone should have to take a religion class before they graduate — although at Transy, you totally should because the professors are fantastic and you’ll love it.

What I am saying is that you should be open to letting your life plan change as you change in college. Changing your mind is okay. When you feel inspiration — no matter where it’s coming from — you should follow it.

Community Engagement Through the Arts

Lesley Goodaker

In spite of Transylvania’s longstanding place in the heart of Lexington, it is only within recent years that the greater Lexington area and members of Transylvania’s community have had a more interactive relationship. Recent years have seen the creation of paper lanterns hung in a local park, temporary murals displayed in local establishments, birdhouses distributed throughout out nearby neighborhoods, and marketing efforts with local non-profit organizations. As a Writing, Rhetoric, and Communication (WRC) student, I have had the privilege of being involved with two courses which have worked alongside community partners.

Community Engagement muralA mural created through community engagement

My first efforts that took me outside of the Transy Bubble were a part of my Digital Rhetoric course. The course, taught by second year professor Dr. Kerri Hauman, unveiled the manner through which digital tools are influencing our understandings of rhetorical conventions and principles. Accordingly, we utilized a number of digital tools including audio recorders, camcorders, and online sites to create variosu pieces of work throughout the semester. In taking our studies a step further and outside of The Bubble, Dr. Hauman organized for our class of six (in conjunction with another WRC course)to work alongside of a local physical rehabilitation facility to create digital propaganda. My group was assigned to the facility’s Adaptive Recreation program. In doing so, we were given the opportunity to act as professionals in the work force. We were responsible for meeting with member’s on staff at the facility to determine what they were looking for in terms of final projects as well as organizing everything in between from interviews to filming. At the end of the term, our final was to present our projects to staff members at the facility.

Another project I was involved with was a part of the Writing for/with Non-profits course offered during May Term. The course, co-taught by Drs Kerri Hauman and Scott Whiddon, allowed for students to partner with members of the Lexington Community Action Council to again, produce viable propaganda for the organizations we worked with. Throughout the process, students worked within small groups to determine what would best suit each Community partner and serve them well in the years to come. While both professors offered their full assistance when needed, they ensured that their presence maintained a distance so that students felt secure and confident in the final works produced. Students were offered a sense of autonomy which many had never before been afforded in an academic setting.

Overall, both courses proved extremely rewarding. In terms of academics, I learned a great deal about rhetorical conventions and principles; however, in terms of practicality, I learned so much more. I learned how to work in a professional environment with members outside of the Transylvania community. Alongside my group mates, I worked to create finalized products which are ready to take their places in my digital portfolio. Most importantly, I learned to apply what I have been taught within each of my classes in a practical, real-world sense, and that alone, has been well worth the effort. No matter the class or professor, at Transylvania, students are continually encouraged to engage with the community around them using what they have learned in their classes. In this way, Transylvania students are leaps and bounds ahead of students on many other campuses who have been confined to the four walls of their classrooms.

My Inner Jack Sparrow

Sam Crankshaw

Europe makes the US look like an infant. The house that I have been living in for the past 4 months is in the “new” part of town, yet it is as old as Lexington’s oldest buildings. As you can imagine, this makes for some fun treasure hunting.

Europeans have markets and flea markets all over. Two in particular, and rather famous ones, that I visited are the Camden Market in London, England, and the Jeu de Balle market in Brussels, Belgium. Both markets, like most, are based on bartering and/or stiff negotiations…more on that later.

Having taken French for several years, I developed an affinity for some of its most prominent authors. Lucky for me, I came across three matching volumes of Molière plays in Brussels. (I also saw his final resting place in Cimetière du Père LaChaise in Paris.) Printed in the 1930s and kept in excellent condition, these three books were any French literature dork’s dream.

What was standing between me and those books? A few euros, a six year old, and his dad. Twenty minutes after some stiff negotiations in poorly spoken French, as it was not the first language of anyone involved, I got away with what I wanted.

I had a similar experience at Camden Market, buying some traditional French tableware that had wound up in London. Studying abroad isn’t just about studying and making friends. Getting around a new town, a new country, and a new continent opens hundreds of doors that let you experience a piece of someone else’s life, and sometimes let you bring that piece back to remember it for years to come.

Campus Spotlight: The Writing Center

Hopefully, you’re getting excited for college — making new friends, moving away from home, and beginning to feel like a grown-up.

But what about the school part? College is definitely a step up from high school, no matter where you end up attending. Does the idea of more homework and harder assignments make you less excited?

Well, yeah, probably. College is going to be hard. But at Transylvania, there are plenty of free resources in place to help make it a little less intimidating.

My favorite of those academic resources is the Writing Center. But I’m biased because I’ve worked there for the last two years. But that also means I can give you the inside scoop about what it’s like!

You can come to the WC with any assignment for any class at any stage of the writing process — from your first informal essay in your First Year Seminar to the final draft of your last collegiate research project. You can bring in a prompt, without having written anything, and brainstorm topics with a consultant. You can create an outline, get help with perfecting citations, or proofread a final draft before turning in your paper.

The consultants in the Writing Center have all been nominated by professors for their writing skills. After being chosen by the WC director, Dr. Scott Whiddon (who’s also my awesome academic advisor), students take a semester-long practicum course that trains them to work in the WC. We read essays about writing center theory, talk about writing, and shadow sessions with current consultants. The point is, Writing Center Consultants know what they’re doing.

Basically, our job is to make your job as a writer much easier. Which is good, because Transylvania’s curriculum is pretty writing-intensive. The writing center, just like the rest of our tutoring services, is not remedial. Tutoring is open to any student of any grade, and it’s never seen as embarrassing to visit one of these services for help.

Because at Transylvania, we’re all in this together. I love that I can help students feel more confident in their writing, because I like writing and I’m good at it. The same is true for my friends Rachel and Ashley, who tutor for math and biology in the ACE — they like helping other students in subjects they excel in and enjoy. And we get paid to do it!

I love our tutoring services from both ends — I’ve made appointments with WC consultants for help on papers, I’ve gone to tutoring sessions for economics, and I love working in the WC. No matter how great of a writer, or biologist, or student, you are, you can always improve and there is always more to learn. Transylvania provides us with free opportunities to get the help we need to succeed.

College is hard. But at Transylvania, you won’t have to figure it out alone.

Coming Home Again


My parents went to a college that was a lot like Transylvania. A small, private, liberal arts college affiliated with the Disciples of Christ denomination.

Only my parents’ alma mater — Phillips University in Enid, Oklahoma — no longer exists as a university. After facing financial struggles, Phillips closed, but chose to form a unique scholarship and leadership program with its remaining assets.

My brother and I, along with two other Transylvania students, received scholarships from that Phillips University Legacy Foundation, and got to attend a leadership conference held by the organization in November. It was really fun, we learned a lot, and if you’re a DOC student who ends up attending Transy or any other DOC-affiliated school, you should apply here!

Transylvania's PULF Scholars: Elijah, me, Hannah, and my brother Daniel (from L to R)

Transylvania’s PULF Scholars: Elijah, me, Hannah, and my brother Daniel (from L to R)

Since Daniel and I learned about their school while on scholarship at our own college home, my parents thought it would be fun to visit the old Phillips campus over our Christmas break, while we were in Oklahoma visiting my grandma. And it was pretty cool to see the buildings that were still used by the regional college that exists there now, the houses my dad lived in while he attended seminary, and hearing more stories about my parents’ college years.

That visit got me thinking about what stories I’ll tell my kids about my time at Transylvania and living in Lexington — which buildings I’ll want to show them, which professors I’ll describe, and which friends will star in those stories.

Of course, by the time that visit happens, so much about Transylvania and Lexington will have changed. We’ll have several new residence halls on campus, and even downtown will look different. Current construction projects will be long completed, and new ones will have started.

The campus that I know and love now will not look the same. And that’s great! I can’t wait to come back and see all of the new buildings, programs, and traditions that future Pioneers will have. The fact that things will be different in the future isn’t a bad thing. It proves that our university is only getting better — and that makes me more appreciative of my experience, and it also makes my degree more valuable.

Because what won’t have changed are the kinds of experiences students have on this campus. People will still be forming lifelong friendships, learning from world-class professors, and gaining invaluable work experiences.

When I’m all grown up and return to 300 North Broadway, I’m sure it won’t look the same, but I know it will feel the same. Because no matter what form it takes, Transylvania will always be home.

Globe Trott(stumbl)ing

Sam Crankshaw

There are a lot of great things about studying abroad in France. I could suck up to my professors and say the academics are what sold me, but studying abroad has a lot more to offer than classes. Be it something as simple as very high quality cheese everywhere at low prices, as complex as learning a new language, or as fun as meeting new friends, studying abroad is limitless.

Sam continues his adventures in Europe!

Sam continues his adventures in Europe!

Europe is small. Europeans like to travel. They have airplanes. You do the math. You can seriously fly from Paris to Oslo, Caen to London, or Helsinki to Rome for as little as $30. Getting a taste of tickets that inexpensive changes you at your core (ok that might be a bit dramatic). As you might expect, though, I’m trying to do the impossible and see an entire continent in one semester.

I recently got back from my one week winter break (1 of 2 week long breaks) in which I took 10 days to see Zurich, Switzerland, Milan and Rome, Italy, and Vatican City. To say it was amazing, eye opening, and beyond fulfilling does not even serve it justice.

I saw some of the best museums in the world, such as the Pinacoteca di Brera (Milan), the Vatican museums, and the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana (Milan), to name a few. The Pinacoteca Ambrosiana currently has the largest collection of Da Vinci’s work in the world, and the others house artifacts ranging from pre-historic cities, high renaissance tableaus, and modern art. All in all I think I saw nearly ten incredible museums.

On top of the museums, I got a taste of Swiss and Italian culture, rode the train through the Alps, navigated countries that spoke neither French nor English, and experienced the “aperitivo.” Between leaving work and going home many Italians will meet for a drink and a bite to eat. The aperitivo started in Milan as peanuts with a drink, but developed into a full buffet of delicious food. This is where happy hour took root.

This blog references stumbling because as with any two 20 years olds traveling around Europe, there are bound to be some hiccoughs. Be it the missed train, the ride that never arrived, ending up in a fancy restaurant way underdressed, or figuring out how to navigate a country of people with whom you cannot communicate, there were hiccoughs. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Studying abroad gives you so many opportunities that aren’t visible at its surface. My winter break wasn’t just a trip full of Michael Angelo, Da Vinci, Matisse, Roman ruins, and Swiss Alps; it was a series of adventures within an adventure that taught me lessons and brought to life what I learned in the classroom. Being a Transy student doesn’t stop at the classroom door or even at the airport terminal; it leads you around the world, sparking your curiosity and bringing to fruition ideas that are limited by classroom walls.

Paris is for (Dog) Lovers

Sam Crankshaw

The dream of Paris is to walk hand in hand with your significant other on the shady boulevards once graced by some of the greatest artists, writers, and politicians, right? (Sounds like Transy, right?) It is the city of love after all.

While you might not be living in the exact cliché moment mentioned above, you are certain to fall in love in Paris, be it with the endless supply of museums, historic sites, leafy neighborhoods, parks, the Seine, the baguettes, or the dogs.

I officially marked my tenth trip to Paris in my life just last weekend, yet I was still finding myself in a new, yet familiar city every step of the way. Paris is just 2 hours from my home in Caen, so it makes for a good weekend trip, as well as a good rest stop for a train or flight connection to somewhere else.

Just two days ago I saw an amazing Impressionist expo at Musée d’Orsay, a tattoo exhibition that was actually studied in one of Transy’s own art history classes at Musée du Quai Branly, and enjoyed a sunny walk down the Seine. I also happened to be there the weekend before, when I visited Trocadéro, the Latin Quarter (where all of the students live), and Jardin du Luxembourg, among other sites. I have plans to return to finally conquer the Louvre. (The best part about Europe is that you’re student card gets you into museums for free all over the European Union).

Living in Europe for an extended time has opened my eyes to things that no short term stay of my past ever could have. If I have learned one thing, it’s that every day must be an adventure. My friend Hannah and I have a countdown for our return to the US, but not for the reason you are thinking; we have it to remind us just how short this stay really is, and that we have to utilize every second. (Though I cannot wait to get back to Transy). Be it a day of Matisse and Monet, a cheese and cider tour, or something as simple as relaxing in a café, every aspect exposes me to something new.

Paris may be the city of love, but I fell in love with it’s love of dogs. The French love their dogs. They let them in restaurants, in their handbags, in the parks, and more. Studying abroad doesn’t just prepare you to analyze and understand views on complicated issues like conflicts, and trade; it also exposes you to the simplest, and often most compelling, cultural quirks. Transy is capable of giving you a world view from the classroom, but with its global reach, Transy develops you into a world citizen.