Continuing The Legacies: Eastern Graduates who returned as faculty

Dr. Darrell Pearson is an associate professor and the department chair of youth ministries.  At Palmer, he earned a Doctor of Ministry in 2010.

 When asked about his experience as a graduate of Palmer, Dr. Pearson talked about his interactions with the other students in his program.  He said that his cohort, made up of ten other graduate students, created a good learning environment. He said, “The cohort model allows you to build relationships, [and] that’s not always true with graduate [school].”

Dr. Pearson also discussed how Palmer helped provide him with the tools he would need to grow in his unique role as an educator in youth ministries. He said, “[Palmer] allowed me the flexibility to study what I needed to study….A lot of schools wouldn’t have let me do that.”

He also reflected on how Eastern itself has changed. He reminisced about his first office, remembering it was a closet that had been converted into an office. He said, “All the bathrooms in the library funneled through my office!  So anytime anybody flushed a toilet…I heard it in my office.”

Following his story, he smiled and mentioned how much he likes the nice office he has now that has plenty of “room for people to come in,” and I smiled as I thought about the many people, myself included, that Dr. Pearson gladly welcomes into his office every day.

Rebecca Gidjunis is a lecturer in English at Eastern. In 2001, she earned a B.A. in communication studies, and two minors in English and gender studies from Eastern.

As I approached Ms. Gidjunis after her college writing class, I thought about how she teaches her writing students about the importance of telling their own stories. I became eager to hear her story of how she came to Eastern as a student, and later returned as a faculty member.

When asked about her experience as a student at Eastern, she said, “Obviously, I loved it, because I came back!”  She explained, “It was this really wonderful feeling of being home….It just felt like one of those touchstone moments in my life.” She said that both she and her younger brother, John, attended Eastern, and through the discussion-filled atmosphere at Eastern, they learned how to “dialogue in love” with one another while discovering their individual beliefs.

Regarding how Eastern’s atmosphere has changed, Gidjunis said, “It seems that Eastern University has been expanding [its] definition of justice.” She continued, “While there have always been conversations on campus about identity in terms of race, gender, and sexuality, those conversations seem to have a greater intentionality now than ever before.  This encourages me because it means we are reconsidering what we mean by ‘the whole gospel for the whole world.’”


Nate Stutzman is the director of the Leadership Fellows Program (LFP) and a professor of leadership at Eastern. In 2005, he earned a B.S. in Business Management and a B.A. in Business Marketing, and in 2008, a Master of Education in Multicultural Education.

When I walked into Professor Stutzman’s office, I recalled the last time I had been there to seek advice about a difficult leadership situation.  Now I returned to his cozy office and sank into the same inviting armchair to learn about how his journey from being an Eastern student to a faculty member.

Perhaps the most difficult trial he faced while at Eastern was during his first year when his father passed away.  He reflected, “It was nice to be in a Christian community [that helped] me work through and process the difficulties at home.” Ultimately, he likened returning to Eastern to coming home.

Since then, he has seen change within the program he directs, LFP, which he was also in as a student.  He also mentioned that he is “excited to see what changes Eastern has in store for itself with the new president on board….It will be interesting to see what types of changes Dr. Duffett is going to implement in his tenure.”

There is one thing, however, that he hopes does not change:  “[Eastern’s] very special and exceptional students that have a heart for the things of God.  They keep me focused on trying to do the best that I can in my position and ultimately are the reason that I continue to believe in Eastern’s mission.”


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