Millennials Reflect on Adventist Schooling

As the new school year begins, we asked Adventist young people to reflect and respond to a series of questions about their experience with Adventist schooling:

Many of you attended or currently attend an Adventist college. What is/was your favorite part about attending an Adventist college? What was your least favorite part? Was it yours or your parents' decision for you to attend an Adventist college, and how did this affect your feelings about attending? What kind of impact (good or bad) do you feel attending an Adventist college had or will have on your future career or life goals? Do you feel an Adventist college experience is important for Adventist young adults? Why or why not?

Below are their responses:

Givan Hinds, 21, Andrews University Graduate, Current Student in Loma Linda University’s Masters of Public Health Program

I've always attended Adventist institutions. Matriculation through Ruth Murdoch Elementary School, Andrews Academy, and recently graduating from Andrews University, has made me a bona fide native of this small Adventist community. Living in the area I've heard referred to as "Jerusalem" has allowed me to hear the most lauded Adventist preachers, learn from the most learned Adventist professors, and work alongside some of the most earnest Adventist peers.

It wasn't "my decision" to attend an Adventist university...mainly because I don't believe it was my decision to make. Often times, it is thought that those in my age group will be inevitably upset with such decisions that were not "their choice." Well...yes, but not necessarily. My mom left employment at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City to return to school at the age of 40. I could see how maternal instincts would've made her compare large-scale city life to a small, Adventist village, and decide that such a place would be ideal for a child of six. She completed two degrees at Andrews, and I moved up the ranks alongside her. Now we can share a legacy at an educational institution, a dream that had a slim chance of being realized since both my parents attended school in their home country of Guyana.

When we reached AU, it seemed everyone around me was a lifelong student of the Adventist system: from the Crayon Box (the on-campus daycare) through their doctorates at Andrews University. They shared amazing legacies with their parents, and even grandparents who attended Andrews University when it was Emmanuel Missionary College! As a history-lover, I deeply treasure sharing a legacy with my mother at an Adventist institution which has been a source of both bumps and bruises, as well as triumphs and testimonies.

That being said, Adventist institutions have their fair share of mis-dealings, miscommunication, and even miseducation. After all, Adventists are human, right? Yet the reason I am most proud of attending an Adventist institution has expressed itself most recently after my first class with Professor John Matthews. Entitled "Philosophical Foundations for Professionals," it built upon the knowledge I had garnered in my freshman year when I took "Western Heritage" at Andrews. As I revisited ancient, Middle Age, modern, and postmodern philosophers alongside other aspiring professionals, I saw the regression from a world that interacted with God directly, to a world that denied His existence. It was the first time that I became more than usually satisfied with being a Christian.

In a world where it is increasingly more popular to move on from the "crutch" of religion, to discredit the Bible, and to want nothing to do with a divine Creator, I've realized that our postmodern society which allows for incredulity toward metanarratives, fundamentally cannot allow the Christian metanarrative to be unheard or stricken from the "rule books." In postmodernism, it is the overall experience of the individual that must be examined for bits of value, relatability, and truth. At my Adventist institution, my comprehensive experience has allowed me to both walk through the valley of the shadow of death, and fear no evil. I've learned how to defend, embrace, and even share my faith, and that is an invaluable aspect of my Adventist education that I will forever treasure.

Jonah Valdez, Current Student at La Sierra University

I am an incoming senior at La Sierra University.

La Sierra has taught me to have patience in my own Adventist community. It has done this by offering me various moments to be cynical toward Adventism.

The world calls La Sierra "liberals" and "radicals" and "progressive." Although much of the Adventist world hurls these as insults, I take these words as compliments. There are some great professors and students who teach and embody these apparent labels. But as an institution, we certainly have a long way to go before we can proclaim the full extent of any of those ideological terms.

We as a university must move past our institutional biases and bureaucratic concerns to truly uphold the Gospel. The Gospel seeks to love and empower the oppressed; a risen Christ has offered us the hope to do so. Yet we still oppress members of our own community. Being "liberal" in a broader Adventist context is a tricky political game, yet this reality should not give rise to capriciousness and evident hypocrisy. It is disheartening for a school to marginalize subgroups of its community for the purpose of public image, while it still preaches love, acceptance, and supposedly stands against injustice. We cannot deliver the very thing that we loathe. There have been moments when our calls for "social justice" seem less like preaching and more like marketing.

Sure, I am speaking in relatively abstract terms, but it is far better than silence. I love my community and I speak boldly for the cause of wanting to improve the place in which I have spent the last three years of my academic, social, and spiritual life.

As much as La Sierra has caused me to become cynical toward Adventism, I have still decided to hope in this 150-year-old denomination that is still handling some growing pains. Why?

Because it's home.

Anonymous, Southern Adventist University Graduate

I was lucky enough to attend an Adventist university by choice; I could not imagine being forced. Adventist education created a comfortable learning environment thanks to the strong investment of a few key professors. They took the initiative to foster life-long mentorships with me, which have continued as I begin my career. As an institution, I did not always agree with the principals and actions of my school. Compared to public school, I felt a lack of perspective which occasionally trickled down to some classrooms. Yet as a whole, I left with a sense of achievement because of my own initiative. Unless someone is pursuing careers in Adventist healthcare or education, I would not recommend going into debt because of an Adventist university. However, the smaller community does provide plenty of leadership opportunities which could be just as helpful.

Carlton P. Henkes, 25, Journalist, Walla Walla University Graduate

I was a city boy who needed an escape. The stench of smog and toxic attitudes were infecting my soul. For a change of scenery, I made a list of several colleges across the country and overseas. One of them was Walla Walla University, my father’s alma mater. It wasn’t high on my list since I was concerned about my individuality. My concerns began to fade after WWU offered to pay for a hotel, food, and half the cost of a plane ticket for me to check out the campus first hand. I fell in love with the town; its restaurants, shops, and friendly people made a deep impression on me.

My four years at Walla Walla gave me the best experiences of my life. The comfortable student-teacher ratio allowed for engaging class periods and one-on-one help when needed. I was blessed with leadership positions, and several on-campus jobs that allowed me to support myself while gaining experience doing what I love. Because of the university’s Adventist values, I was able to develop my skills in an environment of trust, generosity, and mutual respect. It was a breeding ground of intellectual privilege and free thought.

Taylor Pittenger, 20, Current Student at Pacific Union College

School is just around the corner for me. I’m embarking on my senior year of college, and I still need to sign up for one more science class to be on track for graduation. It’s exciting to know that in less than a year I’ll have a degree and be on the road to the rest of my life. During college I changed my major, found a loving boyfriend, and most of all found a sense of fulfillment through ministries I’ve been involved with. Getting an education is one thing, but I can honestly say I would not be the person I am today if I didn’t choose to go to an Adventist college.

In today’s world, getting an education and finding a job can be a difficult task for some. My generation sometimes has a hard time finding their place in the world with a less than stellar economy and a difficult time finding stable work. Higher education seems to be the answer to get ahead in life. With that in mind, is it actually beneficial to go to an Adventist college where tuition is higher and opportunities are seemingly limited? For my story, the answer was yes, and it was completely worth it.

Living on a small campus, it really seems like you know everybody. This is both a blessing and a curse. For some reason, it’s easy to be in everybody’s business. There are rumors and stories swapped around about people you don’t know very well. Overall this behavior seems to be the norm. One of my peers critiqued going to a smaller school as “very high school” due to all the drama that seems to take place. In all honesty, I think for the most part that problem and feeling fades throughout the years, mostly because people mature and get over this mindset.

College for some individuals is a huge maturing stage of their life. It’s the first time they’re away from home and they suddenly gain several responsibilities, as they balance time, money, and energy. It’s a growing process as you learn to take care of yourself and also help others. Now more than ever, I see students trying to be proactive in the church. As people grow up, it’s easier to get a grasp on what it really means to be an Adventist. Ultimately, the mission of the Adventist church rests in the hands of the Millennials.

When I was a freshman, some of my friends and peers had a hard time assimilating and, for those who didn’t grow up in academy, a hard time getting used to Adventist culture. Things like a vegetarian cafeteria, buildings closing down for Sabbath, or vespers were strange to them. In my heart, I knew that there was a bigger mission and message that my school, and Adventist schools alike, are trying to produce. Being an Adventist is more than just being a vegetarian or going to church on Sabbath; it’s about being a follower of Christ and helping others with their journey.

Things like mission work are such a huge part in some students’ journeys. Many student missionaries really take the time to make a difference somewhere other than home. For those who stay on campus, ministries of all kinds are fostered. Projects to help nonprofit organizations, to help uplift students’ spirituality, and ministries to help the local community are all phenomenal student-led programs. These kinds of activities give me hope for the future of our church.

It’s incredible to see what happens when we all come together to worship. During my time at school, I’ve met the most organic Christians I may have ever met in my life. I’ve noticed in the hearts of students that having a worshipful experience in services and programs is essential to their growth. People desire to be spiritually fed. There are so many students around me that are actively wanting something with Christ. I’ve learned that part of being an Adventist is being a disciple and creating more disciples. It’s not just about gaining members to our faith – it’s about recognizing someone’s spiritual gift and helping to foster that gift. By doing this we can help people be spiritually fed.

In truth, not all students find their spiritual needs met in church. There are plenty of students who find that sense of community in their dorms instead. I’ve seen families form amongst some students in the dorm that truly resemble a place of worship.

I understand that not every student’s experience is the same, but I find it clear that God is actively working in the lives of students each and every day. There is something so powerful to see a group of your peers discussing spirituality in day-to-day conversations that makes me feel like we have what it takes to make a difference in our church and our world.

Do I ever regret going to an Adventist school? Never. I know that my relationship with God and with others wouldn’t be the same. I’m currently studying to be a high school religion teacher. My hope is that when I’m a teacher I can help students find their way to Christ. Adventist education changed my life for the better; now I want to dedicate the rest of my life to help do the same in someone else’s life.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Great stories. It would be interesting to hear stories of those who began and left Adventist education, or who transferred into Adventist education after a year or two in a non-Adventist environment.


these students are all so articulate…i wonder what students think, who may be the shy, silent type…

i like what anonymous said, about finishing up at an adventist school with “a sense of achievement because of my own initiative”…as i reflect on my adventist schooling days, i think the places i attended did do a good job of teaching initiative…


Its amazing how persistent are the themes of continuity and heritage in these interviews. " … I deeply treasure sharing a legacy with my mother at an Adventist institution." As a boomer, I can barely imagine saying this about my parents, with whom a sense of difference was considered a badge of authenticity. The urge to merge with other generations rather than separate from them would never have occurred to my college mates in the 1970s.

The second startling theme is the almost complete acceptance of participating in Adventist education from kindergarten to PhD. All my grad advisors instead recommended going outside the SDA system for at least one degree–and I’m very glad I did. But it has come at a price: the sense of continuity and having a branded package. The sense of parental protection in the Adventist cocoon is now embraced without apology, and appears to provide a satisfying experience for millennials.

My, my … how times and social values have changed!


there is a disjunction between the view of millennial and Ted Wilson. The divide is post modernism particularly as it relates to the role of women in the church and the acceptance of the gay/lesbian ciommunity as well as the dating of creation. Adventism is a vestige of the second great awakening. South Anerica and Africa were largely spared the Great Wars. Thus their ethos is. Even pre-modern. Ted Wilson’s reading and research has all been in pre modern thinking. He cherishes a very primitive form of perfectionism down to the level of salt shakers. Thus the next five years are going to be very bumpy. Tom Z


I am far past being a millennial or even a boomer but I resonate with much of what is being said here. All my early schooling, through college, was at Adventist schools, including SWJC and “old EMC.” The first non-Adventist institution I attended was Rice University, and I received a doctorate from the U of Michigan. My friends were all Adventist, of some sort. I was on track to remain in the “ghetto,” but in 1972 I made the break to move out of it. My motivations for doing so were various—I often say “I had an itch which I needed to scratch”.

I was not overwhelmingly successful financially; but I joined the mainstream of humanity in a way that I probably would not have, had I remained at Andrews. Not that there is anything about being a professor at Andrews that would prevent the broadening of one’s horizons—indeed, I think that institution makes a considerable effort to reach out to the rest of the world. But in an Adventist community of that size, it is quite easy to make one’s friends within it, and not interact much with other kinds of people.

Now my wife and I have friends of all stripes—including fine Christians of various persuasions, Buddhists, and atheists. I love the Adventist church because that’s where I learned about Jesus. I also rejoice in my fellowship with all Christians, of whatever stripe—with the possible exception of those “Christians” who disparage the poor and disadvantaged.

During my recent “gig” of eight years at Andrews, one of my old colleagues from early days there (who had a fine academic career at a major state university) visited the campus and we walked and talked a good bit. One day we were down by the little creek that flows to the north of the campus, and he turned to me, saying, “You know, Don, Adventists have nothing to be ashamed of here; Andrews is a very respectable institution.”

I’m proud that I could serve there for the years that I did, and at the same time I’m happy to have “joined the larger world.”


My grandchildren most appreciate the slowing down of the unbridled freedom they know they will acquire on most non-SDA campuses. While Adventist colleges have their share of drinking, sexuality and so on (the distorted passages into adulthood in our culture), they are not nearly as sutured into the culture as they are elsewhere. One young man I know told his father that he was shocked when he arrived on a more secular camps at how “predatory” the senior men were on the arriving Freshmen women. The recent headlines support this perceptive observation.

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Jonah Valdez, Current Student at La Sierra University said;
“We as a university must move past our institutional biases and bureaucratic concerns to truly uphold the Gospel. The Gospel seeks to love and empower the oppressed; a risen Christ has offered us the hope to do so. Yet we still oppress members of our own community. Being “liberal” in a broader Adventist context is a tricky political game, yet this reality should not give rise to capriciousness and evident hypocrisy. It is disheartening for a school to marginalize subgroups of its community for the purpose of public image, while it still preaches love, acceptance, and supposedly stands against injustice. We cannot deliver the very thing that we loathe. There have been moments when our calls for “social justice” seem less like preaching and more like marketing.”
Jonah Valdez wrote a very wise and authentic assessment of things at LSU as they are now. It was not very different some forty-five years ago when I attended and graduated from La Sierra. Some of us were going to try to change the church response to politics as usual by fasting as a protest for a week prior to President Nixon’s visit to our sister campus at Loma Linda. The school paper (Criterion) and local media (Press-Enterprise) were interested in covering our simple demonstration aimed at drawing attention to migrant farm workers we had met at Bakersfield and Delano while selling Christian literature during the previous summer. We were told that we would face disciplinary action, not be considered for conference ministerial sponsorship (job entry into SDA ministerial employment), and worst of all we would be charged for the meals of our fasting week, whether we ate them or not. Our parents/significant others, were also notified of the doom and gloom we faced, and after some discussion the “protest” disintegrated. Four out of the five left the church shortly after graduation. I now wish we had fasted for a week in protest to then President Nixon’s indifference to the plight of the migrant worker. How do we treat a gay student today? How do we treat those who do not agree with our SDA view on creation? How do we treat a woman who aspires to becoming an ordained minister in our church? How do we treat those who have financial/academic/social hurdles to surmount in attending LSU? Thank God some things have changed, some according to Jonah, have not. To Jonah and others at LSU, may God’s peace be with you in your life’s journey.


Looking back, does it seem you folded pretty easily? Those seem like fairly mild consequences for the most part.

As far as getting jobs in the SDA church, did you ever think, "why would I want to work for a Christian organization that is so threatening, punitive, and actually quite unChristian.

OOPS! Forgot this is not on the lounge site…so you can’t respond. Sorry.

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Perhaps the title should read. “Millennials Reflect on Adventist Schooling in North America” as their are no responses from students attending Adventist schools on other continents.

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How does one access the lounge site? I have asked through the website but have gotten no reply as yet.

In the upper right hand corner there is a letter of the alphabet and to the immediate left, are 4 horizontal lines. Click that and it will take you into either the regular site or the Spectrum lounge, whichever you choose.