Viewpoint: How Adventist Higher Ed is Like a Trip to the Ice Cream Shop

What is Seventh-day Adventist higher education? Or maybe a better question, what is it not?

It is not an inheritance. It is not a prize awarded to a student who transitions from one phase of learning to another. Nor should it be an occasion for shaming someone who does not attend a non-faith based institution. It is not simply an educational space in which students may freely invoke the name of Jesus, either.

Is it worth the time and money? Is it on the same playing field as Ivy League schools? Is it truly a Christian education? When I look back at my education, these are some of the big questions that come to mind.

All my years of schooling were spent in Adventist education. I attended a Seventh-day Adventist grade school, academy and university. But in retrospect, as someone who wanted to stay in the field of education as a career, my experience gave me only a vague definition of Christian education. There was always an expectation that I would enroll in this specific form of schooling – it was the obvious thing for an Adventist Christian to do. And yet, I’m not sure I ever fully understood what it meant to receive a Christian education.

Now, with a master’s degree in school counseling, I’ve thought a lot about how I might help someone transition to the next phase of their education – something I didn’t have when I was in high school. I remember listing my three academic areas of interest when preparing to visit the nearest Adventist university: theology, animation, and journalism. While I would later decide on theology, it was actually the first one I crossed off my list. Additionally, the decision to major in theology didn’t come until after I had already graduated. I felt underprepared for what to expect at college. Obviously, teachers would be professors and the classes would be more advanced, but I had no real understanding of the role this experience would have in my life.

College, for me, was a lot like going to get ice cream: You drove to the nearest eatery and picked from one of the many flavors offered. My dish was then handed to me without question. I was happy. My server was happy. But I met quite a few people who weren’t satisfied with the ice cream they chose, whose education left them with a bad aftertaste. Many went back to find the a better flavor. Cases like these have led me to wonder whether there shouldn't be more responsibility on the part of servers. Should they help customers select what ice cream might best suit them, or is their role simply to showcase the flavors they have available?

I think these questions highlight the issues students face when preparing for college. For starters, many students don’t have anyone tasked with helping them figure out what’s next. Adventist Education needs more school counselors. Without them, college becomes that thing people just do when they finish high school. But not everyone is cut out for college. Some students spend years trying to decide what they want to do with their life, wasting both money and time in the process. How might educators better help students avoid those pitfalls?

And what about life after college? When I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in 2013, I expected to be hired as a pastor right away. When that didn’t happen I was given the impression that going on to grad school would count similarly to being placed in a church. It doesn’t. Flash forward two years and I again found myself graduating and struggling to find a job in my field.

At this point, one begins to encounter people working outside of their area of study, or employed in fields that require no degree at all. That reality can call into question the point of higher education. It led me to wonder just how much the education system--teachers and professors in particular--consider the long-term needs of their students.

Students' needs can be separated into professional, academic, and personal categories. Each one relates directly to who the individual is and what he or she will be. In all of these areas I have seen students failed by the system. Students struggling academically (and who might have no place even being in college) are put on academic probation, only to be allowed back in. For others, a college or university’s admissions requirements are set so low that getting in is deceptively easy. The low bar to entry challenges the purpose of higher education: is it simply a place designed to earn a degree by any means possible? Students can degrees almost anywhere, so why go to an Adventist university at all?

I took a number of classes in which prayer before the day’s lecture was the only thing distinguishing them as Christian. Is that worth the price of a Christian education – being able to start a class with prayer? If that is not what sets Christian education apart, what does?

In Mark 1:15, Jesus said, “The time promised by God has come at last. The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!” Those were his first words recorded in Mark’s gospel. From there Jesus selected twelve apostles to help him usher in the Kingdom of God. Jesus established the criteria for entering the Kingdom: first repent and believe the Good News. The issue is matter of the soul, a choice between God and self. The stakes are high and the impact profound! Everything comes down to how they will respond to this question – and that, for me, is the heart of Adventist education.

Eternity can't be an afterthought. Education cannot neglect an individual’s personal needs, focusing solely on the academic. If the concern is only for a student’s academic future, is the education really invested in students' futures at all? I would argue that the point of Adventist education is service. How can we best serve our students? How can they best serve their community? Long-term thinking rooted in eternity differentiates Adventist education from non-faith based institutions.

To me, the unifying theme, and the place where Adventist education could improve the most, is in thinking about transitions. The transition from high school to college. The transition from college to workplace. The transition from this life to eternity. It’s not just an issue of academics, though that certainly matters. It’s a matter of the soul. Who are my students? What do they need? What are their strengths? Those questions should be asked in each area of students' lives: personal, academic, and professional. We’re not just serving ice cream here, hoping everyone goes home with a smile on their face. We’re serving the world and each other in anticipation of the Kingdom of God.

Bradford Goodridge is an Admissions Representative at Southern Adventist University. He holds a bachelor's degree in Theology and a master's degree in School Counseling. He writes at Head in the Clouds, where a version of this article first appeared. It is printed here by permission.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Where are school counselors in high school for graduating seniors to advise and counsel them about their future? What is offered to those who may not be pursuing collegiate courses? What advice is there regarding the future job opportunities for various programs?

A college degree does not guarantee employment, although SdA theology graduates have the best possible opportunity working for the church, something not assured most others. What prospects does a Bachelor’s degree in many of the Humanities have for their employment?

Graduating high school seniors need all the information available regarding their possible choice of majors. While the health professions are expected to be most in demand far into the future, everyone cannot be expected to study in those disciplines. Much depends on the student’s previous academic success before choosing a STEM major and other very demanding studies. With a good GPA and SAT scores, many more doors will open. But counseling should be offered both at the high school and college level. Again, many schools do not offer that advice because of budgetary demands.


You want Ice Cream. Everyone tells you that you should want Ice Cream. Your friends who are the Ice Cream store owners kids will be getting Ice Cream. You cant really afford it but you rationalize it will be worth it in the end.
You show up at the Ice Cream shop a few minutes ahead of your friends. They all seem to know what they want and you cant really decide so you let them go first. They all order the full deluxe banana split and hand the store owner a nickle.
You think, may be I will go for that banana split too instead of the small soft serve cone if its only a nickle.
You order it. It arrives and you hand the shop keeper a nickle but he laughs in your face.
You tell him you thought it was a nickle because your friends got the same thing for a nickle. He tells you no. They only paid the down payment. The price is a buck.
Confused you hand him a buck. He laughs in your face again.
No…No he says. The other guys charged theirs to your account.
I didnt say they could do that I tell him.
Doesnt matter. They voted themselves that right says he. Nothing you can do about it.
Well I guess, I cant afford to have Ice Cream or open an account here so those guys will have to find someone else to pay their way I say as I walk out the door.
Oh no, he says. You need Ice Cream. We have 31 flavors.
Good for you I say. Doesn’t mean I have money growing out of my ears.
Oh, you have to buy Ice Cream, otherwise the store will run down and maybe close and we wont be able to have the same number of flavors as the Ice Cream shop in the next town. Yeah, thats the important thing I say as I roll my eyes till the practically become disconnected.
Its not just that he says. We provide a much needed service to our community and sometimes we even give less fortunate people a bit of Ice Cream too from the extra we charge you! So dont buy Ice Cream just for the Ice Cream…buy it for all the good your doing in the world and for your community!
Those are good points I say. Let me check my ears again and see if they have somehow produced a quarter due to your eloquent words…I check them…nope I guess not. No money growing out of my ears still.
This is terrible he says.
He continues that if things get any worse it could affect his health care benefits, his dental plan, his vision care, his paid vacations, his milage reimbursement, his paid holidays and his christmas bonus. The only thing worse would be to actually lose my job because I don’t actually pay any taxes on 40% of my wages because our lawyers have secured us a deduction on our housing expenses.
I dont know what to tell you I say as I open the door. If you rub your chin a bit you might find a way to make Ice Cream a bit more affordable.
The little bell rings as the door slams shut.


The was no career counseling in the academy in 1939. what was better was an assignment in English 1 to write a paper on your career goals.,Then there was dad. simple advice. choose a career where you don’t have to answer to the MAN, I chose Orhodontics and then when to work for the MAN, Marquette, Loma Linda, Medical College of Georgia where I became one of the MEN. I am now just the old man in apartment 117. I have my books and of course my I pad. Tom Z


The author makes some good points. I very much appreciated my 18 years of SDA education, and even gave back a few years. I still believe we have much to offer, instilling a mindset in our young people that should benefit them for a lifetime–even if they later denounce it.

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The Bachelor’s degree is undervalued and overpriced from the traditional American route and the truth is today lost its edge and its value as readily employable in the real world. That a bachelor’s was never going to be enough would expect a middle-class kid like Mr. Horace enrolled in an accelerated program for a fifth year master’s degree. I reiterate a bachelor’s in what that’s the question once the hallmark of an educated and readily employable; it is losing its edge. Or Miss. William with a BA is immersed in a culinary training program that she hopes will launch her career as a chef. That is the clear and present danger that the bachelor’s degree is what a high school diploma used to be is losing value. Quicker, cheaper programs offer attractive route alternatives while the more prestigious master’s is a mere steppingstone. How does a Seventh-day Adventist higher education work in the secular mainstream employment dealing with Teamsters and Union dues or observing Friday sunset that required employees to work full Friday and working on Sabbath or unless he the SDA is self-employed or unless he finds job from SDA employment agency a large SDA company is hiring? That is the real issue for SDA who hold what higher education on the sunset and Sabbath issues unless self-employed or work with SDA white-collar organization or blue-collar industry. What is it not? It’s not immune nor firewall built around it to economy turmoil and jobs are scarce with vocational training programs certificate programs from community colleges are “held in a little bit higher esteem” as full degrees are devalued. The question is: What kind of American postsecondary education, private or public colleges and universities, will best serve each individual, given the needs of the labor market?

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When you eat something cold, your brain doesn’t actually freeze. - Mike Kemp Images, Getty Images

When you eat something cold too quickly, your brain doesn’t actually freeze, but the temperature change stimulates nerves to cause a stabbing headache. Mike Kemp Images, Getty Images

By Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D.

Chemistry Expert



The metaphor that says Adventist Education is like a trip to the Ice Cream Shop doesn’t go far enough!

  1. If you’ve ever experienced a sudden stabbing pain in your forehead when eating ice cream or enjoying a cool drink then you know what brain freeze is. Do you know what causes brain freeze or how you can stop the pain?
    Why is it that academic freedom to investigate fundamental questions on life’s most important issues is not encouraged, funded or respected in many SDA campuses. Does the brain freeze exist?
    Have you ever experienced a sudden headache when eating or drinking something very cold? This is brain freeze, sometimes called an ice cream headache. This can happen when you ask too many questions.The medical term for this type of headache is sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia, or more plainly, apathy regarding current social issues.

  2. When something cold touches the roof of your mouth (your palate), the sudden temperature change of the tissue stimulates nerves to cause rapid dilation and swelling of blood vessels. This is an attempt to direct blood to the area and warm it back up. The dilation of the blood vessels triggers pain receptors, which release pain-causing prostaglandins, increase sensitivity to further pain, and produce inflammation while sending signals through the trigeminal nerve to alert the brain to the problem.

When some (not all) can’t pay back their student loans, and can’t find a jobs (even within the SDA denomination which won’t hire them due to nepotism or cutbacks) with the degree they struggled to get, When many cannot find the “perfect SDA mate” they were led to believe was waiting for them in SDA academia, then the real cost of an “SDA education, eating ice cream” is felt. We are not doing enough for our students and alumni to prepare them to think for themselves.

It doesn’t matter if you come up with the 32nd flavor, it is still just ice cream.


If chocolate ice cream is an institutionalzed one selective flavor I say you are 100% correct Sam in your comments, " We are not doing enough for our students and alumni to prepare them to think for themselves."

Society Employers are dubious at Religious Institutionalized College Graduates. There is more to college education than picking a major in a denominational hot career. Who Strongly or Somewhat Agree With These Statements
Statement Strongly Agree Somewhat Agree
All college students should have educational experiences that teach them how to solve problems with people whose views are different than their own. 59% 37%
All college students should gain an understanding of democratic institutions and values 32% 55%
Every college student should take courses that build the civil knowledge, skills and judgment essential for contributing to our democratic society. 33% 53%
Every college student should acquire broad knowledge of the liberal arts and sciences. 29% 49%
All college students should gain intercultural skills and an understanding of societies and countries outside the United States. 21% 57%

“Is it truly a Christian education?”

I belive it is Christian education true to Christian(Adventist) values most Christians(& the world) live by since Christian(Adventist included) schools teach basically the same curriculum taught at world’s schools. Of course we add religion classes and mandatory chapel & worship services to justify the name and tuition premium. Would it be a stretch to say we teach basically world values but we add Christian flavors since we’re at an ice cream shop? In addition to world’s curriculum, we foster & perpetuate world’s value system which values being served rather than serving others. We test & grade the same way the world’s schools do teaching competition rather than cooperation. Of course, we have to be the head not the tail, the first rather than the rest. Our schools produce professionals who successfully position themselves to be served much more readily than to serve.

For this, I don’t blame the educators and administrators. They are a fairly accurate sample of general Christian(& Adventist) population, I think. What we need to address, if we aren’t satisfied with what we have & are, is how to live & teach the Gospel as Jesus lived & taught. Jesus came to serve, not to be served, as we all know. But how can we even like, let alone embrace, His value system? If we don’t somehow transition from simply following our desire to be served to eagerly serving God & others, the beautiful Kingdom of God remains just a pile of dirt rather than treasure of great value. And if we are reluctant to embrace God’s Kingdom here & now, why do we eagerly await His second coming? Or do we?