My name is Raoul Perez and I am an MDiv student in the SPU graduate theological program as well as the program coordinator. As I participate in the program from behind-the-scenes as well as inside the classroom, I am in a unique position to see the real advantages of this program in the lives of students. As a coordinator, I am able to see the rigor that goes into the creation of curricula by the professors and, as a student, be truly challenged in the classroom. As a coordinator, I see the intentionality that Dean Strong puts into coordinating small groups and Dr. Keuss puts into pairing students with mentors and, as a student, I reap the benefits of this deep spiritual formation. Also, as the coordinator, I get to be in on the plans that are being made to provide rich contextual education experiences both in the inner-city of Seattle as well as overseas to Egypt, Russia, and beyond; and, as a student, I get to participate in the immersion trips! I can say with confidence, that from the inside-out, this truly is a wonderfully relevant program designed to shape students into the next theological leaders of the church as well as provide interdisciplinary education in business, psychology, and marriage and family therapy.

As the coordinator, it may be obvious that I would observe all these things about the program, but as a student, I have to say, that there was one thing in-particular I did not anticipate. Coming into the program, I was simply thinking about how long it was going to take me to complete my degree and what the degree would do for me on the ground. I was not giving much thought to how interactions with the other incoming students may shape my experience in the program. Yet, by the end of the second week intensive, I had become more than just acquaintances with many of the students; I felt like we were truly friends. This has been confirmed further by persistent after-class gatherings to sing our hearts out at karaoke as well as gatherings at Christmas break and spring break to celebrate the completion of another quarter together. The kinds of friendships that are being fostered through this program I did not anticipate as a student, but this program is showing me that community and friendship is foundational to becoming a good theologian.

– Raoul Perez

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