Education Is About Learning to Think

Education Is About Learning to Think

Senior nursing major Kenny Collins

When nursing senior Kenny Collins looks back on his time spent on the campus of Southwestern Adventist University, he’s not likely to remember specific things he learned in the classroom, or how much he enjoyed programs on campus, or even graduation. He’s more likely to recognize the school as the place that gave him the license to think critically and rationally for himself—as an educated yet dedicated Christian.

“I’m really thankful for how I was raised,” Collins says today, acknowledging that his family gave him the latitude and support to explore the arts. And his personal journey through literature put him on the path toward independent thinking and the friendship of English Professor Andrew Woolley III.

Collins considers Woolley his mentor, who has encouraged him to think for himself. That concept has been echoed by others on campus, including Dr. Ben McArthur, vice president for academic administration. “Professors go out of the way to encourage you to form your own beliefs,” he says. “You shouldn’t just think, OK I have been raised to believe this and that’s why I believe this. Having that environment that encourages you to go in there and study for yourself and understand why you believe what you believe.”

Collins sees that important in the science classes that he takes. “I appreciate that they are taught from a creationist perspective. You see what is being taught and you think, there’s just no way that this wasn’t created.” He especially appreciates the microbiology classes he took from Dr. Suzanne Phillips. “I thought microbiology; this is going to be so boring. But she made is super interesting. It’s really the passion she had for it.”

He also appreciates everything that faculty and administration have done to encourage a spiritual atmosphere on campus, but in the end believes it is up to students to take charge of their own spiritual walk. “It’s something students have to decide for themselves. Do we want to be spiritual? Do we want to have a passion for God? It’s made me more and more want to have that passion and hopefully help other people to have that passion.”

Collins’ father died when he was three, but it was always his father’s wish that Kenny attend Adventist schools all the way through college. He looked at other schools but chose Southwestern for two reasons: First, Southwestern offered a bachelor’s program in nursing, as opposed to those schools who only offered two-year degrees. Second, he liked the fact that teachers know their students at Southwestern.

“That’s a really nice thing,” he says. “I have friends who go to another Adventist university and they tell me that their teachers don’t necessarily know them. I like the fact that all my nursing teachers know me by name and know what I am like.” Collins also worked in the English department and the teachers knew him there as well. “That can be good or bad, depending on how you conduct yourself,” he adds, smiling.

Collins also appreciates the fact that teachers, and even administrators, are very approachable on campus. “If I have a problem, I just go talk to the president of one of the vice presidents,” he says. “They really want to hear what students have to say. I really like that because at a school like Texas Tech, there’s no way you’re going to get in to speak to the president, first off, and more than that, they probably wouldn’t care. Southwestern has a very personal environment. It just gives you that comfort factor too.”

Collins plans on graduating next May and then working for a year or two as an R.N. before deciding what he wants to do about grad school. In the meantime, he wants to explore what it’s like “being an adult.”

“I want to see what it’s going to be like to be paying my own rent, buying my own groceries, and from there just decide where it is I should be.”

And all the indications are that a supportive family and a University that care will help him be ready for that day.


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