School of Religion graduates 11


From left, School of Religion graduates are: (front row) Linda Provost, Erin Floyd, Emily Valles, and Krista Ford; and (back row) Elyse Poland, Miriah Ralston, Desi Sharp, ­Michael Harden, Rose Lane, Melissa Nelms, and Fernie Rivera.

The Wimberly School of Religion graduated a class of 11 religion majors in May at Oklahoma City University. Ten earned bachelor’s degrees and one, Elyse Poland, completed her master’s.

We celebrate the accomplishments of these fine young people and commend them on their continued journeys. In this story, they share next steps.

  • Erin Floyd points to the service-learning class program at OCU as the most significant experience in her studies. She took six service-learning classes, and each gave her the opportunity to use what she learned in class to be in service on campus or in the community.

Floyd said these classes allowed her "to be in relationship with people of many cultures, religions, walks of life, and so much more. All of my experiences were unique, creative, and fun, and they gave me significant hands-on experience to better understand the importance of serving others in the world."

Erin serves in Norman as director of Children’s Ministries at St. Stephen’s UMC. She also hopes to pursue seminary study.

  • Krista Ford is the minister for Mid-High Youth at St. Stephen’s in Norman. She hopes to enter the denomination’s US-2 program at a later date.

  • Michael Harden credits Mark Davies, dean of the Petree School of Arts and Sciences, with making a significant impact on his life. Rev. Dr. Davies’ passion for ecological sustainability and environmental consciousness has inspired Harden to study Environmental Science at Oklahoma State University.

  • While earning her double degree in World Religions and Philosophy, Rose Lane also gained a wealth of practical experience. At the OCU Smith Chapel, she was the last work-study student to serve with the late Dorothy Graham, longtime chapel administrator. Lane then became the first Student Professional Chapel Intern in the office of University Chaplain Rodney Newman.

Lane will spend the next year teaching English and ministering to people in Bangkok. She hopes later to complete a dual Master of Divinity and Master of Social Work degree in the U.S.

  • Melissa Nelms plans to pursue a master’s degree in psychology from the University of Oklahoma.

  • Linda Provost expressed special appreciation to OCU staff member Karen Vann. "She was like a second mother for me while I was away from home," Provost wrote, "always ready to help with registration, class sign-ups, or just listen." Provost plans to return to her hometown, Lawton, to be with family and to work.

  • Mariah Ralston noted the most important lesson she learned at OCU was "the interconnectedness of world events and of the impact globally of every decision we make. It is the responsibility of every person to make informed decisions and to think about what would not only benefit them, but also the world." She hopes to pursue a master’s degree in history.

  • Fernando "Fernie" Rivera continues to serve in Youth Ministry at Chapel Hill UMC in Oklahoma City. He plans to enter seminary this fall at Saint Paul School of Theology at OCU.

  • Desi Sharp is completing Youth Ministry work at Trinity UMC in Purcell, and this fall she will enter Boston University School of Theology.

  • Emily Valles appreciates the School of Religion faculty. "What makes OCU unique," she wrote, "is that our professors take the time to visit and interact with the students outside of the classroom. I will never forget Dr. Sharon Betsworth. Not only was she challenging and passionate in the classroom; outside of the classroom, I found her to be someone that mentored and cared about my well-being."

This fall Valles will continue her studies at the University of Oklahoma.

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