Guzmán Makes Dream of Serving Others Reality

By Melissa Schaaf

At the age of 66, Nadyne Guzmán still isn’t sure what she wants to be when she grows up. Although Guzmán is retired from 15 years in public education and 22 years as a professor and administrator in higher education, she is still very much involved in the school system, but this time as a student.

Self-described as quirky, atypical and extremely spiritual, Guzmán is a full-time student working toward her Master of Divinity degree at the Iliff School of Theology. With bright eyes, dark plum hair, spunky earrings and magenta-painted fingernails, you’d never know it. You would never guess that Guzmán will be nearly 70 years old when she completes her program.

“When I came to Iliff I had no idea what I was going to be when I grew up,” Guzmán said. “I had the sense that I was supposed to be here, and if I came I would find out. Because I am beyond the typical age of a ‘normal’ Iliff student, I don’t know where life will take me between now and when I complete my program.”

She said she chose to study at Iliff for three reasons: its reputation as a progressive school of theology, which more closely matches her own theology; the student body because it’s a good fit for her personality and theology; and because she has an inner knowing that she’s supposed to be here.

Her time at Iliff has allowed her to uncover more about herself, which has proved both taxing and rewarding.

“It’s been challenging in unexpected ways,” she explained. “It has actually been more intense than my PhD program was. This experience has caused me to take a deeper look at my religious, cultural, psychological and spiritual foundations. Even though I’ve spent a great deal of my many years probing and researching these issues, Iliff has demanded that I delve even more deeply.”

Despite the difficulties, Guzmán has discovered ways of coping.

“I’ve handled it by falling apart and pulling myself back together in cycles, just as do most Iliff students,” she added. “It’s a simultaneous process of being engaged with others in the curriculum, the natural deconstruction that grows from that, and then a purposeful reconstruction.”

Guzmán has worked internationally, as well. She developed and implemented leadership programs for teachers in Lutheran schools in Palestine and spent time evaluating an educational program for refugees in Cairo. Additionally, her family is originally from Mexico, providing yet another cultural perspective. Along with being bilingual, she has brought her international and personal heritage experiences to Iliff by serving on the Committee for Diversities, serving as chair of Students for a Just Peace in the Middle East, and participation as a Student Senator.

Born in Alamosa, Colorado, Guzmán still has much of her family in Colorado, including four married children and 13 grandchildren.

She will hold a fellowship as a Spiritual Care Fellow with JFK Partners at Anschutz Medical Campus in the Denver metro area starting this summer. Once she completes her Master of Divinity and CPE requirements, she hopes to serve as a spiritual care provider or chaplain. However, there are still questions she has about the direction of her service.

“There are many possibilities for service in this capacity,” she remarked enthusiastically. “Because of that, I am uncertain as to the population I will serve. All I know for sure is that I was born to serve.”