Iliff Education Shapes Social Justice Leader’s Path
By Melissa Schaaf
Even though it’s been 11 years, Marie Marchand remembers her educational journey at Iliff like it was yesterday.
“My time at Iliff was a bright star in my life,” she said. “I am truly grateful for Iliff’s influence and blessing on my life. I am so proud of this accomplishment.”
Marchand graduated in 2003 with a Master of Theological Studies and a concentration in social justice ministry. Before Iliff, Marchand received her Bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from Naropa University, a Buddhist-inspired school in Boulder, Colo. Her time at Iliff proved to be dynamic and challenged the spiritual path she had previously embarked upon.
“I grew up Catholic, but it wasn’t fulfilling me,” she explained. “I was attracted to the intellectualism of Buddhism; it’s a logical religion. I took vows in Buddhism and started going to Naropa to complete my Bachelor’s degree. I took a class called Contemporary Christianity, which opened up two doors for me: the social justice door and the mysticism door. Those are the two doors through which I reentered my Christian life. Iliff was perfect for that.”
As with her post-education career, Marchand was a force to be reckoned with at Iliff.
On April 23, 2003, Marchand and three other Iliff students were arrested and charged with civil disobedience after they knelt and prayed in front of Raytheon Company in Aurora, Colo. as part of a protest. They were found guilty of trespassing on the property of the government defense contractor in September of that year.
The Rocky Mountain News article covering the trial reads that:
Laura Folkwein, Kimberly Prince, Marie Marchand and Megan Ramer were arrested April 23 when they stepped onto the property of Raytheon, knelt and prayed. The four, all seminary students at the Iliff School of Theology, were part of a larger group of about 30 who were opposed to Raytheon’s manufacture of military weapons.
One of the individuals testifying against them said that “at one point the four women, holding hands, advanced from a sidewalk onto company property, knelt and started praying.”
“I feel that as Christians we have embraced a victory of a different kind,” Marchand said. “I had hoped for a not-guilty verdict as a sign that the jury was expressing a new vision of what is right and moral.”
Marchand participated in several peaceful protests during the time she was at Iliff, including right after the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. She began her studies at Iliff on 9/11.
“I’d always been concerned with justice and people’s dignity,” she said. “I’ve always had an aversion to violence and humiliation. The war against Afghanistan started in October 2001 and I think that’s really when I became an activist. I went to dozens of protests – the Denver community was really active. There were demonstrations all the time.”
Since graduating Iliff, Marchand has had a career in peace and social justice where she excelled in public speaking, fundraising and publishing editorials and articles of a socio-political nature. She also taught for seven years at Western Washington University as an adjunct lecturer in the Human Services Program.
More recently, she spent over three years working with the homeless and those with mental illness. She served as Executive Director of the Friendship House in Mount Vernon, Wash. where she led a $650,000 capital campaign to build a new community cafeteria. The Friendship House Café officially opened Dec. 23, 2013 and can feed three times the number of people it was able to before. Additionally, basic cooking seminars are held in an effort to help individuals get jobs in the food service industry.
In a career shift, she has transitioned from nonprofits and currently works for the City of Bellingham, Wash. as a legislative assistant.
“I’ve always been interested in politics,” she said. “As a legislative assistant I can get an inside look as to how local politics work.”
In addition to her 13-year-old son, Dryw, Marchand remarked that one of her proudest accomplishments was graduating from Iliff. She was a first-generation college student and was able to attend Iliff only because of a full-ride scholarship. She attributes her career success in-part to the education she received.
“The masters degree in itself has been very valuable,” she said. “I wouldn’t have been able to get these jobs and teach without it. Being in that community invigorated me intellectually. A lot of people think seminary isn’t hard academically, but it is. You have to be on your game. Being there made me realize I was smart enough to be there – it gave me confidence. Jesus was present and God was present there.”
*Marchand is also a poet. The following are links to some of her writings:
Personal poetry website:
- “The president is threatening me” – July 2007 Op-Ed from Seattle Post-Intelligencer
- “The Application of Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed to Human Services Education” – 2010 manuscript published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Human Services
- “Which Martin Luther King, Jr. do you remember?” – January 2014 Op-Ed from _The Seattle Times _