Iliff Produces Leaders: MDIV Graduate Serves FEMA; Acclaimed Author Serves Chaplaincy
July 11, 2012
ILIFF PRODUCES LEADERS: MDIV Graduate Serves Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Region VIII; Acclaimed Author Serves Chaplaincy
(DENVER) – Denver’s Iliff School of Theology (Iliff) is a place for change makers. The school is an important place for dialogue and understanding about many of the most important issues facing the world today.
To many people, theological education simply prepares people to be pastors or missionaries. While a theological education is highly valuable to future pastors or missionaries, it also serves many other professionals.
Theological education has changed my life completely,” said Shawn Fawson, Iliff student in the Master of Divinity (MDIV) degree program. As an award-winning poet, essayist and author of “Giving Way,” Fawson is creative, compassionate and thoughtful.
She came to Iliff from St. Mark’s Hospital in Salt Lake City where she worked in hospital chaplaincy. She enrolled in the MDIV program to support her goal of receiving board certification.
“At Iliff, I have become better at everything,” she said. “I very much link personal with professional. Being human requires as much listening to one another as possible. Listening is as much a tool of a good writer as it is in offering pastoral care. Listening engages us and helps us bear the weight of the world. Listening brings us into the “actual world” in which we are touched by joy, suffering, wars, disasters, and helps us to live into goodness.”
Fawson hopes to graduate in May 2013, then return to work in hospice chaplaincy.
Living in the actual world as Fawson describes is exactly what Iliff graduate Jon R. Wallace, Acting Regional Voluntary Agencies Liaison for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Region VIII does. Wallace’s journey as a self-described “eclectic chaplain” is matched by few. Full of passion, courage and patriotic love of country, Wallace is a public servant who has been called to duty during a number of events of national prominence including the Oklahoma City bombing, the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City, Hurricane Katrina and the Windsor, Colo. tornado, among others.
Attaining a theological education, Wallace says, “was as critical to my understanding time and place as it was for me to take action when our country was attacked or when communities are impacted by disaster. Theological education has given me insights, enhanced my compassion, and provided facility for interpreting, understanding and valuing other ways of thinking. I have increased my ability to listen and improved my knowledge of other cultures, faith-traditions, and worldviews. This has enhanced my ability to read the vast circumstances of the human condition and especially individuals, families, and communities affected by disaster.”
Wallace is currently deployed by FEMA supporting recovery efforts for areas affected by fire in Colorado’s Larimer County (High Park Fire), El Paso and Teller Counties (Waldo Canyon Fire). He uses his skills and Iliff-gained knowledge daily in coordinating agencies, resources and people including people from a variety of professions and faith-traditions. “The development of a long-term recovery committee in a community impacted by disaster requires an acute sensitivity for the needs of the people directly affected. Also required is an ability to understand the sense of history and culture of the area effected and to discern, coordinate, and act upon the broader community’s needs to respond in helping their neighbors recovering from tragedy.”
He adds that these skills, enhanced by his Iliff education, have allowed him to develop a team to address issues of emotional and spiritual care and stress for professionals working with disaster survivors. According to Wallace, workforce resilience is critical to emergency workers who respond to dozens of disasters year after year. He adds, “I feel fortunate to work in areas where I can bring my knowledge and skills to bear to assist people in what can be some of their most vulnerable phases of life.”
Wallace received his Master of Divinity degree from Iliff in May.
The Iliff School of Theology is a graduate theological school of the United Methodist Church, serving more than 38 different faith traditions. Founded in 1892, the school provides several degree programs, including a Joint Ph.D. Program with the University of Denver.
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