Going Back to School
“Once you earn that degree, no one can take it from you–ever!” said Pam Burchard, ’88, who was among the first to sign up for Southern’s Adult Degree Completion (ADC) program.

Burchard graduated with her associate degree in office administration more than 35 years ago. About 18 years later, she tried going back to school to earn her bachelor’s at a public university. A lack of childcare made it impossible, and she had to push the pause button on completing her education.

In 1998, she started working at McKee Foods Corporation across the road from the university. She knew that in order to qualify for most career advancement opportunities, she’d have to complete her bachelor’s at some point, but it was more than 20 years before she was ready to prioritize that step. In 2020, she started to consider going back to school again. Before even beginning to research her options, she received a message from Cynthia Wright, ADC program director at Southern, asking if she would like to join the brand-new program. Cynthia had been reaching out to former Southern students who hadn’t completed their bachelor’s degrees to tell them about this new opportunity.

Burchard“This was completely out of the blue, but I think the Lord was leading and everything just fell into place,” Burchard said. “I immediately responded saying I was interested, and in January 2021, I started the program.”

She was nervous at first, because she needed 19 classes to graduate, and she was afraid it would take too long or require too much of her time. But now she has just six classes left, and it’s been easier to manage than she expected.

“It’s actually very affordable and also accommodates my work schedule with online evening classes,” Burchard said. “I have really appreciated how most of the professors have been understanding and willing to work with us as full-time employed adults who also have busy family schedules to juggle.”

Burchard is looking forward to seeing what opportunities open up to her once she completes her degree, and she’s enjoyed the process of learning as well. “I like being able to understand how businesses run, what goes on behind the scenes, how they either succeed or fail,” Burchard said. “I also enjoy learning what it takes to be an effective leader and how to motivate the people you supervise or manage. I am truly thankful for my professors who intertwine biblical values into the classes, and I love the fact that we pray before each session.”

“I don’t think anyone is ever ‘too old’ to further her knowledge and education,” she added.

Learn more about Southern’s Adult Degree Completion program at southern.edu/adc.

-Staff Report


Southern to Host New Art and Faith Conference
Our university is excited to present Illuminate, a new gathering for students, alumni, and community members interested in the intersections of art and faith. The two-day conference, April 4-5, includes approximately 30 different sessions. Keynote presenters are musician Andrew Peterson (Is He Worthy?) and author Karen Swallow Prior (On Reading Well).

“Christian colleges and universities are the perfect place to explore how these powerful components of a rich life overlap,” said Lucas Patterson, Southern’s associate director for strategic partnerships. “Our university’s faculty, students, and alumni possess a wealth of intellectual and spiritual capital that we can invest in these conversations with one another—and our neighbors! People are hungry for this kind of content. We already have registrations coming in from California, Illinois, Virginia, and other states.”

Professors representing Southern’s art, English, and music programs will comprise a significant percentage of conference speakers. Additional presenters include faculty from nearby faith-based schools—Berry College, Bryan College, Covenant College, and Lee University—as well as leaders from the C.S. Lewis Society of Chattanooga and other local nonprofits. Where possible, current Southern students will also assist by serving on panel discussions and helping with hands-on workshops.

Andrew PetersonAlthough this is a first-of-its-kind event for Southern and the greater Chattanooga area, the idea of an art and faith conference is not new. Illuminate planners took ideas from other events such as Inspire, a Seventh-day Adventist gathering previously hosted by the Arizona and Pacific Union Conferences, and Hutchmoot, Andrew Peterson’s popular yearly retreat in Nashville, Tennessee.

“I’ve attended Hutchmoot multiple times, and I always wish more people from Southern were there with me to witness the thoughtful framework through which these Christians (both presenters and attendees) discuss literature, music, and visual art,” Patterson said. “They take the creative process—and the process of examining the fruit of that creativity—so seriously, but always express their observations with a deep spirit of gratitude and joy! We hope to encourage a similarly prayerful posture while talking about the arts at Illuminate.”

Southern students and employees can attend Illuminate for free. Registration for community members, including all sessions, two meals, and two evening performances, is $200. Conference planners set aside a limited number of discount tickets for alumni ($50 off) to encourage their participation.

“We are constantly looking for opportunities to connect with and add value to our alumni and attendees,” said Alumni Relations Director Cheryl Torres, ’05. “Our hope is that former students will come and enjoy the inspiring speakers while reconnecting with professors and peers through presentations, performances, workshops, and conversations over meals.”

Funding support for Illuminate is provided by ArtsBuild, the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists, and Versacare Foundation. To register and find more information about the conference, visit southern.edu/illuminate.

-Staff Report


Southern’s Enactus Team One of Two U.S. Representatives at World Cup
The Enactus chapter from Southern’s School of Business represented the United States on a global stage alongside the University of Texas (UT) at Austin at this year’s Enactus World Cup. Leaders of the student organization on our campus traveled to the intercultural event in Utrecht, Netherlands, in late October to collaborate and showcase projects with other top teams. 

The two schools presented two Enactus U.S. projects, including Southern’s premier project, Akuna Soap Industry. The soap business, based in Zambia, enables local women to support themselves and their families by selling high-quality, affordable soap. The team exhibited how the enterprise has not only helped secure employment for females but also invested $250,000 in the regional economy by sourcing ingredients locally.

SAU Enactus “This experience not only validated our hard work but also gave us the opportunity to learn from other like-minded teams from across the globe. We honed our business skills, connected with amazing individuals, and grew an even greater passion for our mission of social entrepreneurship and ingenuity,” said Kate Savino, junior accounting major and Southern’s chapter president. “Our team has been filled with inspiration and hope for the future following this event. I am extremely grateful for my university’s support of Enactus and our journey to the World Cup.”

Enactus is a non-profit movement spanning 33 countries dedicated to developing the planet’s next generation of business leaders. The institution empowers students to use innovative entrepreneurship to aid communities in need through sustainable social and environmental projects.

Southern’s chapter placed third in the country at the Enactus U.S. National Exposition last spring, ranking in the elite 1% of more than 300 teams. The first-place U.S. university did not attend the World Cup, paving the way for students from Southern and UT, who placed second at the exposition, to attend.

“What an enriching opportunity! Our students networked with people from around the world and worked closely with a superlative U.S. business school to share the presentation stage with No. 1 Enactus teams from all participating countries,” said Michelle Doucoumes, ’05, ’10, and ’22, associate professor in Southern’s School of Business and Enactus faculty sponsor. “The judges commended their work. I believe the students represented our university amazingly.”

-by Amanda Blake, senior journalism major


Students Spark Christ-Centered Conversations
IGNITE students took the opportunity to sit down with Pastor Dwight Nelson, ’73, while he was on campus for Homecoming 2023. Their conversation ranged from personal stories to relationship advice—both romantic and spiritual.

IGNITE with Dwight NelsonA student-led production, IGNITE exists to spark conversations across campus and the local community. Over the past several years, the idea to start a show that tackled difficult conversations has blossomed into a weekly talk show, a Spanish talk show, and a yearly live show. Each production strives to be entertaining, impactful, informative, and Christ-centered.

Last year’s live show featured Cory Asbury, a Grammy-nominated Christian singer/songwriter. The entertaining, late-night style event is fun-filled but takes on big topics as well. The 2023 show centered around mental health and stress, and the artist discussed his struggles with anxiety and God’s power to help us all overcome.

The upcoming 2024 IGNITE Live on Saturday, February 3, at 8 p.m. features Riley Clemmons, a Christian singer/songwriter who is best known for Broken Prayers and Fighting for Me. This show is focused on the theme Faith Beyond Imitation. Along with live performances from Riley, the show will feature interactive games, a student band, and a conversation with the artist about how music and worship have impacted her faith journey.

Learn more about IGNITE and purchase tickets for the show at southern.edu/IGNITE. A limited number of complimentary tickets are available for alumni; send a message to RSVP@southern.edu to inquire.

-Staff Report


Love in Action
Victor Czerkasij, ’83 and ’00, locked eyes with the taxi driver in the rearview mirror. The man had yet to crack a smile.

“I know what you’re doing here,” the driver said, “and I know who your friends are. But tell me why you came.”

Czerkasij responded in the same way he’d explained his presence to other individuals in the war-torn nation of Ukraine: “Because I love you.” The driver shook his head and grinned.

In March, Czerkasij, an alum and adjunct instructor at Southern who works as a doctor of nursing practice, accompanied seven other medical practitioners on a 10-day mission trip to Ukraine sponsored by LEAP Global Missions, the Christian Medical Association, and Razom, a United States-based Ukrainian support charity. In one week, the group performed dozens of surgeries and medical procedures and provided consultations free of charge.

“It was no vacation. I probably worked harder than any week of my life,” Czerkasij said, “yet I came back so energized. There I was, putting in 14-hour days as a 62-year-old, but I can say that despite the exhaustion, I went through a meaningful, life-changing experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything.”

Victor CzerkasijCzerkasij’s parents were born in Ukraine, and he considers the country his homeland. He speaks fluent Ukrainian, which allowed him to translate during complicated surgeries and speak with Andriy Sadovyi, the mayor of the city of L’viv, as an ambassador for Cleveland, Tennessee. According to Czerkasij, close to 4% of Cleveland’s population is Ukrainian, and Mayor Kevin Brookes wishes to partner with L’viv as a sister city.

Throughout their trip, the American doctors realized that everyone knew who they were, mainly due to the unprecedented media attention the team received. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky even provided Potocki Palace to host an awards banquet for the group, and Ministry of Health Director Viktor Liashko attended.

Before Czerkasij left for Ukraine, one of his young American patients had a birthday party, and, instead of asking for presents, she requested that her guests bring funds for her doctor’s trip. Czerkasij used the money to buy out the gift shop in a children’s hospital in L’viv and went from room to room with his gifts. When Czerkasij introduced himself to the children, their mothers often began crying in disbelief. 

“They just didn’t understand how somebody could care enough to visit their country,” Czerkasij said. “Their reaction will stay with me forever.”

Czerkasij was impressed by the people’s civic pride and sacrificial spirit. He took $1,500 in cash to give away and returned with $1,200.

“Almost no one would take money,” he said. “They kept saying: ‘We have everything we need. We’ve got a roof over our heads; we have food; our clothes are fine.’ I learned that we can’t look at blessings from God in terms of American values. There are larger things at work here, and when you’re in a situation like what these people face, you have to rely on God. It’s a sweeter relationship.”

The missionary group experienced three rocket/missile attack sirens during their time in the city of L’viv, but Czerkasij wasn’t afraid. He knew his life was in the hands of God and could think of no better way to die than serving people in need.

“Our group included volunteers from different religious denominations, but we could all agree on one thing,” Czerkasij said. “Jesus is our Lord and Savior, and we have a mission to share His commission with the world. We put flesh on the words of Jesus, and we really made a difference.”

This story first appeared in the Fall 2023 issue of Columns magazine. If you didn’t receive a copy of the magazine in December, please update your contact information.

-by Amanda Blake, senior journalism major


• Southern Alumnus Discovery Sheds Light on Adventist Origins (read story)
• Local News Team Interviews Dean of the New School of Engineering and Physics at Southern (watch now)
• Hulsey Wellness Center Upgrades its Human Performance Lab (read story)
• Life Calling and Career Services Invests in Helping Sophomores Find Their Calling (watch now)

Upcoming Events
Paintings Exhibit | January 25 - February 23
The School of Visual Art and Design announces a showcase featuring works from painters Heath Montgomery and Associate Professor Donald Keefe. The exhibit is free and open to the public through February 23 in the John C. Williams Art Gallery of Brock Hall.

IGNITE Live with Riley Clemmons ­| February 3
The School of Journalism and Communication presents IGNITE Live, a talk-show with special guest and Christian recording artist Riley Clemmons on Saturday, February 3, at 8 p.m. in Iles P.E. Center. Ticket pricing and other event details are available at southern.edu/ignite or by calling 423.236.2330.

Concerto Concert | February 4
The Southern Adventist University Concerto Competition on Sunday, February 4, begins at 4 p.m. and showcases gifted young instrumentalists from across the region who auditioned and were chosen to present solos alongside the university’s full Symphony Orchestra. Held in Collegedale Church and directed by Laurie Redmer Cadwallader, this School of Music event is free and open to the public.

Vocal Evensong | February 17
Vocal students from the Julie Penner Studio at Southern Adventist University’s School of Music will close the Sabbath hours by raising voices in song on February 17 at 6 p.m. in Collegedale Church of Seventh-day Adventists on campus. For more information, visit southern.edu/musicevents or call 423.236.2880.

Pops Concert | February 17
The School of Music at Southern Adventist University announces a Pops Concert on Saturday, February 17, at 8 p.m. in Iles P.E. Center on campus. Directed by Ken Parsons and Keith Lloyd, “Delta Blues” will feature the Wind Symphony, Jazz Ensemble, and Steel Band with songs to include Dean Sorenson’s When the Saints Go Marching In and Louis Armstrong’s Struttin’ With Some Barbecue. This free event is open to the public and will be livestreamed. To learn more, visit southern.edu/musicevents or contact the School of Music at 423.236.2880.

McKee Southern 6 Trail Race | February 18
Register today for the 14th annual trail race at Southern Adventist University, a collaboration between the university’s Outdoor Adventure Program and McKee Foods Corporation. Runners compete on White Oak Mountain’s wooded campus trails on Sunday, February 18, beginning at 12 p.m. in front of Hickman Science Center. All proceeds will support the university’s affinity fund that provides outdoor adventure programming for inner-city youth from Hamilton County schools. For start times, fees, and other race information, visit southern.edu/mckeesouthern6.

Egyptian Archaeology Expert | February 19
The Lynn H. Wood Archaeological Museum at Southern Adventist University welcomes Mark Janzen, PhD, author, podcast co-host, expert in Egyptian epigraphy and archaeology, and associate professor at Lipscomb University in Nashville. His free lecture “From Miracles to Mt. Sinai: Recent Research on the Route of the Exodus” on Monday, February 19, at 7 p.m. in the Lynn Wood Hall Chapel on campus is free and open to the public. Visit southern.edu/southernevents for live-stream options and additional information.

Origins Expert | February 22
Paul Nelson, PhD, a senior fellow of Seattle’s Discovery Institute and biology philosopher and author involved in the intelligent design debate internationally for three decades, will speak on Thursday, February 22, at 11 a.m. in Collegedale Church of Seventh-day Adventists on the campus of Southern Adventist University. Visit southern.edu/southernevents for live-stream options and additional information about this adjunct faculty member in the graduate program of Science and Religion at Biola University in California.

Organ Evensong | February 24
Organ students from the Judy Glass Studio at Southern Adventist University’s School of Music will perform during the final minutes of the Sabbath on February 24 at 6 p.m. in Collegedale Church of Seventh-day Adventists on campus. For more information, visit southern.edu/musicevents or call 423.236.2880.

Neuropsychology Expert | February 29
Southern Adventist University is pleased to host Kim Gorgens, PhD, to present “Caring for Injured Brains” in an overview of mild traumatic brain injury and the science of concussion identification, management, and long-term risk reduction. In addition to new insights from a research collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control, she will share tangible take-aways for brain health and answer questions from the audience during her presentation on Thursday, February 29, at 11 a.m. in Iles P.E. Center as part of the Schutte Family Lecture Series on campus. Visit southern.edu/southernevents for live-stream options and additional information.

Graphic Design Show | February 29
Southern Adventist University’s School of Visual Art and Design announces a graphic design show featuring works by graduating graphic design majors in the John C. Williams Art Gallery. Opening on Thursday, February 29, at 6 p.m., the artwork will remain on display through March 29. Admission is free and open to the public. For more information, visit southern.edu/artgallery or call 423.236.2732.

Hyve Creators 2024 | February 29 to March 2
Join the Southern Adventist University School of Business for an Adventist entrepreneurship event February 29-March 2, in partnership with Hyve International. Learn about combining mission, innovation, and entrepreneurship during this free conference that will include workshops, keynotes, testimonies, booths, pitch competitions, and networking! To register, visit southern.edu/hyve.

Alumni Dessert Reception | March 2
Join fellow alumni for a come-and-go dessert reception during the Hyve Creators weekend. All alumni and attendees are welcome to drop by the Hulsey Wellness Center Lobby on Sabbath afternoon, March 2, between 2-4 p.m. to enjoy conversation and a sweet treat. Visit southern.edu/hyve-alumni to RSVP.

Alumni Event in Asheville | March 3
The Alumni Association invites you and your family to join us at our upcoming event in Asheville, North Carolina! Reconnect with fellow alumni, enjoy a complimentary meal, hear the latest news from Southern, and enjoy family-friendly activities! Join us on Sunday, March 3, at the Center for Craft in Downtown Asheville at 11 a.m. RSVP at southern.edu/nc-alumni.

Illuminate Conference for Arts and Faith | April 4-5
Explore the intersections of art and faith through presentations, workshops, and conversations with session leaders and performers from around the country April 4-5 on the campus of Southern Adventist University. Join discussions about 30 different topics within disciplines ranging from literature and music to visual art and film. Visit southern.edu/illuminate for schedule, location, and registration information.

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