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Own Your Space: How To Get the Most out of Your College Experience

College Experience Kearstin Criswell

Five years ago, Grace College Director of Student Involvement Kearstin Criswell sat down for a conversation with her pastor that changed her life. 

It’s a story about stepping up and owning your space that she never grows tired of telling — especially to those beginning their college experience. 

And it’s a story that’s too good not to share with you. So we want to give her the mic, and let her share some advice that just might shape your college experience.

 

What does God have to say about owning your space?

My story is a reflection of a story that many of us have heard countless times before: the story of Joseph, found in Genesis 37. 

As a quick refresher, Joseph was thrown in a ditch by his older brothers and then sold into slavery. He ended up becoming a slave to Potiphar — the Egyptian Pharaoh’s guard, where he quickly found success. Joseph was entrusted with Potiphar’s household, and the Lord blessed Joseph.  

That is…until Potiphar’s wife got a little too interested in Joseph’s good looks. After some manipulation and sneakery, Potiphar’s wife had Joseph put in prison, where he stayed for two whole years. 

Yet once again, Joseph was faithful, and God showed him favor. Even in prison, Joseph was entrusted to assume roles of leadership. Also during that time, Joseph began interpreting dreams. And when Pharaoh was in need of an interpreter, Joseph stepped up to the job. Pharaoh recognized that Joseph had been given wisdom from God and exalted him to second in command. 

Joseph went from imprisonment to a place of power because he owned his space as a slave, as a prisoner, and as a ruler — and God blessed him for it. Joseph’s story demonstrates to us that we are living our best lives when we are not just occupying space, but owning it!

 

So how does my story reflect this? 

Five years ago, I was in a place of discontentment. Sure, I wasn’t in prison like Joseph, but at times it could certainly feel that way.

I felt overwhelmed with an endless list of tasks at work. 

I questioned if my student workers felt valued. 

I wondered if I should be “brave,” try something new, and find work at another institution.

And as a result, I would often daydream about bigger and better jobs, places, and spaces. 

But all of this changed for me after a timely meeting with my pastor. 

At this meeting, my pastor encouraged me to be faithful and to dig my roots deeper, to be more present with my community and my job. And that was the beginning of a journey that became so much bigger than me and my own dreams. Five days later, I signed papers for a house, finished my foster license paperwork, and started preparing a space I wanted God to use. And five years later, I can say with utter certainty that, like Joseph, God blessed my “yes” to own my space.

July 11 marked five years since moving into my home. Every year I have a silent celebration and take time to acknowledge how much of a gift this home is to me. In the last five years of home ownership…

  • 17 children needing a home found one here…if only for the night.
  • 3 couples sacrificed weeks at a time to care for my kiddos in my home while I traveled for work.
  • 1 newborn was brought straight from the hospital.
  • 4 calls came from the community asking if I had room to spare for a child or family in need.
  • $4,000+ were raised for an egress window so I can host more kids.
  • 100s of hours played on the basketball hoop outside that is hanging on for dear life.
  • COUNTLESS hours were sacrificed by others to help me with home projects.
  • 1,000 whispers of “I love you. I’m always on your team.”

 

All of these blessings (and so many more) were experienced because of a decision to own my space. 

What does this have to do with your college experience?

As the Director of Student Involvement, I oversee the many facets for students to get involved on and off campus. Student Involvement is committed to stewarding this space we call Grace College, and we find joy in inviting other students to own their space and own their college experience. We don’t want students to be content with merely occupying a desk, a bed, or a parking spot, we want them to use those spaces to make a difference… at Grace College and beyond!

If you practice owning your space now, you will be conditioned to do it in your future — whether that be in a future job, a future location, or even with a future relationship. There is no reason to wait!

You may be in a similar situation as me five years ago. Maybe you see the next 3-4 years of college as a temporary placement. Maybe you’re missing your “real home” in another city or another state. Maybe Grace was not your first choice of school. Maybe you’re asking yourself, Why get involved? I’ll be gone as soon as this place really starts to feel like home. Whatever your situation may be, here is the reality: 

 

God placed you in this space at this time for a reason. Own it!

And there are COUNTLESS ways to do so. What do you want your college experience to be about? 

 

Is it Kindness? Consider joining our SERVE initiatives. This team is dedicated to meeting needs on campus and in our greater community. Whether it’s raking leaves or hosting community food drives, this group is always putting others first!

 

Is it Worship? We have a number of chapel bands that rotate week to week. Apply to lead our campus in worship, or even apply to be on our chapel team — a group of students who help decide what speakers and topics to focus on at chapel. You can also try out for a worship band at one of our many local church bodies. 

 

Is it Voice? The Student Senate helps to promote campus unity and address relevant issues by acting as a catalyst for change. Do you want your college experience to be about giving a voice to those who don’t have one? 

 

Is it Reconciliation? CDI exists to represent minorities on campus through celebration, connection, and education. CDI Groups include Black Student Association, Esperanza Latina, S.H.E. (Women Empowerment), Veritas (Faith Discussions), and First Generation Student Support.

 

Is it Character? GIP is dedicated to building champions of character and makes intra-collegiate sports available to all. Some of the options this year include kickball, wiffle ball, spike ball, and disc golf. 

 

Is it Awareness? If you are interested in Journalism, Editing, Communication, or all of the above — we have the extracurricular for you! Join our Sounding Board Newspaper and report on the campus stories bi-weekly. Or be a part of creating our biannual Roots Magazine publication. We are always looking for students gifted in photography and graphic design. We encourage equity in student expression!

 

Is it Being Silly? Calling all party planners!! Are you amazing with details? Have you been told you are the life of the party? We have THE PERFECT job for you! SAB is a group of event planners that facilitate campus activities that deepen relationships. Upcoming events include: Bingo Night, Movie on the Lawn, and Trivia Nights. These events almost always provide free food and free fun! 

 

Is it Entrepreneurship? Maybe you want your college experience to include creating a club or group of your own… we are your biggest cheerleaders! We encourage you to follow your passion and lead the charge! 

 

I promise that regardless of the way you choose to own your space in college, you will not regret being faithful with where you are and what you’ve been given. 

Don’t just take up space…own it!

For more information about ways to own your space at Grace, click here, or email Student Involvement at involvement@grace.edu.

Tagged With: Campus Life, Christian College, Connected Community