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Coming to college represents new beginnings—leaving familiar surroundings while trying to get your head around what the next four years will be like.

From that first campus tour on, Anderson University students quickly become part of a community, making friends for life and getting to know faculty and staff who are committed to their success. 

Students come to Anderson University from down the road and around the globe. Each has his or her own story. 

Dr. Jim Fereira

Anderson University Senior Vice President for Student Life Dr. Jim Fereira remembers his years as a college student being a pivotal time in his life. He entered Taylor University, a Christian institution. As part of admission to the university, he was required to share his Christian testimony.

“I was baptized as a baby, so I was in,” said Fereira, who at the time believed his denominational affiliation and identity as an American made him a Christian. “We barely darkened the door of the church in the 19 years before I went to Taylor… Maybe we went at Easter and Christmas and once or twice in between.”

But once Fereira was on campus, he wasn’t initially blending in well with his new surroundings.

“At times I felt a little condemned. My language didn’t fit the Christian College setting, but that was the way we had talked at home,” he said. “You know you don’t fit in, and yet at the same time it was so welcoming. So many people were gracious and reached out to me and talked with me about things of faith and my ultimate experience there was one of being drawn into what they had. I didn’t know what it was and I didn’t understand it, but I knew it was different and I knew I wanted whatever it was they were experiencing.

It’s interesting to be 19 years old when you accept Christ and to realize that your thoughts the next day were very similar to my thoughts the day before and probably not fully recognizing what had happened, but it was the beginning of a journey of transformation.” 

By the time he graduated, Fereira felt rooted in his newfound faith as he embarked on his journey of transformation. He returned to his hometown and found a church where he could be discipled further in his newly-found faith. There Fereira began leading a youth group and led a Campus Life club, all the time becoming more grounded in his faith.

“I decided to go to seminary, and that’s where I was introduced to student development. I needed a job, so I thought ‘hey that RD (Resident Director) job, I could do that’,” he said. He then applied for positions at every college in Springfield, Missouri and all turned him down except for Evangel College. 

“I didn’t hear from them right away, but did hear from them just a couple of weeks before school started—maybe a month. The young men that I was RD for had grown up in the church. I was a kid Christian compared to them, although I was in spiritual leadership over them,” said Fereira, adding that he was resident director for Omar Rashed; together they now serve on the Anderson University Senior Leadership Team. Rashed is Senior Vice President for Administration and Brand. 

Throughout his student development career, Fereira has championed the cause for  a campus community focused on fully developing people. He brought that philosophy to Anderson University. 

“I was blessed to have that be the start of my career, because that doesn’t happen very often where you have people who really know that personal transformation is a component of the educational environment. Student Development does fun and games… but it’s not just about fun. I expect Student Development staff members to be able to articulate how their area of leadership contributes to the educational experience of our students, and everything that is being done in the Student Development department should have a perspective of education. This is how this is preparing students for what happens when they leave Anderson,” Dr. Fereira said. “We talk about ‘Great Faith’ as a pillar. And the other one that’s significant to our thinking is ‘Great Purpose.’ We’re called of God. Our role in the kingdom may be as teachers or lawyers or doctors or business people, but wherever we are, God is going to use the very unique gifts and talents He has created us with and during our college years we need to learn to recognize them and begin to develop them for His purposes.”

Fereira meets with staff in Anderson University’s residence halls and apartments, not just to share from his more than 40 years of experience, but also to get to know them as individuals with unique God-given abilities. 

“They’re just telling me simple things—just answering my questions. What I think is ‘Oh my heavens! These students are so gifted, they are so beautiful.’ And by ‘beautiful’ I’m thinking of the passage in Ecclesiastes 3—it ends that chapter by saying God has ‘made everything beautiful in its time.’ Their time is not fulfilled yet, but I see the roots of what God is doing in them in those little bits of the stories that they’re telling me. I asked them to tell me last night what has been the highlight of your years as an RA… What I heard though from many of them is a desire to build community, to impact their residents. In this case it’s an all men’s residence hall. To impact the experience of the guys they’re working with.”

“We’re trying to develop the whole person, that person they’re going to be as they emerge as a graduate, an educated person, a person whose roots in their faith are deepening, a person who is able to carry on adult relationships. Those are the things we hope we’re developing through their time here. And that happens through interacting with each other in intentional living-learning communities. That happens through the work of the RAs (Resident Assistants), through the RDs. I’ve told the RDs that nobody else on this campus sees Anderson University through the eyes that you do. You live in those buildings with the students. Students’ doors are next to your doors. You see it right there…in person. And that’s a part of our transformational model.”


Cassie Webber

Cassie Webber, a resident director at College Park, says she’s blessed to be able to do life with students on a daily basis. 

“As an RD my role is getting to do the day-to-day life with students, and that looks like the good, the bad and the ugly, but knowing that I can show up in those spaces and they don’t have to walk alone in it,” Webber said. “I was a freshman RD for the first two years, I was at Boulevard and this year I’m at College Park, which is sweet because my current residents, a good chunk of them were my residents in the past. It’s been really sweet.” 

Like Dr. Fereira, Webber gave her life to Jesus while she was a college student; she was attending Azusa Pacific University in California. 

“I did not grow up in Christian home but I had a Christian roommate in college. She was one of the best friends I’ve ever had and I didn’t understand what made her different,” Webber said. “You have friendships that feel very transactional growing up in high school and those kinds of things. She would go to Campus Crusade for Christ (CRU). She would go to Bible studies and come home and I’d talk to her and she tried to talk to me about Jesus and I’m like ‘I don’t even get it. First of all, who created God? All these big questions that you don’t have answers to everything.’ 

But I remember she stayed up with me until about 2 a.m. one night and it was my second year of college. She was like ‘I don’t have answers to everything you’re asking but I’m not going to let you sit alone in it. I want to be with you in this process.’ And that changed everything for me, just to see someone who would just live a life of example and genuine authenticity of friendship. That night I went to bed and said ‘Okay, Lord, if you’re real, tomorrow morning when I wake up, I’ll just know, because there’s no way that’s going to happen.’ I woke up the next morning and just as clear as day I knew that Jesus is Lord, that He wanted a relationship with me, and I gave my life to Him and started walking out this path of… Being the only one saved in my family, I didn’t know what to do. Just trying to learn what I can from the people who would say they’re Christians around me… In 2016 I graduated from college and went to a church where I’m from up north and started doing an internship there, got plugged in and started working at the church… all of these really cool things where the Lord’s hands were so in it. So I’ve been running with Jesus ever since.”

For Webber, discipleship is about being 100 percent connected. She feels her most alive getting to spend time with students and walking them through various hardships they might be going through.

“I have meetings, I’d probably say seven meetings a week where I’m meeting with some student, whether they’re my resident or just another student who has questions about Jesus or what does the Bible say about this,” Webber said. “The other day I met with a girl who’s on the volleyball team who gave her life to the Lord. It’s just so neat to see what God is doing and that the students just call me and want to talk about it too. 

It is a variety but it’s so fun. And I honestly think even in the hardships, like the conduct meetings I’ve had, anytime I’ve had to meet with a student for a not great reason, most of the time it turns into a beautiful opportunity to just know their faith and walk with them through those next seasons. And so I’ll see people I’ve had conduct meetings with and now we talk on campus. I think of Genesis 50:20 that talks about ‘What the enemy intended for evil, God will use for good.’ Even how those hardships students think are a detriment to them, it has built a really cool relationship.”

“Cassie is an incredible woman of God and somebody who cares deeply about students and interacts with them,” Dr. Fereira said.