From securing student visas with the Belizean government to herding stray cattle off campus, Jared Friesen’s many responsibilities couldn’t all be found in his job description.
As a program director for Creation Care Study Program, Jared’s day-to-day tasks were numerous and diverse. For a year, he and his wife, Meghan, lived and worked at Creation Care’s campus in Nabitunich, Belize. “I wore many hats, some that I had no idea I would wear prior to coming to Belize.” But Jared adds, “I never got bored working and living there.”
Jared returned to the States in the summer of 2008 and served as the director of residential life at Northland College in Ashland, Wis.
“My hope is to carry some of the things I learned in Belize to this position as I continue to work with college-age students and walk alongside them as they transition from child to adult,” Jared said.
At Northland, Jared oversees the selection and training of resident assistants as well as the overall on-campus housing operation at the college. He also works with student judicial cases and educational programming. After having been employed by two Christian colleges and a Christian organization, Jared is learning to adjust to the differences of a non-Christian institution.
“It has been a challenge to work in a non-Christian environment, but I am able to live out my faith in many ways in particular in caring for others through support and challenge,” Jared said.
A 1998 Huntington psychology graduate, Jared went on to earn a master’s degree in student affairs from Ball State University in 2002. He then worked in residence life at Taylor University and Calvin College, two experiences that he found rewarding, yet humbling. He especially enjoyed living and working with college students.
But ever since Jared could remember he has wanted to live and travel abroad. “I am drawn to the challenge and experience of living and working in another country,” Jared explains. “There are different ways of doing things, different problems and different joys.” His desire to live abroad was strengthened when he spent five months in Ireland on a post-graduation trip with a college friend. Jared and Meghan frequently had discussed living and working abroad, but the more he enjoyed his job working with college students, the more unlikely that seemed.
Then, after returning from a mission trip to Belize, Meghan told him about the work of the Creation Care Study Program. CCSP provides an academic semester abroad experience for Christian college students who wish to learn more about connecting their faith to modern environmental issues. Jared and Meghan prayed, discussed the job, and submitted their résumés — even though no jobs were available at the time.
Six months later, the Friesens were hired as program directors. It was a job well-suited for Jared because it combined his passion for college students with his interest in living abroad. He worked to provide a safe and healthy learning environment for the students, ensuring that they got the most out of their experience. Jared spent a great deal of time with the students, often eating meals with them, sitting in on lectures, exploring the nearby Mayan ruins, or playing a game of Frisbee golf.
Faced with the various challenges he tackled on the job, Jared knew his overall experience at Huntington prepared him well to reach out to others to form meaningful relationships. As a freshman, Jared connected to a group of friends to whom he grew very close. He continues to maintain those friendships.
“These people have profoundly shaped my life, and I would not be who I am without their encouragement or their challenging words,” Jared said. “While we were in college, we started to ask each other tough questions about life, relationships and faith, and we struggled together at times as well. We also encouraged each other and prayed for each other, and in doing so, I became aware of a different and new way of living — a way of life that was more rich, spirit-filled and sacred in many ways.”
Jared hopes that participants in the Belize program came away “with a sense of the concept of Shalom (peace).” Not only does the experience challenge students views on Christian community, but also forces them to re-evaluate their walk with God and their assumptions about global politics and the environment. As the program encourages students to be stewards of God’s creation, Jared sought to make the campus a living example of how to better care for the earth.
In his role at Northland, Jared continues to have opportunities to share his knowledge of and love for the environment. He describes the college as “extremely environmentally conscious.”
“Many of the students have majors such as outdoor education, natural resources management, and ecology,” he said. “Some of the buildings on campus receive electric power from wind turbines and solar panels. There is a garden on campus and work study positions to collect and compost food scraps from the dining hall.”
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