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Student Spotlight: Karyn Kuan


Ready to serve

Karyn Kuan
Karyn Kuan

Attending Hendrix College and going into the ministry wasn't Karyn Kuan's original plan.

The University of Washington in Seattle and the premed program was.

At the end of high school, though, she had "a fleeting thought" that she wanted to be a pastor—so she went with it. "I'm a risk-taker," she said.

Kuan will graduate from Hendrix in Conway, Ark., this year with a degree in religious studies. She plans to go to seminary within the next five to 10 years and vows that she will become an ordained United Methodist pastor and "serve in ministry for the rest of my life."

Hendrix has prepared her well, Kuan said.

"I think the school as a whole ... has done a phenomenal job with all of the students who had never thought about wanting to do ministry, who have known since they were born that they wanted to do ministry, and everywhere in between," she said. "They've done an amazing job at fostering really healthy vocational discernment and helping us find the resources and the conversations that we need to make this happen or to figure out what we want to do."

Hands-on opportunities to serve are an integral part of that process.

For Kuan, that has meant participating in several overseas service learning trips coordinated through the chaplain's office and the school's Miller Center for Vocation, Ethics and Learning. She has also served as chapel coordinator for three years and is a member of the school's philanthropic group, which raises funds to support area nonprofits.

"Last year we raised $50,000 on our small, itty-bitty campus," she said. The money funded requests from 10 non-profit agencies in the area.

Kuan also served on the design team that launched Spark 12, a pilot incubator for social justice ministry startups developed and implemented by teams of young adults. The United Methodist Council of Bishops' Leadership Table directed the initiative.

Describing Spark 12, she said, "People can apply for these funds and these resources and this mentoring to do pure goodness in the world—that's essentially what I see it as."

Kuan's most meaningful work is leading and planning chapel services.

"It consumes me and is my ultimate passion," she said. "It's been a huge gift to be able to do this."

One challenge has been planning worship for a diverse student body. Those differences make worship "a really cool experience," she said. "But it's also really nice to come back to your roots."

A full scholarship from the United Methodist Youth Foundation helps her come back to her roots even as she has she "explored everything and in between" related to other faith traditions.

Students who receive the award must participate in retreats and vocational discernment. They must also serve at local churches—preaching or leading Bible studies—and connect with spiritual practices on campus.

For Kuan, those experiences have been "a really good way to stay in touch with good ole Methodists."

Tita Parham is a freelance writer and communications consultant based in Apopka, Fla.