Maranatha Produces Professionals

Steve Taylor in BelizeDoctors go to medical school. Lawyers go to law school.

But, do doctors and lawyers go to Bible college? Why would they even consider it?

This is a misconception Maranatha Vice President for Academic Affairs John Brock has battled for years. High school students who intend to pursue professions believe they must enroll in a college that offers a program specifically titled “pre-med” or “pre-law.” And, because “Baptist Bible” is Maranatha’s middle name, the college is often automatically excluded early in that student’s selection process.

“We need to do a better job of marketing ourselves to students who otherwise may assume we don’t have what they need here,” Brock said. “We offer a strong liberal arts foundation. We offer everything they will need to succeed in that environment. Honestly—and I realize this is anecdotal—I don’t know of any graduate who hasn’t been successful in their professional program.”

“It’s a crazy misconception,” Humanities Department chair William Licht said.

One of the driving forces in the college obtaining regional accreditation in 1993 was to allow its graduates to pursue professional degrees. Most graduate schools consider graduation from a regionally accredited college a prerequisite for admisson, Brock said.

To fully correct this mistaken perception, we must first consider exactly what graduate schools are looking for from those pursuing undergraduate degrees.

Standardized Tests—The Foot in the Door

Students who wish to become doctors, dentists, veterinarians, lawyers, etc., must first gain admission into a postgraduate program that normally requires three or four years to complete. The most important criterion for admission is a standardized entrance exam that measures knowledge and skills, such as the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) or Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).

Kelly (Maples) Culp, a 1990 Maranatha graduate, now practices business law in Colorado. She entered the University of Colorado School of Law after earning an LSAT score that placed her in the top 14 percent of applicants. Culp said her undergraduate degrees (Secondary Education-Social Studies major, English and Music minors), while unusual for law school applicants, may actually have helped her in the admissions process as well.

“The Law School committee emphasized its desire for a diverse student body, and that meant accepting students with strong academic records, high LSAT scores, and various backgrounds,” Culp said. “I believe the fact I had a degree in something other than Pre-Law with a minor in Music, as well as the fact that it was from a Baptist college, made me an intriguing applicant.”

Culp said an adequate college program, by any name, can help a student succeed at those exams.

“Any undergraduate work that focuses on analytical skills, oral and written communication, and perceptive reading will go a long way toward preparing a student for the LSAT and law school,” Culp said.

Prerequisites Come First

Another considered by professional schools is the scope of the undergraduate program.

“Groups like the American Medical Association and professional schools have colluded to come up with a list of prerequisite classes,” Brock said. “The idea is that the students who do well in those classes, and the tests, and have a strong liberal arts foundation, are most likely to succeed.”

As for those prerequisites, Brock noted, “We offer them all.”

Nathan England earned a bachelor’s degree in Biblical Studies and a master’s degree in Cross-Cultural Studies before being accepted into the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s PhD program for Intercultural Communications in the fall of 2007.

“They accepted my credentials without any makeup course work, and God has provided a teaching assistant position for me here as well,” England said. “There were courses at Maranatha that helped me, but what has helped me most is the research and writing skills I gained in Maranatha’s programs.”

 Naomi Maunu graduated from Maranatha in 2006 with degrees in Humanities and Applied Sciences. She is completing coursework for her Doctor of Physical Therapy degree at Southwest Baptist University.

“Maranatha really gives you the groundwork you need for later,” Maunu said. “The Applied Sciences courses gave me a backbone to build on.”

General Studies Then, Humanities Now

Maranatha once offered a pre-professional track called General Studies.
Among those future professionals who pursued the degree was Brock’s son, Lee (1998), who now practices medicine at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, and Steve Taylor (2002), now a physician’s assistant in Wisconsin.

Since 2002, those students desiring a pre-professional experience have been encouraged to pursue a Humanities degree. Maranatha offers four different tracks—Applied Science, Cross-Cultural Studies, Letters, and Liberal Arts.

Applied Science works best for those pursuing professional careers in medicine, physical therapy, chemistry, physics and engineering. Cross-Cultural Studies is designed for those entering international and multi-cultural fields. Letters, with its emphasis on debate and rhetoric, is an excellent option for law school candidates. Liberal Arts offers many options for future studies.

Licht, like Brock, also has firsthand knowledge of how his program has performed. His son, Ryan, is completing his studies at the Liberty University School of Law after graduating from Maranatha with a Humanities major.

“Most of the people in my class have either business degrees, political science degrees or English degrees,” Ryan Licht said. “Most law school admissions offices will tell you that they don’t look at specific majors, but rather LSAT scores, GPAs, and personal statements. I think that my Humanities degree served me well.”

Becoming Salt and Light

One last potential positive for Maranatha graduates attending professional schools is the opportunity to share Christ with those from secular backgrounds. Lisa Walker England experienced that opportunity in a Rhetoric class while pursuing her PhD in English at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the spring of 2008.

“I was the only live, walking fundamentalist they had ever met,” said England, who graduated from Maranatha in 2007 with a degree in Church Ministries. “I was able to present for them a more balanced view of fundamentalism than what they came into the class with. I was able to present a lot of Scripture in my papers. A lot of very positive discussion resulted from those things.

“The desire of my heart is still to win people to Christ. When you are able to talk to people on those levels, there are a lot of avenues for witnessing that are potentially very fruitful.”
–posted by Andrew Call, 4-23-09