Hub Student Cohort to Foster and Mentor Leaders

Students and staff gather at the Center for Spiritual Life on April 5th. The center awarded nine students scholarships as part of the new spiritual leadership cohort program to encourage members to deepen their own faith and to guide others on their faith journey. Photo courtesy of Ali Levens

The first Spiritual Leadership Cohort Fellowship The program begins in the 2022-23 academic year, with the nine students receiving a scholarship.

Through mentoring with employees Hub for spiritual life, fellowship with one another and exploration of faith, Assistant Chaplain Shaya Aguilar said the goal of the cohort is to guide members to find their calling. Sophomore Zacharias Tapp, one of the nine scholarship recipients, said he is very excited to strengthen his faith alongside his peers and mentors.

“Growth comes when we’re not so firmly anchored in our own beliefs and customs and open to other people’s expressions of faith,” Tapp said. “I’m hoping to come out of the cohort openly and also learn how other people connect with God and carry some of those things over into the way I practice my faith.”

origins and goals

When Aguilar, 20, took up her role at the Hub in July 2021, she said there were still funds available for a program but they didn’t know what that would mean at the time. After noticing that the students wanted to learn how to lead others in faith while caring for their own spirituality, Aguilar said she began to develop the concept of the cohort.

The key aspect of the cohort is that each member works with a mentor from the center to guide them on their own journey to leadership, Aguilar said.

As an undergraduate, Aguilar had a spiritual mentor who she says had a huge impact on where she is in her career today — and that’s what she wanted for cohort members.

“I think, it [mentorship] is really important for student ministry leaders who feel they need to have the answers for the students they serve,” said Aguilar.

The hub matched students and mentors based on the responses students gave during interviews for the scholarship. That way, Aguilar said, each mentor is someone who can cater to the student’s specific needs and spiritual gifts.

Seven of the nine cohort members are aspiring seniors, and Associate Chaplain Rachel Collins said they will learn to lead and serve in their careers after Pepperdine. Collins said many of the students intend to enter the ministry, so this additional resource from the Hub will help them prepare.

“Students will spend a majority of their hours working with different areas of the Center for Spiritual Life,” Collins said. “So along with the collaboration, they also have a small mini-group.”

As this is the cohort’s pilot year, Collins said she’s excited to see students emerge from the program in late spring 2023. Collins said she hopes the cohort will continue for years to come.

“We’re going to be doing a lot of data mining and getting a lot of feedback and interviews by the end of the first year, so hopefully we can build a sustainable program,” Collins said.

cohort participants

When Tapp saw an email about the cohort applications earlier in the spring semester of 2022, he said he and friends at the London study abroad program had discussed an application. Tapp said he sees this as an opportunity to bond with Pepperdine as he has never lived on campus. He was also nervous that this factor would reduce his chances of being included in the cohort, Tapp said.

“It was a little intimidating at first,” Tapp said. “I didn’t know how they would react because obviously I’m not as connected as someone who would be on campus and I don’t know that much about the Spiritual Hub.”

One of the main reasons Tapp said he chose Pepperdine was the belief aspect. He said a key element in developing and expanding one’s faith is having a community with the same goals.

“Why would we want our beliefs to be individualistic and limited to just ourselves when we can grow in one another?” Tapp said. “The beauty of faith and college is that you meet people you can count on.”

Junior Emily Audras wrote in an email to The Graphic on March 24 that she had applied for the cohort in hopes it would lead her to her calling during her senior year. At the moment, Audras wrote that she plans to be a high school English teacher, but she also has a passion for ministry.

“I am more and more torn as each year passes I find myself drawn to ministry and especially worship music,” Audras wrote. “So I’m hoping to see through this cohort if God is leading me to pursue that aspect of my calling more fully, or if there’s a hybrid mix of both that would be possible, or maybe if I have something completely different that I have.” not thought about what God wants for my future.”

Audras wrote that she will also have the help of her mentor and other cohort members to support her through this discovery process.

“I hope that God will guide me professionally and through these experiences lead me clearly to the combination of jobs that will most glorify Him,” Audras wrote.

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Email Liza Esquibias: liza.esquibias@pepperdine.edu

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