Category Archives: IWU

A Story Full of Hope: Marion Design Co.

“And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.” Jeremiah 29:7

A fascinating story has been unfolding over the last few years – a story full of hope.  I have asked my communications assistant, Jill Pederson, to capture this story so that I could share it with you….

“It began four years ago when our Art + Design Division combined design, interior design, art and social impact into a new degree called Design for Social Impact – an idea originally birthed by Professor Wendy Puffer.

Professor Herb Vincent Peterson and Teaching Fellow Luke Anspach joined the ranks of faculty at IWU – each adding key talents, knowledge and passion to the list of instructors guiding the Design for Social Impact students.

In 2015, one IWU design student who enrolled in a typography class with Peterson also took a journalism class to fulfill a needed English credit.  An assignment for this journalism class connected her to the Mayor of Marion where she learned of the city’s desire to re-brand itself.  However, the city had a significant challenge in that they had virtually zero resources.  This student carried the message of the city’s need back to Peterson, who knew that IWU could help.

Word spread about the “re-brand Marion” project.  Perhaps the most amazing of all was a group of 17 IWU students who refused to go home during the summer of 2016.  They felt called.  They wanted to use their talents to make a difference in this community.

Wendy Puffer, Marion Design Co. Co-Founder

Puffer explains, “We had a meeting in my living room.  We explained to them that we could not pay them.  We told them that we understood the importance of making money during the summer months.  We prayed as a group about what the Lord would have us do; not one student backed out.”

Peterson began searching for studio space where their sizeable team could land for the summer to do their branding work.  Their number one desire was to be in the heart of Marion.  Through a series of remarkable circumstances, less than one week after his first inquiry, Peterson was holding a freshly cut key to the vacant bank building across from the courthouse – a space they were given to use at zero cost for the summer.

The space was perfect.  It had the exact number of tables and chairs needed for every member of their team.  The county (current owner of the building) took care of utilities and maintenance needs.  The students and faculty worked for free.

“This became a hub for an incredible, immersive learning experience for 17 students and 4 faculty.  We became a ‘thing’ that needed a name.  Someone mentioned the name ‘Marion Design Co.’ and that was that,” explains Peterson. “Marion Design Co. was a project grown by faith.  God was at work because things that are not humanly possible were happening every day.  We finished each day that summer saying, ‘What a day!’  We were living it together.  Our faith was stretched.  Our students’ faith was stretched.  We were learning alongside one another.”

They describe difficult days in the bank.  Their branding research was not easy.  They held design thinking sessions where people came in with heavy burdens, heavy concerns for Marion.  People had stories they needed to tell.  Stories of racism, poverty and unemployment that spanned generations.  They also learned encouraging things and discovered strengths of this community. When things got especially challenging, they took retreat in the huge bank vault to read scripture and pray.

The bank became a sacred space, a neutral ground.  In time, as they listened to people, talked to people, the students and faculty who made up Marion Design Co. became representatives of the city of Marion.

The result was something none of them could have imagined – work for a lifetime.  The Marion Design Co. has become marketing agents for the city of Marion seeking to change the visual vernacular of this city.  They are helping to revive, empower and propel Marion to a brighter future.

Like an army of ants, the people of Marion Design Co. are marching out to serve on boards, committees and work on projects on a scale of which I am incapable of fully explaining in one blog.  They are re-branding storefronts, re-branding businesses and schools, producing radio spots, volunteering time, creating spaces for conversations and infusing hope into every place they go. They are slowly, but surely changing perceptions.

They have completed two notable projects:  the re-branding of the City of Marion and a complete re-design of the City of Marion website.  If you have not visited the new website, here is a link: Anyone who visits this website will see Marion through the eyes of people who care about their community.

“It is truly remarkable.  I just had a student tell me that he wanted to apply for a summer internship position with Marion Design Co. for this coming summer,” explains Anspach. “Just two years ago, all of this was just an idea.”  Anspach describes his joy in being a part of marrying design with passionate, creative college students and putting them to work in a community where they are genuinely making a difference.  As he explains, “To me, this is what it means to embody the gospel.”

The county has given Marion Design Co. permission to stay in the bank building until they have a buyer for this building.  I have a hunch that one day, Marion Design Co. will be forced to vacate so that a flourishing, successful business that sees an incredible opportunity in Marion can move in.

Our students and faculty have big, beautiful ideas for Marion, Indiana.  Do you?”

“Even the largest avalanche is triggered by small things.” Vernor Vinge

Glad You Stopped By

My parents gave their lives to missionary ministry.  One of the lessons they taught by word and example was the joy of Christian hospitality.  Growing up, our home was always open to visitors from other countries.

One day I asked, “Dad, why do you always invite the visitors to our house?”  His answer has stuck with me for 50 years.  “We’ve been visitors in their countries and needed their hospitality.  It’s our place to show hospitality when they visit our country.”

It turns out that this was great preparation for our work here at IWU.  It is our joy to welcome many, many guests to campus each year.  Every visitor is important to us.  We want each guest to FEEL welcome on this campus.  Watching this short video illustrates just how important campus visits are – both to our students and to IWU.

Nicole Ignasiak, one of our student tour guides who also happens to be a stand-out IWU women’s basketball player, shares about one visitor in particular,

I gave a tour to a pretty shy boy and his mother. They seemed like they did not have a lot of experience with the college process. They were so appreciative of all the advice I gave them and love I showed them. When I prayed for them at the end of the tour like I normally do, the mother started crying. I could really tell I impacted this family in just 55 minutes and it was so rewarding. She couldn’t stop thanking me! I love talking about a school I love to students that need a home in the future.”

I am truly grateful for people gifted in hospitality, like Nicole.  Our admissions staff along with all of the IWU students who provide campus tours and/or host a prospective student overnight are invaluable to IWU.  They provide loads of pertinent information, share their passion for IWU, answer a wide variety of questions and open their hearts in hopes of helping each student they encounter find their calling for college.

To give you an idea of just how busy they are, IWU has hosted 2,206 prospective students since August 1, 2017.  Those visitors represent 26 states and 3 other countries.  October 2017 was a new record for our team – 866 visits in just one month.

Imagine having 2,206 opportunities in just five short months to love a stranger, which is the true meaning of the word hospitality.  Jesus modeled this in many ways.  The New Testament writers remind us often of the joy of welcoming visitors.

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels unawares.” (Hebrews 13:2) 

 “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” (Romans 12:13) 

 We are honored to have such a tangible way to practice hospitality.  With that in mind, it would be our delight to welcome you as well.  Come by anytime!  Or, sign up for a day when our amazing admissions team has arranged these specific visit days:

Spotlight on Life Calling – January 19

Spotlight on Nursing – February 2

Spotlight on Art – February 9

Spotlight on Music – February 19

General Visit Day – January 19

General Visit Day – February 19

General Visit Day – February 24 (Includes optional Transfer Track)

General Visit Day – March 23

General Visit Day – April 6

General Visit Day and Spotlight on Juniors and Sophomores – April 13


I hope to see you soon!

The Blind Boys of Alabama to Perform at IWU


You will not want to miss a very special event taking place this coming Friday in Marion on the campus of IWU.

The Office of Multicultural Enrichment and Employee Development, The Multicultural Enrichment Council and The MLK Planning Committee have planned a community-wide celebration to honor the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Friday, January 12, 2018.

The Blind Boys of Alabama will be the featured guests at our student chapel (10 a.m.) and during the MLK Celebration Concert, “Living the Dream” at 7:00 p.m. in the Phillippe Performing Arts Center.

The Blind Boys of Alabama are hailed as “gospel titans” by Rolling Stone and praised by the Washington Post for their “soul-stirring harmonies” and “range of cross-genre collaborations”. Rising to fame in the segregated south, group member Jimmy Carter reveals their goal has always been to “get out there and sing gospel music”.

Recognized worldwide as living legends of gospel music, The Blind Boys of Alabama have a 70-year recording career marked by 5 GRAMMY Awards (plus one for Lifetime Achievement), collaborations with greats such as Stevie Wonder, Prince, Lou Reed and Peter Gabriel, as well as television appearances and performances on some of the world’s most renowned stages. Indiana Wesleyan University is honored to have The Blind Boys join our community as we celebrate the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

For tickets to this free concert, visit

We look forward to seeing you at our 2018 MLK Celebration!

IWU Hoops Mission Impacts the World

Last week I was able to share lunch with senior business student, and IWU basketball player, Jacob Johnson. If you have spent any time around the men on our basketball team or their coach, Mr. Greg Tonagel, you might be familiar with the “I Am Third” philosophy that permeates this group of men. I left my lunch with Jacob encouraged to see yet another fabulous example of the fruit of the “I Am Third” mission.

During lunch, Jacob humbly shared what an impact IWU, and specifically IWU basketball has had upon his life. He was a believer prior to coming to IWU, but it became clear as I listened to Jacob share his story, that it has been here, as a student at IWU and a member of this team that his relationship with the Lord has been transformed from head knowledge of what it means to follow Christ to a heart experience. Jacob talked about struggling to adjust to the drastically different mindset of IWU basketball where he explains that, “his coaches truly care more about me as a person than what I can accomplish on the court.” After two years of watching and listening, Jacob explained that he finally “bought in” and fully embraced a new way of living life. He decided to go “all in” and make the commitment encouraged of him by his coaches – to do everything for the Lord and others first.

Coach Tonagel preaches “I Am Third” which means – God first, others second, and I am third. They measure success by their teammates growth. They play for each other. Greg describes his goal for his team as this: “We want to develop men who will leave our program to be “I Am Third” men in their homes as husbands and dads, in their communities, in their churches, and in their work places.”

Jacob caught the vision, and put it into practice in his life as a college student, and as an entrepreneur. During his freshman year, his best friend from back home called asking if he’d like to build a drone together. Jacob loved the idea and within months the two formed a partnership that has turned into a thriving business called ALPS (Aerial Logistics and Production Services). These young men recognized a business opportunity in drone inspection services. Companies in service industries now use drones for inspection work, but they do not always want to be in the drone business (purchasing, certifying, licensing, piloting, etc.). Jacob and his partner have been there to meet this growing need.

They have four pilots and they are in the early stages of spreading their network nationally. While Jacob is licensed to pilot drones, his partner does most of the flying while he maintains his focus on sales, networking, business development, accounting and so forth. In the beginning, they did deeply discounted work in order to get new business, gain credibility and generate referrals. He explains that the business has exploded in the last six months and he is excited to graduate and make ALPS his full-time work. Check out their website to learn what these innovative and highly motivated young men are doing:

As I listened to Jacob talk about ALPS, I was amazed by the tone of his conversation. He exuded praise for his professors who have mentored him both practically and spiritually as he has walked the road of learning how to grow a new business. He spoke about the amazing business growth that has taken place during the busiest season of his life. He explained that when he decided to go “all in” with the Lord, the things in life that should have been impossible came to fruition and the things in life that should have overwhelmed him did not. He says, “We see that God’s hand is in it [this business]. He gets the glory. We pray over all of it and trust God.”

I asked Jacob if he had any advice for other college students. He did not hesitate—take risks while you are young, fail early and often learning from your mistakes, find mentors who can walk beside you, and don’t be afraid to put in the work. Persistence is important. He quoted Colossians 3:23 ‘Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men’ and proceeded to explain how choosing to focus on this verse has changed everything he does, “I’m doing this for the Lord. We want it all to point back to God.”

To say that I came away from lunch encouraged is an understatement. Jacob has learned an invaluable life lesson – how to practically put God first in all things. He has practiced that while he has been a student at IWU and I know he will continue doing so when he leaves this institution. I was also encouraged because Jacob is speaking truth that is good for ME to hear. Putting God first in all things. I am third.

To read Jacob’s blog on the site, visit:

David Wright and Jill Pederson

Spiritual Life on Campus – Chapel

If you utilize social media sites (i.e. Facebook, Twitter) or visit national news sites, you will most likely agree that we are living in a rapidly changing and politically super-charged day.

Our residential students are also engaged in social media and, for most, their days at IWU are the first where they find themselves interacting with the world from outside the umbrella of parental oversight.

Knowing how pivotal college is for young adults, we at IWU are very intentional about our time together – both in the classroom, as well as every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning when our Marion IWU community meets together for chapel. It is our time to worship, encourage, nurture, as well as stretch our student’s hearts and minds towards a deeper life in Christ.

I’ve known our Dean of Chapel, the Rev. Dr. John Bray, for many years. Before coming to serve as Dean of the Chapel he was the senior pastor of Heritage Church in the Quad Cities (Indiana/Illinois) – a position he held for 41 years. John and his wife Patty are passionate about inspiring our young people to think about their lives and the world around them in light of the truths of God’s word.

For this academic school year, John has arranged some fascinating chapel themes and guests speakers. I want to share a few with you, to provide a glimpse of the ‘chapel part of life’ for our residential students.

Chapel at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, IN.

Chapel at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, IN.

Our theme for this fall is “Choices Matter”. Every Monday, faculty from our School of Theology and Ministry are preaching through the book of Philippians. Paul, the writer of this book, consistently chose joy! What an powerful message for our students.



We launched Hispanic Awareness month by welcoming Gabriel Salguero, pastor of Lamb’s Church of the Nazarene in New York City, and founder of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition (NaLEC) which offers an important leadership voice for the close to 8 million Latino evangelical people in our country.

Did you know that 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation? Dr. Bray has enlisted faculty emeritus, Dr. Bud Bence, to dramatically portray Martin Luther.

To commemorate Global Awareness Week, we look forward to hosting Maryam & Marziyeh, Iranian women who were imprisoned for 256 days because of following the teachings of Jesus. In an Iranian court, they were ordered to denounce their faith verbally and in writing, but they stood firm replying, “We love Jesus. We will not deny our faith.”

Feel free to listen in by visiting our website’s chapel podcast archive:

(David Wright and Jill Pederson)

Success or Significance? Stories of Alumni

Success. The desire for it drives us.

Yet one single, absolute definition of success eludes us as there are so many lenses with which to view success. Still, somehow, it seems easy to recognize when success is achieved.

Would you agree with those statements?

Even the conversation about success is subject to a person’s viewpoint. Is success measured by a position in life, accomplishments, wealth, outcomes achieved, a sense of inner peace, the ability to aide our fellow human beings, obeying the Lord’s will no matter the cost?

We at Indiana Wesleyan University think about success quite often because we want our students to succeed in the classroom and in life. We want our alumni to succeed professionally. We want them to be well prepared for the journey God has laid out before them.

But there is something we want for our students to achieve even more than success. That is significance.

Recently I heard someone say that success is what dies with you. Significance is what outlives you.

I ask you, if it is so very challenging to define success in one absolute way, what does it mean for our lives to have true significance?

Significance, in my viewpoint, is when an individual uses his or her God-given gifts and abilities to impact the world for Jesus Christ, wherever that may be. It could be in a classroom, an office, a lab, a tent or a concert hall. The light in their eyes, the joy in their hearts is obvious when they are using their God-given gifts to the fullest for His glory.

A favorite part of my role as President is celebrating our alumni. The stories are endless, they are wide-ranging in variety, and truly inspiring.

Perhaps it is because of my background as a missionary kid, that I cannot help but feel drawn to the stories of alumni who go to regions of the world where they are a light for the Lord in a place that does not yet know Him. I often think of simple truths found in God’s word such as “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established” (Proverbs 16:3) or “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24). Both are true! Alumni who take the truth of God’s word seriously and live their lives to please Him –wherever it is that God leads them after IWU – achieve significance in ways that make me exceedingly proud.

With that in mind, I close with two alumni stories which I have shared with our Board of Trustees recently. If you enjoy these stories and want to read more, visit the IWU Alumni website at and look for the Alumni Blog. Also, be sure to visit the IWU Adult & Online Facebook page where posts regularly provide updates of National & Global alumni accomplishing great things within our world.



Marie Beechy – graduated in 2017 with a Master of Science in Nursing Education. Marie is the Director of Projects for One Refugee Child, an organization which raises funds to improve the day-to-day lives of refugee children. They have raised over $100,000 in funds for refugee children, delivered winter wear and blankets, handed out hundreds of strollers along with infant care items, provided school supplies for schools and distributed hygiene kits to newborns in refugee camps.


Ruth Olson (middle) – graduated in 2015 with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. For Ruth’s first year out of college, she has been serving in Iraq meeting the medical needs of refugees with Samaritan’s Purse. She has returned home to Tennessee. Not only is she an awesome nurse, but she is a Christ follower who is choosing to use her gifts to help others and spread God’s love around the world.


Indiana Wesleyan University Welcomes Dr. Matt Lucas, Chancellor, IWU-National & Global

It is a special day for the IWU community.

I am pleased to welcome Dr. Matt Lucas as Chancellor of IWU – National and Global. Matt, his wife Tammy, and their daughters moved to Marion this past August. Since that time, Matt has been working alongside retiring chancellor Audrey Hahn as chancellor-elect. Matt assumes full responsibility as chancellor as of October 1st.

The chancellor serves as the chief administration officer of IWU-National and Global, which serves more than 10,000 students at 15 educational centers in Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio, as well as all online students who come from the United States and 30 other countries. IWU’s DeVoe School of Business, the School of Nursing, the School of Health Sciences, the School of Service and Leadership, and the Division of Liberal Arts are all housed within the National and Global umbrella.

Matt comes to IWU from Corban University in Salem, Oregon where he served most recently as Executive Vice President providing oversight of academics, enrollment and marketing, and strategic planning.


Matt Lucas, chancellor of IWU National and Global.

“As we come to the close of the first quarter of the 21st century, colleges and universities find themselves under increasing pressure to redefine and reinvent themselves to meet the demands of a dynamic market and rapid technological shifts,” Lucas said. “I came to IWU because I believe National and Global is poised to meet this challenge by building on a legacy of innovation and entrepreneurial spirit and creating relevant alternative approaches to higher education in the US and around the world.”



Those who know Dr. Lucas have described him as innovative, strategic, entrepreneurial, inspirational, globally minded and gospel-centered. We are delighted that Matt has joined our community. I believe Matt is the right leader for IWU-National and Global and I look forward to seeing how he and his leadership team will shape our institution in the coming years.

A Day for Renewed Hope

As we begin a new week, our hearts are torn between the pain and sorrow of the horrific events that happened Saturday in Charlottesville, and the hope our community has in Jesus and in the basic good will of our fellow American citizens.

The IWU community unequivocally rejects the white supremacist ideology on display over the weekend. It is not the way of Jesus. And neither is it aligned with the great values of the American dream we have pursued together for more than two centuries.

On this day, we need renewed hope. We need hope that good will triumph over evil. We need hope that humility ultimately wins over hubris. We need hope that we have a bright future together, one in which our differences become our strength and not our defeat.

I remind our university community of the heart of our mission. We are a Christ-centered academic community committed to changing the world by developing students in character, scholarship, and leadership. We take this calling seriously, to be a community committed to the hard conversations, to the challenging work of understanding the times in which we live. We will redouble our efforts to bring hope to our national community through the disciplined use of our minds and hearts under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Today we turn for hope and courage to our faith in Jesus, who took on himself the evil and suffering of this world and made a way for us to see and pursue beauty, righteousness, and goodness.

As for our house, we will follow the way of Jesus.

Dr. Colleen Derr to become President of Wesley Seminary

Wesley Seminary - Indiana Wesleyan

It is with great delight I announce that Dr. Colleen Derr has been named the new President of Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University. She will succeed Dr. Jo Anne Lyon, who has served as interim leader since the departure of Dr. Wayne Schmidt, the founding leader of the Seminary. Dr. Derr’s new role will begin July 1, 2017.

Dr. Derr has been a part of Wesley Seminary since 2011, serving as a faculty member and Assistant Dean. She has served as the chair of the Seminary faculty, as a member of the University Faculty Senate and been active on numerous university committees. She played an integral role in the development of the Master of Arts in Children, Youth and Family Ministry and is currently part of the team developing a Doctor of Ministry in Spiritual Formation that is scheduled to launch in the fall 2018. Dr. Derr is a respected teacher, researcher, leader and colleague.

Before joining the seminary faculty, Dr. Derr served as a denominational leader through multiple leadership positions in The Wesleyan Church. She is an ordained elder and has served in pastoral ministry.

Dr. Derr has earned a reputation as an advocate and resource for an array of church ministries, an effective administrator and a wise and dynamic leader.

Her educational achievements include an M.A. in Ministry Leadership from Indiana Wesleyan University, and an Ed.D. in Christian Education Leadership from Regent University.

Dr. Derr is married to Wayne Derr, and they have four adult children, Jerica, Zachary, Tyler and Anna.

We are grateful that God has prepared Dr. Derr for this work and look forward to her leadership.

Wesley Seminary is a special place that has developed quality programs and faculty since it opened in 2009 on Indiana Wesleyan’s Marion campus.  The seminary now serves more 500 students in 34 states and 11 countries. It is being used by God to engage and equip pastors to lead their churches and reach individuals for Christ.

We have a great sense of anticipation for the new vistas of service that God will open to the faculty, staff and students of Wesley Seminary in the years to come.

Please join me in welcoming Dr. Colleen Derr as the President of Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University.

Indiana Wesleyan University launches search for new chancellor

IWU - Louisville Campus

Indiana Wesleyan University is launching a nationwide search for a chancellor to oversee IWU’s National and Global campus, the campus that oversees all non-residential services.

The National and Global campuses serve about 11,000 students at 15 education centers in Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio, as well as all online students, who come from the United States and 30 other countries. IWU’s DeVoe School of Business, the School of Nursing, the School of Health Sciences, the School of Educational Leadership, the School of Service and Leadership, and the Division of Liberal Arts are all housed within the National and Global campuses.

The successful candidate will replace Audrey Hahn, the current chancellor, who has announced her retirement. Hahn’s last day will be Dec. 31, 2017.

The university has established a search committee and is working with EFL Associates to help identify candidates for this key position at the university.

“EFL Associates is a firm that specializes in leadership searches in a variety of industries, including higher education,” said Jerry Shepherd, associate vice president of adult enrollment services and chair of the search committee, in a letter to university faculty and staff. “As applications are received in March and April, the committee will review and schedule interviews with the most highly qualified candidates.”

The committee will recommend finalists to David Wright, president of Indiana Wesleyan University.

“Ultimately, Dr. Wright will review the finalists and will select the individual he feels best prepared to lead the National and Global campuses,” Shepherd said.

IWU has begun advertising the position, and the description can be viewed here.