21 Dec

Passing on a Passion for Fitness

By Ryan Teller – Lincoln, Nebraska … One morning while shaving, Rich Reiner made a discovery that proved to be a wakeup call. “I found a bump on my neck,” he said. “That shouldn’t be there.”

At the age of 39 with three young children, he was shocked when a barrage of medical tests determined he had Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma with a less than desirable long-term prognosis.

That was more than 30 years ago.

“It was a wake up call,” said Reiner. He and his wife, Lynnet, who live in Florida, began to place a greater emphasis on their health — both changing their diet and becoming much more intentional about exercise.

The couple continued to grow their commitment to fitness as their kids grew up and then into retirement. Lynnet runs the Walt Disney World Marathon every January as well as various half marathons, and the couple love to hike, bike, and ski.

“I have joked with many people about trying to keep up with my wife,” Reiner said. “I do my best.” In addition to the marathons, Lynnet enjoys adding Colorado 14ers to her list of mountains hiked. During the pandemic, they have increased their biking mileages and are enjoying doing rail trails in different states. And they continue to ski every winter in Colorado as well as Switzerland and Italy with a trip planned to Austria this winter.

“We both have a commitment to staying healthy so we can ski with our grandchildren,” he said.

The couple have also long been supporters of Union College, the place where they met. Rich has served on the Board of Trustees for 20 years, and the couple established an endowment fund for student scholarships. But Union’s plans to build an expanded wellness center felt personal.

After Rich retired from Adventist Health System (now AdventHealth), Union asked him to serve as interim CFO for several months in 2016. “I stayed in one of the guest rooms,” he remembered. “For years I had gone to the gym every morning, so I went to the Larson Lifestyle Center to exercise. I was not impressed with the facilities.”

Sweating on old workout equipment crowded into small spaces that were not adequately cooled, he thought to himself, “I think we can do better than this.”

So he and Lynnet championed what would ultimately become the Fit for the Future fundraising campaign to build an expanded wellness center at Union College.

Reiner now serves as the campaign chair, and the couple gave a leadership gift for the Reiner Wellness Center inside the new AdventHealth Complex which will nearly triple the size of the current Larson Lifestyle Center.

The couple both grew up on small farms in the midwest with limited resources, but throughout Rich’s career, first working in higher education and then healthcare, the couple invested wisely, including building and purchasing rental properties when they lived in Lincoln after college. “We’ve been blessed financially beyond our wildest dreams,” he said. “We both feel it is important to give back to society and those who come after us.”

Now they are giving some of those properties to Union to help make the project a reality. This becomes a win-win, because the tax consequences for the Reiners can be minimized with the financial benefits going to the Fit for the Future project.

The couple believes in the importance of wellness and hopes to pass that value on to college students as they form their own priorities and life goals. “This project really resonates with us and our values. That’s why I’ve gone all in on our fundraising,” said Rich. “It is really important for us to give back to the college where we both had four great years. We believe this is a project whose time has come.”

Learn more about the Fit for the Future campaign here.

— Ryan Teller is public relations and marketing director for Union College; photo supplied

This article was originally published on the North American Division website

29 Nov

Building a better Union COLLEGE

By Ryan Teller – Lincoln, Nebraska … Big changes came to Union College this past year, with renovations to several areas of campus bringing improvement to the learning and living experiences of Union students.

Rees Hall

This summer, Maranatha volunteers installed new flooring, cabinets, and windows in another 27 rooms in the east wing of Rees Hall—bringing the total to 63 of 170 sleeping rooms in the women’s residence. Renovations began in summer 2019 with 34 rooms on the third and fourth floors, where mainly freshmen and sophomores live. Summer 2021 brought renovations to the first and second floors.

“Normally the east wing has been an area that the ladies avoided, and they would want to stay on the west wing,” said Emily Patterson, one of the women’s deans “Our east wing is completely full right now, and that is a first-ever in all my years here.”

The dorm renovations have a great impact on students, making them feel safer and more at home in their living space. “They’re sleeping, hanging out with their friends, and studying in the dorm rooms—that’s where they spend the majority of their time on campus, so it’s really important they have a nice place to stay,” Patterson said

Arlyse Wash, a junior transfer student who worked on the renovations this summer, is happy with the finished dorm rooms. “When I first saw them, they were definitely older and not the best in terms of the floors and walls,” she said. “Now I’m very happy to be living in my room, and since the renovations, no one has lived there except for me. The color of the floors and the cabinets really give it a modern feel. It’s completely different, and I love the upgrade.”

AdventHealth Innovation Classroom

Thanks to a generous gift from AdventHealth, one of the business classrooms on the third floor of the Everett Dick Building has been renovated into the AdventHealth Innovation Classroom. Plant Services installed new carpet and windows as well as new tables and chairs arranged in pods rather than rows to create flexible workspaces. Eight smart touchscreen TVs were also installed to enhance student engagement. Finishing touches are in progress, meant to represent Union’s brand and enhance the interactive potential of the classroom.

“Before, the layout made it really difficult to see the board from the back of the room. If you were sitting at the front, there was more pressure to answer questions, but in the back of the room it was easier to zone out and disengage,” said Shelby Jongema, a junior business administration major. “I think it’s a better environment now. I can see my classmates better, so it’s better for collaboration and group discussion. It’s easier to feel engaged even when you’re at the back of the room.”

“I think that we’ve found quite a few more learners in this room when the technology is used,” said Jodie Trana, one of Union’s business professors. The smart TVs allow multiple students to work on the same device, making collaboration on group projects and class activities much easier. “I think that as much as possible we need to keep up with what’s going on in the real world. We need to be able to provide the kind of technology and the type of experiences that they’re going to get outside this classroom.”

“From their first year on, we want to get students involved in the classroom. We want them to start working in teams,” Trana said. New teaching techniques are designed to provide students with necessary collaboration skills employers are looking for. “I hope having this classroom, where it’s set up for group work and group activity, is going to lead to that collaboration. And we believe that collaboration leads to innovation, and that’s going to help make them successful.”

Student Success Center

Last school year, Union launched the Student Success Center thanks to funding from a U.S. Department of Education Title III Grant. The grant provides funding for higher education schools to invest in resources and infrastructure to better aid at-risk students.

The new center for academic and coaching resources is now housed in a renovated section of the library. “We wanted to have a one-stop shop for student and academic resources. Students can come in here and we can help with any questions they have and provide them with any service they need. And if we don’t have what they need here, we know where to send them,” said director Taryn Rouse. Student Success provides life coaching, tutoring and academic assistance, career coaching and disability services.

“Prior to being in this building together, three of us were downstairs in the Career Center, three other coaches were in the old Teaching Learning Center. Student Services was downstairs,” Rouse explained. “We were in three different areas, which is not conducive to functioning as a team or for students to know where we are.”

Now, Student Success is thriving and serving students more effectively—including providing a life coach for all first-year and transfer students to better prepare them for their time in college. “Getting students engaged academically with activities and with each other is just one of the biggest keys to their success,” Rouse said.

Rouse especially emphasized that the Student Success Center is open to all students, no matter their background or their level of need. “Any student who wants to come in for help, we’ll talk to them,” Rouse said. “The Student Success area is for everybody. We are here for all students on campus, not just freshmen. This is what we care about, and it’s what students are owed. It’s our mission.”

Prescott Hall

Plant Services renovated the Prescott Hall lobby last summer, repainting the walls and redoing the ceiling tiles and lights. The biggest project was removing the old student workers’ desk in the lobby and replacing it with a brick one in a new location.

“It looks significantly better, we’re excited about it. We really needed the facelift,” said Daniel Force, one of the men’s deans. “We’re happy for the residents to have something new, and we hope we can continue to have more improvements in the dorm.” In the future, he hopes to renovate the rooms in Prescott along with installing an announcement monitor in the lobby. “We just want to keep making Prescott Hall a better place to live.”

Student Center

After the Student Success Center opened last year in the library, renovations began on what used to be the Teaching Learning Center to become a new home for the Student Life team. Student Life is responsible for overseeing many activities and services offered at Union, such as varsity athletics, residence hall management, Student Association activities, and more.

Currently the primary Student Life office is located on the first floor of the Everett Dick Administration Building. However, several of the staff are scattered around campus. The new offices renovated by Plant Services will provide a central location for the entire team. Kim Canine, vice president for Student Life, also believes moving the team into the Student Center will help her goal to turn the center along with the entire Don Love Building Atrium into a hub of student activity—which would include the library, new Student Success Center and Campus Store.

“The renovation will help us provide better services to our students and enhance their experience beyond the classroom,” she explained.

–Ryan Teller is public relations and marketing director for Union College; photos supplied

This article was originally published on the Union College website

10 Nov

CHANGING LIVES AS AN OTA

By Ryan Teller – Lincoln, Nebraska … “I like to listen to people and help them,” Abigail Logan, Greeley church member, said.

Abigail Logan graduated in May 2021 as part of Union’s first cohort of occupational therapy assistants [OTA] students, and now she has begun her career as an occupational therapy assistant at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Logan decided she wanted to become an OTA because of videos she watched on a YouTube channel called Special Books by Special Kids (sbsk.org). The channel founder, Chris Ulmer, interviews disabled and neurodiverse people around the world to share their stories and normalize “the diversity of the human condition.”

Moved by the stories of the people she watched on SBSK, Abigail discovered a desire to help. “I saw people with needs,” she said. “I wanted to be able to help people meet their needs, and I wanted to be able to do something for them that was out of the ordinary and creative.”

In researching a major with her parents, Logan discovered Union’s new OTA program and learned about becoming an occupational therapy assistant. “Occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants look at people’s lives and the things that they love to do, and they really work to meet that person in the middle and help them to meet their goals,” she said. “That’s what I want to do.”

PREPARED TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

Logan began her journey as part of the first cohort of the new OTA program in the spring semester of 2020. During her program, she worked one of her fieldwork rotations at Madonna. While she was still a student, Madonna had an opening for an OTA position. Logan worked with her professors through the application process, and she was offered the position.

Now, as an occupational therapy assistant, Logan is fitting well into her new role. “I feel like I was well prepared, and I am very thankful that this is the path I chose,” she said. “And I’ve been really impressed with the environment at Madonna. The other therapists on the team I’m working on have been really helpful, giving lots of feedback. They’ve all been really kind.”

Working as an OTA has already impacted Logan’s life, not only as a career path. “It doesn’t quite hit you as hard until you’re standing in a room with someone who has just experienced one of the most difficult traumatic times in their life,” Logan said. “Working with my patients has grown my empathy and given me a lot of perspective on my own life.”

One patient Logan worked with was unable to communicate and struggled to participate in activities of daily living at the beginning of therapy. As time went on, the patient improved, learning to communicate through nonverbal means. “It was wonderful to see this patient use the communication board to communicate with their mother and others around them and continue to form relationships in that new way,” Logan said. “It was amazing how much of a difference time and skilled care made. I’ve been able to see changes in patients’ lives as they’ve improved in their abilities, and I love helping to make that difference.”

–Ryan Teller is public relations director for Union College; photo supplied

This article was originally published on Outlook Magazine’s website

03 May

CHAPLAIN RICH CARLSON TO RETIRE AFTER 40 YEARS AT UNION COLLEGE

By Ryan Teller – Lincoln, Nebraska … Chaplain Rich Carlson will retire this summer after being an integral part of the Union College experience for 40 years.

Officially, he is Dr. Richard Carlson, vice president for spiritual life and associate professor of psychology and religion, but it is unlikely even he could tell you his full title without consulting Union’s personnel directory. To generations of Union students and alumni, he is simply “Pastor Rich.”

And above any title, he will tell you his job is mentorship. “I love interacting with the kids, journeying with the students,” he said. “It’s been a joy and an honor.”

A graduate of Union, now RMC assistant youth director, Jessyka Dooley has a hard time thinking about Union without Pastor Rich and what he brings to the atmosphere at the college. “It’s hard to think of Union College without Pastor Rich. The culture of student leadership and a family-like atmosphere has always come from the heart of campus ministries. Over his decades of service as chaplain, Rich has impacted and inspired so many people and I am eternally thankful to have been one of them.”

Former student Gina Creek calls him the best leadership mentor she’s ever encountered. Currently director of leadership development at AdventHealth, Creek said, “Before Pastor Rich, I always saw myself as another face in the crowd. He helped me hear the call of God on my heart.”

“The clock tower stands tall but Pastor Rich is a more prominent part of our campus life,” said Union president Vinita Sauder. “He shaped the Union experience for tens of thousands of students. He loves students, he empowers them to serve and he points them to Jesus every single day. He is a true man of God, and an outstanding servant leader.”

Jefferson Gibson, a theology senior and son of Chanelle Watson, RMC assistant director of planned giving and trust services, recalls the influence Pastor Rich has had in his life. “Working in the campus ministry is where I got to know Pastor Carlson. As a hesitant freshman three years ago, he always had a friendly smile on his face which was so inviting walking into the office.”

Gibson added, “Pastor Carlson loves God. The way he was (is) an ambassador for God encouraged me to grow more in my spiritual journey. I am also grateful for the way Pastor Carlson challenged me to not just think outside the box but to appreciate the journey of discovering what was outside the box.”

As one of the first student missionaries Union sent overseas in 1971, Pastor Rich has been instrumental in weaving service into the very fabric of Union College life. After his own experience, he told the Central Union Reaper, “A thousand years of school can never equal the experience of mission service.” As chaplain at Union, he has encouraged thousands of students to take their lessons from the classroom to communities next door and around the world changing many lives—including their own.

Pastor Rich also recognizes the need for service closer to home. Project Impact began as Project BRUSH the year before he became Union’s chaplain, and under his leadership, Union’s annual event has become the nation’s largest and oldest collegiate volunteer event. From available research, no campus has a bigger event by percentage and few have as many volunteers despite 10 to 20 times the enrollment. He then uses the event as a springboard to get students involved in serving the Lincoln community all year long.

He graduated from Union in 1973 with the intention of being a pastor. After teaching Bible at Maplewood and Dakota Adventist Academy, he returned to Union to pursue medicine. He envisioned himself working in an ER, but providence turned him toward the chaplain’s office. Does he have any regrets? “Not a one,” he said. “It’s the best thing that could have happened.”

Union alumni who were impacted by Pastor Rich’s ministry have honored his legacy by establishing a scholarship fund in his name. Donate to the fund at ucollege.edu/pastorrich

–Ryan Teller is public relations director for Union College, photo supplied

*Article adapted from https://ucollege.edu/20210429/pastor-rich-carlson-to-retire-after-nearly-40-years-at-union/

17 Dec

New Union College scholarship covers tuition costs for families making $60,000 or less

By Ryan Teller – Lincoln, Nebraska … Union College has launched the new Bridge to Union Scholarship—a plan that will cover the tuition costs for students from most families with an income of $60,000 or less.

“In these challenging economic times, every dollar matters,” said Dr. Vinita Sauder, president of Union College. “We want to bridge the tuition gap for any student and family who dreams of taking advantage of the life coach for every freshman, career preparation and spiritual community at Union College so they have that opportunity. The Bridge to Union Scholarship helps make our unparalleled personalized support available to many more students—regardless of financial circumstances.”

For first-time freshman students enrolling for the Fall 2021 semester, Union College will scholarship all tuition costs not covered by their federal and state financial aid package. To qualify, a student simply needs to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) showing that they are eligible for a Pell Grant and their family income for the FAFSA year is $60,000 or less.

The scholarship will be renewable for up to seven additional semesters as long as the student remains enrolled as a full-time student (12-17 credit hours) during that time, maintains a 2.0 GPA, is Pell-eligible and their family income stays at $60,000 or below.

“No motivated student should be denied a quality education,” said Sauder. “We are excited to remove more of the financial burden for students who want a Christian education as they seek to find God’s calling for their lives.”

The Bridge to Union program covers tuition only. Students can earn a majority of their room and board by working on campus throughout both semesters and contributing summer work earnings to their account. Outside scholarships may also be applied toward room and board.

Financial aid is available to all Union undergraduate students—regardless of income or eligibility for federal financial aid. For instance, every freshman admitted to Union already receives a four-year renewable scholarship of $4,000 up to full tuition (worth nearly $100,000 over four years) based on academic achievement, financial situation and other factors.

For more information about the Bridge to Union Scholarship, call 402.486.2504 or visit ucollege.edu/bridge-to-union

–Ryan Teller is Union College’s public relations director; photo supplied