Learning In—and Out of—the Classroom

Rudeene’s life changed at summer camp. As a college student, Rudeene (Rudee) Jackson took a job at a Christian summer camp. She spent the season mentoring the high school students who worked there. Prior to this transformational experience, she knew she wanted to be a social worker, with perhaps a volunteer role as a youth leader on the side. But Rudee’s summer at camp—with all the ups and downs of connecting with young people in the midst of their joys and struggles, experiencing God through a ministry of sitting and being—added something new and undeniable to her sense of calling. 

She was also going to be a pastor. 

Pittsburgh Theological Seminary was a natural fit because of its joint MDiv/MSW degree program with the University of Pittsburgh, offering students the chance to receive the master of divinity and master of social work joint degree. Rudee is now enrolled in the program and has been thrilled about other learning opportunities that have emerged in her time at PTS. 

For one, Rudee has decided to also pursue a Graduate Certificate in Church Planting and Revitalization. This wasn’t part of her original plan, but after visiting a Church Planting Initiative meeting, she discovered how excited she was about new visions for what church can be.

She recalls about that first meeting, “I realized you don’t really need a building to have a church.”

In addition, she has taken two trips overseas with PTS, to South Africa and Colombia. These travels proved to be instrumental in her development: “The first time I ever preached was in Colombia. I didn’t speak the language, but I had a translator. It was an amazing experience.”

Rudee is thrilled about her vision for where God might lead her. If you ask her about her future, she will describe with contagious energy her passion to start a “safe haven” program for at-risk youth within a church context—perhaps a church she will plant. She has been inspired by a new church, which she learned about in the Church Planting program, that is located in a skate park! Rudee, who is also pursuing ordination in The United Methodist Church, may not have a skate park in her future. But she can’t wait to provide a space for families to come receive nourishment and support for their social and spiritual needs.

MDiv/MSW joint degree student Rudeene Jackson