Under the direction of campus pastor Tamara Shelton, AU’s chapel is being shaped toward incorporating new and differing voices. Wih speakers like Becky Tirabassi, Dr. Anne Smith, Mike Clifford and Nina Barnes, the chapel leadership is doing the hard work of introducing speakers and topics that can speak to every part of our diverse campus community and to open students’ eyes to new points of view. Some of these perspectives hit closer to home, as with upcoming speakers and AU alumnus Kyle Lacy.
With the popularity of business-related majors on campus, Lacy’s experiences in the field of business should speak to a large segment of the student body. Lacy is the author of Branding Yourself, Social CRM for Dummies and two editions of Twitter Marketing for Dummies, and has also been in leadership with marketing agencies such as ExactTarget and Salesforce. He is currently the Head of Marketing at Openview and has at times done 30 to 40 speaking engagements per year. He attributes his success to a willingness to try everything and “fake it till you make it.”
He recalled early in his career when he started the now-bought Brandswag that he often took requests for things he did not then know how to create. When a customer asked him if they did web design, he said yes and spent the following week teaching himself the basics of web design to meet the client’s request. When asked if the business could create a mobile app, he contracted the help of some friends and acquaintances to make it happen. He stressed that it’s important, especially when getting out into any field, to say yes in order to build a network but only to say yes if it’s a “yes” on which you can follow through.
One of the biggest lessons he learned when he entered the workforce was that “I wasn’t as big of a deal as I thought I was.” He recalls having to learn his place in the world of marketing, and much of that came down to finding where his experience and background mattered. As a recent college grad, that came in the world of social media.
“We would go into meetings having just rolled out of bed and we couldn’t compete with the guys who were in suits and had 20 years of sales experience, but when companies were looking for help with social media marketing they looked to us because we were the ones using it most,” he said.
Lacy expressed that, though he might have taken his education for granted at times, it was the relationships he made on campus that made the biggest impact on his life. The community of the third floor of Dunn Hall, participating in and leading focus groups, and joining Dativus all made for relationships that have yet to fade.
Even with his experience and knowledge, Lacy is only part of the larger picture of shaping chapel into an experience that speaks to the whole student body, not just the students from a specific background.
Shelton has been thrilled to welcome the wide variety of voices speaking in convocations but insists that “we need more” in order to be able to speak into the life of any student on campus.
“It’s something we’ll continue to work towards,” she said. “We have such a diverse student population, and students are in different places as to where they come from or where they are in their spiritual journey. So we want it to be inevitable that if at some point a student is going to come to chapel and go ‘I didn’t connect with that,’ we are able to say ‘well if you didn’t connect with that, come back next week and maybe you’ll connect with a message in another way.’”
Exposing students to new points of view does not always mean bringing in outside voices; sometimes it means introducing students to members of the campus community with which they might not normally interact. Shelton and the chapel team are hoping that, by spurring
conversation through people who are actually on campus, important conversations will be less likely to end because the speaker physically leaves. Shelton expressed that it is important to “not just have people from outside, but also people that live among us that are speaking, so that there can be ongoing conversations with different faculty and staff. We have so many gifted people on our campus that have a message to share.”
Shelton expressed her hope that as they promote more conversation outside of chapel, chapel itself will be more effective. One of the most exciting things about her leadership has been the opportunity to see students take their spiritual life into their own hands and take up leadership themselves as they encourage and promote conversation among their peers.
“I think that’s where the real story is,” she said. “We really want chapel to be the beginning of the conversation. Something that’s really exciting for me is hearing about small groups starting up on campus, both the ones that spiritual life promotes but also other groups that are just popping up where students are saying ‘I want to pray, I want to pray together for this campus and lets pray that students might increase their commitment to God and grow and we want this campus to be different.’”