Ali McMaster's Story: Where Faith and Learning Meet
With the Christian faith being questioned in the general population, Briercrest College provides a much-needed community for young adults to solidify and continue in their faith. In this episode of the People of Briercrest, Ali McMaster's (College, '22) experience at Briercrest illustrates how Christian higher education can help young adults grow in their faith.
In 2018, a research project called Renegotiating Faith did an in-depth study of young adults' transitions from high school to the next stage in life. They found that Christian higher education played a definitive role in young adults staying connected to the Church and faith. Likewise, Christian college graduates were much more likely to continue in their faith than young adults who did not attend Christian higher education. The data from the study made it clear that Briercrest has a strategic role to play in discipling this generation of students.
Notably, Briercrest College is uniquely positioned to help young adults transition into post-secondary life while maintaining their Christian faith. With an emphasis on a close-knit Christian community, Briercrest provides an environment where young adults can explore and strengthen their faith. In addition, the college offers many activities and events that create opportunities for students to connect and build relationships within a Christian community.
Ali's experience at Briercrest demonstrates that Christian higher education is an effective tool for Christian discipleship.
When Ali was in grade 11, she attended an event at her high school that introduced her to Briercrest. She says that she "half-heartedly signed an info card." She was later contacted by college staff and met with a recruitment team member when she was in grade 12. Ali was interested in getting a degree in psychology and was intrigued by the idea of getting it at a Christian college. She says, "I am thankful I got psychological teaching in tandem with scriptural teaching because the two are so interconnected."
This fall, Ali joined the Briercrest staff as Residence Director of Bergren Place, a residence for female college students. Ali equates her time living in a dorm as a key factor in her Christian faith growth:
My time in the dorm has shown me that students living there and learning in class can take the head knowledge and directly translate it into how they seek after God’s Kingdom together. Doing this together as students, staff, and faculty requires grit, honesty, and love. As Residence Director, I get to take part in facilitating this.
For Ali and many other Canadian young adults, Christian higher education at Briercrest College can provide a much-needed community for faith growth and development. In an era where young adults are increasingly leaving the Christian faith, Briercrest College strives to create an environment of connection, support, and exploration—helping young adults stay connected and faithful.
When we asked Ali what the biggest takeaway from her education and the culture at Briercrest was, her response further confirmed the findings of the Renegotiating Faith study:
I was, and still am, blown away by the quality of education I received. Growing up in a predominantly Christian context made my faith and learning stagnant. Being educated by professors at Briercrest opened my mind and helped me develop critical thinking and dialoguing skills. I have a rich appreciation for and a deepened knowledge of psychological and theological principles because of my time at Briercrest. Culturally, I appreciated the way I knew I could ask questions, doubt, wrestle, and still build strong relationships. As much as my time as a student was about learning and being stretched, it was equally about knowing and being known by my peers and leaders. My college years were a time of questioning, failing, succeeding, and learning. I am thankful that the people at Briercrest provided me with a place to do those things.
As a Christian higher education institution with a close-knit community, Briercrest College enables students to explore and strengthen their faith in an environment of connection and support, increasing the likelihood of a dedicated Christian life.
The Value of Education that Disciples
We asked Ali how Briercrest's mission statement, "Educating disciples who equip the church and engage the world," has been reflected in her service to others as staff and how she has been served at Briercrest.
For Ali, "education that disciples" is reflected in dorm life:
Educating disciples in the dorm is a lot about taking the valuable information learned in class and putting it into action. In my role, it looks like honest conversations, practical learning for RAs (Residence Assistants) in student leadership training, leading my RA team, and subsequently the dorm, toward the likeness of Christ in relationships.
Ali experienced being discipled by her education through her classes:
There were so many classes that caused me to pause and re-evaluate how I thought about myself, God, and the world. Specifically, the Psychology and Christianity class helped me understand the cross-over and various opinions and practices Christian Psychologists have taken. That class was foundational for understanding how my faith is integrated into my psychological understanding.
Ali's Briercrest story highlights the importance of Christian higher education in helping young adults stay connected to faith and the Church. As higher education plays a significant role in young adult faith, Christian colleges like Briercrest are taking great strides to ensure students get the support they need to stay connected and faithful.
Through Christian higher education, we are equipping young adults with the knowledge and Christian community to make faith their own.
Briercrest in a Word: Personal
And finally, we asked Ali for one word she would use to describe her Briercrest experience, to which she answered, “It is whole-person education. It wasn’t just an educational experience; it was a personal one.” She equates this to what makes Briercrest different from other institutions:
For me, it was the feeling of relational closeness that came with learning and discussing my faith with professors and peers. Consequently, there was a 'people first' kind of practice that came with my learning. While the academic standards were high, I felt seen as a person, which helped me perform as a student.
Ali’s story and the Renegotiating Faith study highlight how Christian higher education can be a powerful and effective tool for faith growth and development. As Christian higher education plays a definitive role in the spiritual lives of young adults, Briercrest is helping young adults from Canada and around the world forge long-term commitments to the Church and their faith.
Thank you, Ali, for doing the interview! Christian higher education's positive impact on young adults is highlighted by your insights and experiences as a student and staff member at Briercrest College. We appreciate your commitment to Briercrest and the Church!