Student Sketch: Kathryn Schaefer


Jan. 22, 2013

Kathryn Schaefer, a senior Children, Youth & Family Studies major, is naturally soft-spoken. Though usually fairly quiet in class, when she offers a comment it’s strikingly insightful. Schaefer knows without question where her passions lie. She says, “I want to be outdoors.” However, while stated in her soft-spoken manner it is abundantly clear that she is saying, “I WANT TO BE OUTDOORS!!!”

Schaefer, the youngest of six children, grew up in Burnsville, MN immersed in church youth activities—Sunday school, summer camps, youth groups, and mission trips. While in high school, she also became involved with an adventure leadership program, Wilderness Inquiry, whose mission is to make outdoor activities more accessible to persons with disabilities. These experiences further affirmed what she knew from the time she was young, that her home was the outdoors. A near detour to culinary school was averted by one last outdoor trip before graduating from high school, which sealed the deal that she wanted to pursue a degree in outdoor ministry.

Although landing at Trinity seemed somewhat random—she had never heard of it, been on campus, or knew anyone at the school—it turned up in her search for outdoor ministry programs and thought, “Why not?” A bonus was found in Professor Mark Jackson, who was vacationing that summer in Minnesota. Already looking after one of his students to be, Jackson met with Kathryn, bolstering her confidence that Trinity was the place to which God was calling her.

Schaefer’s experience at Trinity has been rich and diverse, both in and out of the classroom. She recently completed an internship at a Lutheran camp on Flathead Lake in Montana. She cites this experience as being one of her top experiences from her Trinity education, and sees it as vital to the department’s curriculum. She surprised herself saying, “I realized how much I already know.”

A second highlight of her education (and here once again her passion shouts through her soft-spoken ways) is the relationships with her professors, especially Mark Jackson, David Ellingson, and Susan Houglum. Schaefer says, “For me it’s been far more than a teacher/student relationship, or even a mentor/mentee relationship. It’s a life-long relationship. I know I will always stay in touch with them, and turn to them for support and guidance.” A year ago, she went with Professor Houglum on the J-term trip to Scotland, which focused on an outdoor pre-school model of education, another key piece in her preparation for ministry.

Kathryn running cross-countrySchaefer has also proved to be one tough competitor. Last year as part of Trinity’s cross-country team she qualified for the National Tournament, a race she undauntingly completed with a stress fracture in her foot. Running down along the waterfront has been one of her favorite activities while living in Everett, and working at the YMCA has added another facet to her education.

Professor Mark Jackson is equally enthusiastic about Schaefer, saying, “Kathryn is the epitome of an outdoor ministry leader. Her love of the outdoors, deep faith, concern for young people, creativity, sense of humor, and passion for sharing the Gospel prepare her well for program leadership in a camp or retreat center. Best of all, she understands the power a transformational outdoor ministry experience can have in shaping faith in the lives of children, youth, and adults.”

With graduation around the corner, Schaefer finds herself settled. “I’m where I’m supposed to be, I have the skills, and everything is falling into place. I want to bring kids outside to show them God and creation, and how they mesh together, probably in a camp or some type of outdoor ministry setting. I’m trusting God for the next step.”