We are different

We are different!

We differ in many ways. We are different races and come from different cultural backgrounds. Some of us grew up in big cities and some are from small towns. Some live with a mom and dad and some don’t. Some earn A’s while others earn B’s or C’s. Some pray a lot and some pray just a little.

When all these differences are brought together in a learning community, something special begins to take shape. At Trinity, we see and experience our diverse culture as a true gift. We have the opportunity to learn about one another and share of ourselves. Appreciation of another perspective is a sign of maturity and wisdom. Our student-learning environment allows this to happen daily.

I believe there are three dimensions to our unique and diverse learning environment at Trinity Lutheran College:

  1. We are truly diverse. Students of color make up 45% of our community and Caucasian students make up 55%. Our students come from every major racial ethnic group and from 10 countries. They come from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds, and while some grew up in a city or suburb, others grew up in a more rural setting.
  2. Our small intimate size is the perfect environment to truly get to know people, gain insight from their world, listen to their perspective and learn from their life experience. Our students often say their voices are “truly heard” at Trinity.
  3. Lastly, our community welcomes differences and values each person for who they are. People are attracted to the college because of our diverse environment. This makes for a unique community.

One dimension about Trinity’s diversity is our diversity of faith. This wonderful mosaic of belief is alive and well in this wonderful place. Yet even with individuals from various faith and non-faith backgrounds studying at the college, we remain committed to our Christian core: students learn about Jesus, they study the Bible, they engage in service to our community and they pray. As a campus community, we remain steadfast in our mission to teach and train leaders to serve Christ and society.

If you haven’t been to Trinity in a while, come visit us. Stop by, take a campus tour and stay for lunch (I’m buying!). I believe our diverse community will impact you in ways you can’t even begin to imagine.

In Christ,

John W. Reed


As we begin a new year

Greetings Trinity Followers!

I thought it would be a good time to update my blog. Nine months since my last post is not a good thing. But as you can imagine, I have been busy with a few things in those nine months. So let me take a minute to update you on them.

We are so pleased to report our success in student enrollment. This fall we have exceeded 200 students and have grown by nearly 17%.  We need to keep improving our enrollment situation, so please keep referring us to prospective students, “talking up” all the college’s strengths. Here is our recent press release on the fall enrollment, http://tlc.edu/news/enrollment_growth_for_fall_2013.html.

As pleased as I am with the growth of our student enrollment, I am even more excited about the development of our students. Erik Samuelson, Campus Pastor and Director of Spiritual and Vocational Formation, has done an incredible job leading our Vocation and Formation classes, required for all incoming first year students. Recently I reviewed the yearly evaluation from our students in this course, and these two comments were especially insightful:

  •  “The Lavik Lecture was probably the most meaningful activity to me. I am still thinking about what was learned there.”
  • The book Let Your Life Speak was very meaningful, because it helped identify my strengths and weaknesses in my vocation.

At Trinity, we are serious about helping students find their God-directed purpose in their life and career.  I am grateful to our Vocation & Formation faculty for leading this important course.

You also may remember that in 2010 we launched a three-year strategic plan entitled “Light on the Hill.” I am thankful for what we have accomplished toward our strategic goals to date, and I’d like to provide you with a brief overview of our progress to date. Please follow this link to read about our progress and challenges.

As we begin a new year at Trinity, filled with gratitude for so many gifts in our midst, we also give thanks for the gift of so many faithful alumni, donors, parents and friends. I want to thank each of your for praying for all of us at Trinity Lutheran College. Your support is so important in the work that we do.

My best,

John W. Reed


Viewpoints with Terry Bradshaw features Trinity Lutheran College

Great things continue to happen here at Trinity. Just this week, we received the final copy of a segment of the television show “Viewpoints with Terry Bradshaw” that features Trinity as an innovative, faith-based college.

The segment will air on several regional and national markets in the coming months. We are excited for the opportunity to share our successes with innovation, knowing viewers all across the country will soon be acquainted with our little college here in Everett.

I hope you will take a few minutes to watch the video for yourself:



It is common to hear organizations, colleges, and churches talk about “community.” This word is meant to describe the way in which a group of people work or live together. For the most part, the word “community” is meant in a positive fashion, like “we have a wonderful community” or “we are pleased you will be joining our community.”

However if you examine the term more closely, you will find at its most basic meaning that it simply describes a group of people who share a “common characteristic.” That’s not a very compelling description, if you ask me.

Often when I interact with groups that talk about “community,” what I find is actually mistrust, lack of communication, and separate units positioning for power. Whatever implied warmth or connectedness the word “community” suggests is missing altogether and in its place a kind of jockeying for position and a bitter competition that breaks down whatever community might have been there.

I recently heard a definition of community that I really like, however, and I quickly thought of Trinity: “A group of people living and working together who practice common ownership.”

This word “ownership” is compelling to me. Owners care for one another, their purpose is unified, and they focus on each other rather than on themselves, which is perhaps the most important attribute of this definition. As Christians, we are called to imitate Christ’s humility, although this often goes against what our society is pushing us towards. We live in a culture where we must face false idols, competition, and stars that shine for a moment and then fade away.

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul writes, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others” (Phil 2:3-4).

Imagine how our community changes when Paul’s charge above becomes our primary goal. As Christians, we are called to imitate Christ, and if we study his words and actions in the gospels, we soon understand that one of Christ’s greatest attributes was humility. Putting others before ourselves changes our community at a fundamental level: we become advocates for each other, supporters and cheerleaders, and each of us feels the support of the others behind us.

At Trinity, this kind of imitation of Christ is at the core of our identity. Not that we do it perfectly all the time, for we are human beings struggling to imitate God. But I am so grateful for the community that is Trinity Lutheran College—students, faculty, staff, board—and the ways in which we together act as owners of our college, making Trinity the wonderful place that it is.

And as a college, we are also grateful for the many alumni, supporters and friends who join in our common goal to imitate Christ. Anyone who cares about this place and joins us in our mission becomes part of our community.

May we all continue to strive toward humility in being more like Christ—so we can “shine like stars in the sky” (Phil 2:14) as we hold firmly to God’s word and truth as it lives among us.


Amidst diverse and changing student body, Trinity remains faithful to mission

The Trinity Lutheran College environment is a wonderful place of continual change, struggle, celebration, growth, disappointment and conversation.  I especially love the conversations we have at our college. And I’m aware of the ways in which these conversations change as we grow in enrollment and support a student body that looks different than it did a decade or two ago.

Once upon a time at Trinity, nearly every student who took classes in Trinity Core (what we called our required Bible classes) was familiar with the Christian story, was a regular attendee at his or her home church, and came from a Lutheran background.

However, our student body has shifted in some ways since that time. Today, the new Trinity CRUX responds to students who, in general, are less spiritually oriented or rooted in a Lutheran Christian faith. Only 20% of our students today cite their church background as Lutheran. While some of our students really enjoy our required classes in the Bible and dig deeply into their coursework, I have heard other students who comment about having to “tolerate CRUX classes.” When I hear these comments, I am aware once again of our ever-changing student body.

And while we continue to welcome students of all faith backgrounds and experiences to the college, at Trinity we still believe that studying the Bible provides an important foundation for a Christian liberal arts education. We require all students to take 24 credits of the CRUX, and we know that God’s word and truth can be a powerful thing for our students, whether they have heard words from Scripture a thousand times before or are hearing them for the first time.

This week, I was pleased to hear about exploring/seeking students who have found a relationship with Christ because of Trinity. One of our faculty members who teaches our Vocation and Formation class shared with me that two students in her class told her they have come to deep, personal relationships with Christ because of their CRUX classes. Our students continue to comment on how much they love taking Synoptic Gospels with Dr. Jan Fekkes and The Bible and Worldview with Professor Beth Elness-Hanson.

So while Trinity is ever-evolving and changing, welcoming in a diverse student body made up of scholars who come to the college for a variety of reasons, I am pleased that our courses and our environment continue to further our mission to “develop Christian leaders with a global perspective whose lives and ministry serve Jesus Christ in church and society.”


Believers, wonderers, seekers and pilgrims

This has been an incredible fall semester so far at Trinity. We are having a blast—at least I am. The Puget Sound weather has been fantastic, and in fact only just today are we getting our first real rain since July. As I move around the five floors of the campus center I see smiles, hear conversations, feel the energy and watch teams working together.  Guests who visit me constantly remark about the energy and beautiful sense of community at Trinity. We are grateful.

We are very lucky to work and serve at this incredible place. It is a joy to know that while we have our challenges, we labor with God to serve students. It is a joy when we realize students are truly being served, mentored and challenged by their experiences with us, and they are growing and changing before our eyes.

The challenge that most excites me was described in our first chapel of the year. And as an aside, Pastor Erik and his chapel planning team are doing a fantastic job “curating” our chapel services—we had over 120 folks in the first chapel service of the term. A moment in this first service moved me to tears, as I felt incredible gratitude at being part of this place and called to this challenge. A student read this: “Our community consists of dedicated believers, of wandering pilgrims, of curious seekers and of questioning wonderers. We bring different experiences, different traditions, different gifts. We notice one another and we welcome each other into this community.”

When I heard those words, I thought what a blessing it is to be part of this place, where all are included and welcomed. I was also challenged by the idea that if we can truly serve, motivate, educate, mentor and minister to our diverse and interesting mix of students, we will be serving the church and bringing glory to God.

At Trinity, we are truly a community filled with dedicated believers, wandering pilgrims, curious seekers and questioning wonderers. Here are some examples:

Dedicated Believers: There is a young man at the college who serves us as our Spiritual Life Commissioner. Hailing from Anacortes, he is one of our amazing, dedicated believers. His heart is full of God and God’s love, and the Holy Spirit directs him. This young man is bright and a solid academic, he’s a member of our Dean’s Circle, he leads our community in prayer at the conclusion of nearly every chapel service, he leads an Everett Young Life group, and he brings his enthusiasm for learning and faith to each class and interaction. He is making the most of his time here by digging into learning and being open to God’s call toward his vocation.

Wandering Pilgrims: A wandering pilgrim who has inspired us this year is the Reverend Dr. Dave Ellingson, professor of Children, Youth & Family Studies. During his sabbatical last spring, Dave paddled his kayak down the Mississippi River. He used the months, which he called a spiritual pilgrimage, to learn from the people he met and to listen to God’s voice. He entitled his journey “Creation Care: Environmental Ethics.” During his journey, Dave kept a blog in which he recorded on an almost daily basis the things he was learning on his pilgrimage. He writes, “God used the river to teach me both how powerful and regenerative the natural environment is and also how fragile and in need of wise care and stewardship. My kinship with all creation now resonates more deeply with St. Francis’ ‘brother Sun and sister Moon.’ Each morning just before dawn a symphony of birds began their musical wake-up call and invited me to launch my boat in the dark and paddle toward the light. They called me to a new day, to a new beginning, a new life and to pray.” Returning to Trinity as professor again this fall, after an amazing spring sabbatical, Dave brings to our community all that he learned on his journey, enriching our faith and inspiring our daily living because of his pilgrimage.

Curious Seekers: We count it a blessing at Trinity these days that we have many in our student body that are seekers. They bring their curiosity and their interest to our life of faith together, seeking to know more about God and God’s Word, and wanting to understand more about living lives of faith and belief. We are grateful to be a place where students can explore the Christian story and the person of Jesus—and where they can be on the path “seeking” to know more about faith.

Questioning Wonderers: One thing I know for sure is that while it is impossible to please God without faith, God also invites us to question and wonder about Him and His story. We would not be honest seekers of faith if we did not wonder from time to time, and we are grateful that Trinity is a place where questions and doubts can be voiced, and students can explore their wonderings alongside wise and faithful faculty and staff. Each person’s experience of coming to faith is different, but we are grateful to provide a place where students who “wonder about God” can ask their questions and grow in their understanding.

I am thankful that at Trinity we continue to be a place for believers, wonderers, seekers and pilgrims. We continue to teach and trust in the central truths of God’s Word, and each student here will encounter scripture and Christ’s redemptive story. Combine this with a unique and wonderful spirit that defines this place, and special things happen. I am just grateful to be part of it. I hope you will join us for a visit soon. Our full chapel service is every Wednesday at 11:00 am, followed by lunch and community gathering time. You are welcomed!



On September 12, a production team from the CNN program “Viewpoints with Terry Bradshaw” will be on campus filming footage for their “innovative faith-based colleges” segment featuring Trinity Lutheran College.

As we have offered input about the program’s script and prepared for the filming, we’ve spent some time re-asking some of the questions that are common ones around here. Questions like, What role do we play in the future of higher education? What’s our vision for Trinity? These questions keep us moving forward, toward our mission statement and toward excellence as a college.

Last year as part of the strategic plan, you often heard me refer to the phrase “small is the new big.” But let me clarify a little bit what I mean with that statement and how it fits into Trinity’s role in higher education.

One of the blessings of being a small college is that we are able to do things that are innovative with relative ease. We can meet the demand for quality higher education that is forward thinking in ways that larger schools cannot because they have more students, more faculty, more committees, and more channels to navigate.

Our vision at Trinity is to utilize the opportunity we have to be nimble and make decisions quickly. We can “think outside the box” and do things that are needed now, instead of taking months or years to achieve them. Once we see that there is a specific need in higher education, we are uniquely situated to meet that need. And if we continue to do our work with integrity and quality, we are establishing ourselves as a solid institution that’s making amazing contributions to higher education.

When we talk about what we do in higher education, you can rest assured that we remain committed to core concepts that make Trinity unique and special—concepts like:

  1. Keeping classes small. This is an important part of the education we’re providing.
  2. Maintaining our biblical curriculum at the center of our required coursework for students, allowing them to engage with questions of Christian faith, mission, and service.
  3. Offering unique opportunities students won’t get at bigger schools, like travel classes during January Term or a three-year degree program that ends in a job.

These types of programs and opportunities at little Trinity are evidence of a small college working to address some of the big issues in higher education.

As we head into our 69th academic year at Trinity, we look forward to the ways God will use us to change the lives of students and help contribute in positive and forward-thinking ways to higher education in Washington. Please join in praying for Trinity as we welcome 75 new students and begin another fantastic academic year.


Small is the new big

If you have been reading The Advance, viewing our website, or participating in any of our college events over the past two years, you have likely encountered the claim “Small is The New Big.” This phrase came out of our strategic planning sessions, and is a key concept in our outreach to new students. This phrase also says a great deal about the unique learning environment at Trinity.

We are small, but big things happen here all the time. Lives are transformed through the grace and love found in Christ, and students seek and find their vocational calling. Allow me to share with you some of the amazing benefits our students encounter on a daily basis due to our wonderfully small size.

Research has been conducted for years on the benefits of smaller class sizes in K-12 education. But only recently has more research examined the benefits in higher education. This research confirms my enthusiasm about the educational process here at Trinity and the ways we have done an amazing job providing our students with a superior academic experience.

First let me give you some facts:

  • This spring, 88% of our classes have fewer than 25 students.
  • Our faculty to student ratio at Trinity is 1:7.
  • 100% of the 2009 graduating class are placed in employment or graduate school.
  • For each of the past three years, students have presented their research at professional conferences, alongside graduate students and professors.
  • 92% of the 2010 graduating class are placed in employment or graduate school.
  • 100% of our classes at Trinity are taught by professors, not graduate assistants or teaching assistants.

So what benefits do our students receive by being in an intimate seminar style-learning environment? A study entitled  “Impact of Class Size on Student Outcomes in Higher Education*” identifies a number of statistically significant findings; let me highlight a few that have particular relevance to our learning environment at Trinity:

  1. The amount of critical and analytical thinking: Our students have to be quick on their feet, since they can’t hide in big auditoriums. Our faculty know when students have or haven’t prepared for class, and they help our students express themselves well in group settings.
  2. Instructor availability outside of class: Faculty take advising and mentoring seriously, whether before, during or after a Trinity degree. Faculty write heartfelt, personal letters of recommendation for students as they go on to graduate programs and careers.
  3. Timeliness of feedback to students: Faculty know when students aren’t in class, and they follow up with them after absences. And instead of just grading papers, they invest in students’ futures through robust and timely feedback.
  4. Evaluations and feedback of student work: The intimate knowledge faculty have of student work allows them to keep mentoring students toward greatness, and guide them to successful careers.
  5. Daily preparedness required for class: The small class sizes at Trinity don’t allow our students the opportunity to get lazy and come unprepared. Students regularly remark that they find they have grow from good to excellent scholars during their years at Trinity.

Trinity provides an incredible opportunity for students. I am so pleased that word is spreading about our programs, and prospective students and families are beginning to recognize the wonderful environment we have for learning. Please keep referring students and supporting us in this critical educational mission.

* Impact of Class Size on Student Outcomes in Higher Eduation, Monkes, Schmidt, University of Richmond, September 2010.


Hear Ye Hear Ye, Read All About It: Brammer Chapel Opens At Trinity

It was big news around campus this past week with the opening of the new Brammer Chapel & Center for Art and Communication. This 12,500 square-foot space on the top floor of our new campus center in downtown Everett is a BIG DEAL.

When I came to Trinity two and half years ago, I was surprised by many things, but one stood out in particular: Although we were an institution dedicated to faith development with a mission to develop leaders whose lives serve Christ, the church and society, we had neither a campus pastor nor a chapel.

Over the years, many colleges and universities that were once faith-based have secularized, and one of the first areas of erosion is chapel and worship. Chapel is important—it shapes a college culture by creating a public habit of attending, participating in and building community through worship. When I arrived, it was hard to imagine a healthy faith community and spiritual habit forming in our new home in Everett without a spiritual leader or a sacred space for worship.

Last February we were blessed by the addition of the Reverend Erik Samuelson as our Campus Pastor and Director of Vocation & Spiritual Formation. Erik is a wise spiritual leader with a passion for our students’ vocation and faith development, and he has done a fantastic job in his first year with us.

But even after adding Erik, we still had no place to gather for worship, although we DID have a clear vision of what we wanted in a new worship and creative space on the fifth floor of our campus center. We had four goals:

  • Create a laboratory for young leaders to explore and practice what Christian worship might look like in the future
  • Create an environment in which our worship life would serve as a microcosm of the living-learning community that is at the core of who we are
  • Become a place where head, heart, and hands were integrated—aiding the entire community in encountering and expressing the Christian life in practical and habit-forming ways
  • Provide a venue for the hosting of events, worship, musical performance and rallies that cater to the current Christian youth and young-adult movements

This vision of a worship and creative space caught the attention of the Reverend Mark Samuelson, pastor at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Everett and Erik’s father. Mark’s very first call had been to a small church in the farming community of Lenore, Idaho. During his time in Lenore, Mark had been mentored by a family, the Brammers, whom he believed might have some interest in our vision.

I am always amazed at the work God can do from one conversation. Armed with our vision of a new chapel and art space, Erik Samuelson, Mark Samuelson and Academic Dean Jeff Mallinson traveled to Idaho last spring to share our story with George and Jackie Brammer. Not long after that, I also visited the Brammers, and while I was there, they confirmed that they wanted to make a major gift (the second largest in our 70 year history) to help us create our new chapel.

Following many months of construction, we finally have a place of worship for our campus community. And on March 6, at three in the afternoon, students, faculty, board and foundation members, and other friends of the college gathered together to celebrate the opening of the Brammer Chapel & Center for Art and Communication.

The sun was out that afternoon, and from our view on the fifth floor, we could see the Cascade and Olympic mountains, Port Gardner Bay extending out into Puget Sound, and our surrounding community of Everett. It’s fitting that our worship space looks out into the world, since we teach our students that the life of a Christian is strengthened in worship but flows out into the community and to the world. Our chapel space represents our mission: to develop Christian leaders with a global perspective. But inside our walls, we are grateful for a spiritual home where, as a community, we can worship, learn and help develop each student’s mission in this world.

The official grand opening for our new chapel is scheduled September 27, with a worship service and a dedication. I hope you’ll join us at that celebration. And in just a few weeks we’ll announce a Brammer Chapel capital campaign that will allow us the capital to finish the chapel project and meet some programmatic needs related to spiritual development on our campus.

In the midst of all this excitement, we pause and give thanks to those who helped make this new space possible for us. Thank you Mark Samuelson, Erik Samuelson, Jeff Mallinson, and Lance Georgeson. Thank you so much, George and Jackie Brammer. And most of all, thank you God, for this gift.


Enough Already!

Enough Already!

It’s about time we started spring semester. Fall semester ended back in mid-December, and then in January our students spent the month studying all over the world, making it way too quiet around here for my liking. I am tired of talking to myself, and our CFO Tom Ramsey is sick of me talking to him too. All this quiet has put me in a bad mood. So I am glad that this week, things are finally back to normal.

When I walk around campus, I see familiar signs of life at Trinity:

  • Groups of students gather in the Commons once again, laughing and talking. Their energy is contagious.
  • Our fifth floor chapel renovation is almost done, and we can’t wait to start enjoying our new space.
  • We have welcomed a group of new students to the college this semester, and already they are richly blessing our community.
  • We celebrate with some of our students who have been admitted to graduate programs or have received interviews. Senior Samantha Chapman was just offered admission at Princeton Theological Seminary.  Junior Samuel Ryden interviewed at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland for a master’s program in theology and aesthetics.
  • Our early childhood education majors have their hands full running around after our Acorn Preschool students on the rooftop garden.
  • Student athletes are excited to meet and work with the new coaches heading our men’s and women’s soccer programs.
  • Dr. Bruce Grigsby, Professor of Biblical Studies, is hard at work preparing for his heavy load of courses.  This term, he’s teaching Greek, Latin, Reformation History, History of the Bible, and Integrative Biblical Seminar.
  • Students are once again engaged in service learning, using their heads, hearts and hands to serve others in our community.

We’rein full swing here at Trinity Lutheran College, and I’m glad things are back to normal!