alumni spotlight

rosson anderson (2012-2013)


1. What did you expect to learn through the program and how, if at all, did that differ from what you actually learned?

I think I was nervous about host families and didn't know what to expect there, but that was a really cool part of the experience. I was definitely uncomfortable with the idea coming in, but the family I stayed with had their son at home and it was neat bonding with him. I'm still friends with my host family and we have dinner occasionally. It turned out to be a really good experience.


2. Most rewarding part of being a Briarwood Fellow?

I think the most rewarding part was two-fold. 1. I really enjoyed tutoring and forming good relationships through that ministry. Being able to love kids that looked and acted differently than how I was raised has led to some heart change in my life and still plays a part in my family's life now. 2. The second part would be community. It further proved how important community is in the local church setting. It's amazing to see how the more and more real I am with people, the more and more people come to me.


3. What was the most embarrassing moment for you?

I think our performance in the ultimate frisbee tournament during the Regional Fellows Conference was it. Literally not one of us had any frisbee experience, so we got destroyed.


4. How would you summarize your Fellows experience in one sentence?

Fellows was an awesome, 9-month program in which I learned a ton about myself, living in community and honestly, just being real with those around me.


5. What is one word you would use to describe the program?

Community.


6. How did God change your outlook on faith, family, community or work?

Work was probably the biggest change. When people talk about work, it is typically with a negative connotation. The Lord, through Seth, transformed my work. I really saw the transition of finding joy in what I was doing through my internship.


7. Favorite weekly activity?

Tuesday nights at oundtable were my favorite. I enjoyed that time. It was fun to come from work and be with everybody - Fellows and the Richardsons.


8. What advice would you give to prospective students interested in applying?

I would highly recommend Fellows. I think it's a great transition period between college to entering the workplace as a believer. It involves so much. We can't ever learn enough as far as what the transition looks like and understanding God as the same God He's always been. But my position in this world looks different now. It was very helpful.


9. In retrospect, what are you most thankful for from your time as a Fellow?

I am most thankful for my view of community. We see in Genesis that this life is made for community and every aspect of Fellows is done in community - work, tutoring, seminary, church, etc. I know what it's like to be isolated in the world. I'm thankful for the view of community Seth and Stacy modeled for us and the community we found in Fellows.


10. If you could go back, would you do it again?

I would for sure! 

alumni spotlight

heather mcgill (2012-2013)

1. Why did you choose to become a Briarwood Fellow? How did you hear about Fellows?

I chose Briarwood Fellows because I felt like it was a very appealing model for a year after college. Vocationally, I was considering full-time ministry and going into the marketplace. It was appealing to have a faith community where I could wrestle with vocational questions (and lots of others) while considering what the Lord would be drawing me to afterwards.


2. Did you have any pre-conceived notions about the program that were different in reality?

I didn't anticipate the host family component being so integral for me as I didn't really think about developing a deep relationship with my host home. But that was one of the dearest things the Lord provided for that year. I was embraced as their own daughter and my family let me see their marriage and how they parented. I walked through grief with them up close and personal. For somebody who had a healthy family growing up where the Lord was talked about, it was eye-opening to see how another Christian family does life. It was still good and still right. Being exposed to that was huge for me.


3. Most rewarding part of being a Briarwood Fellow?

God grew my love for the institution of the church that year. I had always gone to church consistently, but most spiritual growth in my life had come from para-church ministries. In a way, I feel like the Lord opened my eyes to how important it is to be committed and serving in a local church body. It has propelled me into the rich church community where I am now. Because of Fellows, I'm serving on the worship team and in the women's ministry.


4. How would you summarize your Fellows experience?

It was a year of intense, holistic growth for me as we looked at every aspect of life under a microscrope. Fellows has had a continual return on investment that's been wildly beneficial to me in this stage of life four years later.


5. What is one word you would use to describe the program?

Holistic - every aspect of life gets examined from a Christian worldview. I saw a lot of my friends move straight from college into their professional career, but they didn't think through the importance of being plugged in to a local church body or other things you're thinking about in the safe place of Fellows. As believers, it allowed us to think through approaching life well and according to God's Word so future flourishing is possible.


6. How did working in an internship jumpstart or prepare you for your career afterwards?

After working three internships in college, I realized I didn't want to pursue event management. I knew I was interested in marketing, so I felt like Fellows was a good year to have a different experience. My internship prepared me most for the discipline of getting in the cadence of being somewhere on time and working hard. I learned how to be dependable and a self-starter. Both have helped me in my current position because I have to be a self-starter to initiate new projects.


7. What was your favorite weekly activity?

Roundtable nights were my favorite. Just being in Seth and Stacy's house was so comfortable and safe with them. I felt like it was a night where we could all share what was going on and worship together. It was a night I looked forward to because it felt like a good, healthy pause being in intentional community together studying God's Word. Amongst the hectic schedule, Roundtable felt like a breath of fresh air that helped break up the week.


8. What advice would you give to prospective students interested in applying?

This is the one opportunity you have to invest nine months in a safe community of peers and mentors that will be the foundation for the rest of your life. It's not a gap year you're tacking on to figure out what you want to do - every aspect of the program is intentional.

alumni spotlight

rachel laster (2015-2016)

1. Why did you choose to become a Briarwood Fellow? How did you hear about Fellows?

I was involved with Campus Outreach in college, so I heard about the Briarwood Fellows program through that ministry, although I also knew others who had done it before. I originally considered Fellows because I thought it would be a good transition after school and I didn't know if I wanted to pursue vocational ministry or work in the marketplace. That's what Fellows is though - a combination of both ministry and marketplace. I'm also very community-oriented, so I was drawn to that aspect as well. 


2. Most rewarding part of being a Briarwood Fellow?

The community was the most rewarding part. It was two-fold: 1.) The community between the 12 Fellows and the Richardsons as well as 2.) the community found within the church as a whole. I felt known and welcomed at Briarwood. 


3. What was the most memorable moment?

Towards the end of the year we do our capstone projects and I did mine on the topic of homosexuality. When we were in Washington, D.C., all of us were together in the basement late one night talking. We started discussing homosexuality and I remember it being a really sharpening time for us all. People were coming from different angles and opinions, but we were searching together in truth. The conversation was very Gospel-centered and we prayed at the end. It was one of the more binding times we had altogether. 


4. Did you have a most embarrassing moment?

Being in the cave on the wilderness trip - no part of me is glad that I did it!


5. How would you summarize your Fellows experience in one sentence?

Briarwood Fellows is an (almost) effortless transition from college to "normal" life. It sets pieces in place and acts as a nice stepping stone as you transition into the real world when you finish. 


6. What is one word you would use to describe the program?

Unique. 


7. How did working in an internship jumpstart or prepare you for your career afterwards?

Working in an internship helped mold and shift what I thought I wanted to do. It gave me valuable experience that I needed. My internship also provided connections because of the people I've gotten to know with the job I now have at the church.


8. How did God change your outlook on faith, family, community or work?

When I started Fellows, I went in unsure of working in ministry or the marketplace. Now I realize I can do both. Ministry is a huge part of my life - it will always be. I know now I can have a holy view of work, and work a job that allows me to lead and be led by others. I've learned what it looks like to work in the routine of an 8-5 job and incorporate ministry into that schedule.


9. What advice would you give to prospective students interested in applying?

Your Fellows year is what you make it. There are many different elements and opportunities that it's 9 months full of life. There really is just so much - if you want a full and fun year, this is a great option!


10. In retrospect, what are you most thankful for from your time as a Fellow?

I am so thankful that I didn't miss a beat after graduating college. Fellows offered community, stability and a confidence of where I was living, what I was doing and what ministry looked like. Thinking back - the transition was very smooth and I watched some of my friends struggle through that time. Since then I've felt very stable even when my job hasn't always been.


11. If you could go back, would you choose it again?

Yeah, I would in a heartbeat!



If you'd like to contact Rachel with questions or comments, you can reach her at rachelklaster@gmail.com.

alumni spotlight

beth prinz (2014-2015)

1. Why did you choose to become a Briarwood Fellow? How did you hear about Fellows?

I heard about the Briarwood Fellows program through my campus ministry in college. I was trying to decide what to do after graduation since I wasn't sure what I wanted. Fellows seemed like a really good way to start post-grad life!


2. Did you have any pre-conceived notions about the program that were different in reality?

Each Fellows class is so different. I got to know the class ahead of me when I was starting Fellows. I kept expecting my year to be where they were, but that class had already gone through the program. Our community was initially different than I thought because it took time to get to know one another. By the end of Fellows it matched what I had expected, but took time to get there.


3. Most rewarding part of being a Briarwood Fellow?

The beach retreat in May. That trip was a really, really sweet time because every year it's the last thing you do together as a Fellows class. Everyone expressed their appreciation of each other and it ended up being an incredibly encouraging and uplifting week for the group. The beach retreat was a combination of being sad that Fellows was ending, but also realizing that you've gotten to know these people really well after spending 9 months together and you truly care about them. 


4. How would you summarize your Fellows experience in one sentence?

Fellows was the best way to prepare for the world after college.


5. How did working in an internship jumpstart or prepare you for your career afterwards?

God lined up all the pieces of the puzzle to prepare me for my career. During my Fellows internship I worked as a medical assistant. That role gave me a lot of experience working with people in that particular industry. The Lord has brought that experience back around now as I'm currently working as a chiropractic assistant. My internship during Fellows made the transition easy and it allowed me to feel very equipped for what I wanted to pursue after. 


6. What was your favorite weekly activity?

Roundtable. It's something that gets sweeter as time goes on!


7. What advice would you give to prospective students interested in applying?

Do it! Life can be scary after college, and the majority of us don't know what we want to do or how to start. Fellows helps give you a foundation from which you can step out and face the world. It helps you learn how to balance all aspects of life. Fellows taught me that work is important, but it's just a piece of the bigger picture. Those 9 months as a Fellow put everything into perspective, so when you do step out it's not scary. 


8. In retrospect, what are you most thankful for from your time as a Fellow?

I'm most thankful for the example that Seth and Stacy gave. It's bigger than what you're learning in class - but they live it out and mentor you through it. Dr. Friday is also a wealth of knowledge. He lives life well, so everything he teaches and does is worth noticing.


9. If you could go back, would you do it again?

Yes!

alumni spotlight

caroline chadwick (2015-2016)

1. What was the most rewarding part of being a Briarwood Fellow?

I loved the stability of knowing I was going to meet with everyone on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. It made a big difference having a community that I knew were all believers and following the Lord. I really benefited from having a very consistent schedule each week. 


2. Was there a most memorable moment during your 9 months?

When we were in Washington D.C., Madison was on a scooter because she had a hurt foot. During the week, people would take turns pulling her around the city as she sat on the scooter drinking her coffee. I will always have that image in my mind!


On a more serious note, there were a few roundtables where I specifically remember people being very real and all of us spending good time in prayer together. I felt like I got to see their hearts and hear what they had to say as I was pushed and challenged myself. I remember those times were very needed and we all enjoyed being together.


3. Most embarrassing moment?

My most embarrassing moment was on the second or third day of orientation. Seth had just talked about the importance of timeliness. The next day I woke up (not to my alarm) and realized orientation had started 6 minutes prior. I got ready in 10 minutes and ran into the meeting with my face bright red. I didn't know any of the fellows and was so embarrassed to be late right after Seth had talked about the importance of being on time!


4. How would you summarize your Fellows experience in one sentence?

The most needed time that I didn't really know I needed.


5. How would you describe the program in one word (or three)?

Hilarious, unexpected, adventure...


6. What are some ways working in an internship helped prepare you for your career afterwards?

My internship showed me how much I value my work environment and the people I work with. It confirmed that I'm a very relational person and thrive in that kind of context. Even when I had to wake up early for work or it was a hard day in the office, I learned how to have a positive attitude and enjoy being there.


10. How did God change your outlook on faith, family, community or work?

Overall, I think community was huge for me. In high school or college, I was part of a community, but Fellows was much more intentional. Fellows helped me think about how to love other people well and realize that my need for others is much deeper than I thought. I learned how to open up about areas of sin that I wouldn't have if others hadn't asked me and helped me realize them. My community in Fellows was so helpful as I learned how to be open and vulnerable from those around me. When I'm open about what's going on in my life, other people are as well and that is when community is real.


11. Did anything take you by surprise during Fellows?

I was surprised by how different we all were, but how much we got along and truly enjoyed being together. 


12. What advice would you give to prospective students interested in applying?

Take a hard look at what you're wanting from your year after graduation. If you're wanting to learn how to build a community and plug into a church, then I would seriously consider Briarwood Fellows. Fellows teaches you a lot, especially about the combination of faith and work together. And if you're wanting to have a really fun 9 months (while also making money), then this is a good option for you!


13. If you could go back, would you do it again?

Absolutely. No words added - absolutely!

alumni spotlight

matt allison (2014-2015)

1. Why did you choose to become a Briarwood Fellow?

I was a fifth year senior and all my friends who had already graduated did one of the Fellows programs. The opportunity that Briarwood Fellows gave to go to Nicaragua was huge because I love missions. I wanted to do ministry full-time, so I thought Fellows would provide a good foundation before launching into that.


2. Did you have any pre-conceived notions that were different in reality?

The internship turned out differently than what I expected. However, God used that to really grow me in ways that He wanted to grow me, rather than ways I wanted to develop. While my expectation for the internship was different than what I thought, God used it for my good in the long run (which I'm very thankful for).


3. Most rewarding part of being a Briarwood Fellow?

The most rewarding part was seeing the significance of being committed to a local church. I had been committed to a church in college, but spent 90% of my effort and energy toward a college ministry. Since Fellows is so engrained and invested in Briarwood Presbyterian Church, it really was a great experience to see what that commitment looks like. How do you spend time seeking the building of the church not just for the body, but being a part of the body? During Fellows, I was able to see the fuller purpose of why God has the church in our world. God's primary means is the local church and I felt like I experienced that for the first time during my Fellows year.


4. How would you summarize your Fellows experience in one sentence?

If I could go back in time, I would do it again.


5. What is one word you would use to describe the program?

Humbling.


6. One of the more difficult aspects of your 9 months as a Fellow?

I had a great community in college and lived with a lot of people in very close proximity. When I started Fellows, not only did I not get to choose my friends, but I didn't get to choose where I lived either. I learned you have to be much more intentional about spending time with people because you live in different parts of the city. It takes a lot of intentionality and effort on both sides to develop good and strong relationships.


7. How did God change your outlook on faith, family, community or work?

Before Fellows, I definitely had the mindset that to work in a ministry position was holier than to not work in a ministry-related job. Through Fellows, God showed me that you can do any job using the gifts He's given you to bring Him glory - whether that's working at a store, in high school ministry or at an accounting firm. God just desires that we work and gives us the freedom to choose. I was convinced that everybody should do a "ministry" job, but that would be silly and unproductive. God gifts people in all sorts of ways and every job is a form of ministry.


8. Favorite weekly activity?

Roundtable, for sure.


9. What advice would you give to prospective students interested in applying?

Apply - and do it!


10. If you could go back, would you do it again?

Yes! But with a more humble heart and open mind.

alumni spotlight

cort gatliff (2014-2015)

1. Why did you choose to become a Briarwood Fellow? How did you hear about Fellows?

My church in Memphis has a Fellows program, so I was aware of the program for several years. I learned about Briarwood Fellows in particular through a friend who was participating in the program. My post-graduation plan fell through, and I applied to Fellows in June. Seth and I talked, and I knew it would be a great fit.


2. What did you expect to learn through the program and how, if at all, did that differ from what you actually learned?

I didn't have many expectations for what I would get out of the program. I think I came in feeling like I had a solid understanding of what I believed or thought about certain things, but I left with new beliefs and an appreciation for other points of view. Being part of Fellows helped me discover what kind of church I want to be a part of.


3. Most rewarding part of being a Briarwood Fellow?

The most rewarding part was becoming friends with all of the other Fellows. Everyone in the group was so different, and I probably wouldn't have sought out most of those friendships naturally. But being in Fellows helps you learn how to become friends with people who have different beliefs and interests.


4. How would you summarize your Fellows experience in one sentence?

My Fellows year helped me discover what I want to pursue in a community, a church, and my relationship with God.


5. What is one word you would use to describe the program?

Revealing.


6. One of the more difficult aspects of your 9 months as a Fellow?

I was engaged during my Fellows year, so I was trying to juggle Fellows responsibilities, work and being engaged. It was really hard at times, but it helped me learn how to make the most of the small margins of free time in life.


7. How did God change your outlook on faith, family, community or work?

I think I'm still discovering how he changed my outlook. It's hard to sum up or describe. In my marriage, my work and my faith, there will be times when I'll be working through an issue and realize I'm using tools I developed in the Fellows program.


8. Did you have a favorite weekly activity?

Roundtable. Some of my favorite memories from Fellows are from walking into Seth and Stacy's home after a long day of work and being greeted by his adorable kids, a bunch of friends and some delicious food. I will always look back on those nights fondly.


9. What, if anything, took you by surprise during your 9 months in the program?

I was surprised by how much Seth and Stacy invited the Fellows to be a part of their lives. This isn't just Seth's job - it's his entire family's calling.


10. What advice would you give to prospective students interested in applying?

Go into the program open-minded. Don't try to make it what you think it should be; let it be what it is.


11. In retrospect, what are you most thankful for from your time as a Fellow?

I am most thankful for the relationships. Seth continues to be a mentor and friend. Many of the other Fellows remain close friends as well. The relationships that come out of the program are priceless.


12. If you could go back and do it again, would you?

:)

ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT

GRAHAM lowman (2012-2013)

1. How did you hear about Briarwood Fellows? Why did you choose to become one?

I was working with a ministry in East Asia and I didn't really know what I was going to do once I got back to the United States. My mom worked at the church, and she ran into Seth who told her about the program. It looked really interesting and fit with what I needed at the time. Working in East Asia wasn't particularly easy, and I knew coming back it would be hard not having believers around me in the workplace. After interviewing with the board, they sold me on how the Fellows would prepare me for work and help me get my feet set professionally. I knew I would need that kind of support and guidance.


2. What did you expect to learn through the program and how, if at all, did that differ from what you actually learned?

I'm a pretty career-driven person. I expected to build my skillset as a professional and learn how to live out my faith at work. Although those things are important, the program was so much more than that. I learned about who I was as a person on a much deeper level than I could have ever expected. Starting the Fellows program I thought I would learn about external factors - things outside myself. In reality, it was the complete opposite. It was a huge year of self-development and self-understanding. So much of what I learned was driven by relationships and engaging with the truly fantastic people involved in the program who loved on me more than I could have ever dreamed. I thought I would pour into others, but it was more of people pouring into and investing in me.


3. Most rewarding part of being a Briarwood Fellow?

I think Fellows changes your mindset. I'm a firm believer that the first few years out of college make a big difference in terms of your life path and where you end up going. For me, it was a wonderful chance to really reinforce that God truly matters in my everyday life. When you get into the workforce outside of Fellows, it's so easy to forget that.


4. What was one of the most memorable moments?

One of my favorite memories was when we were at The Fellows Initiative conference in Washington, D.C. At the end of the program was a talent show. While it was going on, the Alabama and LSU game was playing that year. The talent show was dragging on...so I was sitting next to Rosson Anderson and we decided to "discretely" watch the game in the middle of the conference room. Alabama scored the go-ahead touchdown with a few seconds left in the game, and Rosson jumped up and screamed right in the middle of one of the group performances. The guys in front of us turned around and were utterly appalled that we'd just interrupted the talent show. It was a running joke after that!


5. What is one word you would use to describe the program?

Unconditional. There are so many people - other fellows, Seth and Stacy, the Briarwood community - that showed unconditional love. There were so many times where I felt as if I wasn't able to give back to the people who had given to me, and they just continued to give. The guys in our group were extremely close in the program - they were 100% behind me the whole time when 90% of the time I had nothing to offer them. There are so many people involved in the Fellows program you don't even see, and those people are loving on and praying for you. That is probably one of the reasons it had such a big impact on me.


6. How did working in an internship jumpstart or prepare you for your career afterwards?

The Fellows program gives you a fantastic opportunity to get your feet set in your career. For me, I needed that extra time to make sure I made the right career choice. There's a perception that you need to start your career path immediately after college. But usually, if you just take one more year to figure it out, it makes a world of difference. I love what I'm doing right now. I know for a fact I wouldn't be here today if I hadn't been given that opportunity to explore what I want and love to do through Fellows.


If you look at where all the Fellows graduates are now, we have people with some really impressive resumes. There's a misconception that Fellows aren't ambitious or driven for not going straight into a career. It couldn't be farther from the truth - the vast majority of our graduates are doing extremely well and are positioned to play significant roles in their respective careers and professions.


7. Favorite weekly activity?

My favorite weekly activity was leading a small group. I really enjoyed being able to talk to and mentor the high school guys. As Fellows poured into me, it was a chance for me to make an immediate return on that investment. It was like we were friends - I wasn't expecting that. I took them to the movies and we had dinner at their houses. I respected them, they respected me. It was a really cool bonding experience - something I never anticipated.


8. What advice would you give to prospective students interested in applying?

Other than, do it? My advice would be to slow down. You need to realize that these are still formative years. Guys, in particular, get caught up in the ambition and drive for a career. But you still need development right out of college. You have 40 years of work ahead of you, it's important to make sure you're on the right track before you get started. 


It's almost like giving your first fruits to the Lord. Before going into your career, you need to make sure you're stable in your faith and you know how to live out your faith. Making Christ a priority early on changes the trajectory of your career. Taking that extra year to really make sure you understand what your faith means, especially in the workplace, is crucial. 


9. If you could go back, would you do it again?

Yeah, I definitely would! Coming back from East Asia, I thought I was good to go. But in reality, I needed a lot of spiritual development and a better understanding of who I am. I would definitely do it again because I wouldn't be where I am right now if I hadn't. 

ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT

aNNA WARREN (2015-2016)

1. Why did you choose to become a Briarwood Fellow? How did you hear about Fellows?

I heard about the Briarwood Fellows program from girls I worked with at camp. My first summer, two girls had just graduated and were about to start the program. After my graduation, I began looking at Briarwood Fellows again and really wanted to apply. I wanted to explore my faith and what it meant to live a Christian life. I felt like the chance to do life with a group of 11 other people was a very unique opportunity I wouldn't get down the road. I also wanted work experience and the opportunity to take theology classes. Briarwood's Fellows program was especially interesting to me. I had connections to Briarwood, but also thought their trip to Nicaragua was really neat because I wanted to go abroad and work in a developing country.


2. What was the most rewarding part of being a Briarwood Fellow?

The most rewarding part was the relationships that you have with the other fellows. You're with each other all the time and you get to know them really well. Also, the relationships with your host family, the people in the church and through your ministry concentration were very rewarding. It was so nice coming out of college having this built-in community after moving to a new city and not knowing many people.


3. Were any moments particularly memorable during those nine months?

All of our trips were especially memorable - we always had a new conference, trip or retreat to look forward to! I was always excited about the trips because we really cherished the times we spent together. In particular, the Nicaragua trip was very memorable. We would all hang out in the evenings where we would play games - ex: mafia on the bus ride. I have very vivid memories of us sitting outside and eating together. Good times!


4. How would you summarize your Fellows experience?

The most valuable part of Fellows was learning how to live a Christian life coming out of college when you're trying to figure out what direction your life will take. Being at Briarwood, I was able to see what it means to be a true follower of Jesus Christ and how that looks different for each person.


5. What is one word you would use to describe the program?

Community. You have that community with fellows from other programs and around the country even after your nine months are over.


6. How did working in an internship jumpstart or prepare you for your career afterwards?

Studying community development now, it's really great to have that internship experience I can talk about in class or to different organizations. Also through the MCORE test, I realized how much your motivations play into your career. It was especially valuable to learn what work environments are the best fit.


7. What was one of the more difficult aspects of your nine months as a fellow?

It was an adjustment living with a host family - not because my host family wasn't wonderful in every way (they were!) - but it was hard being a receptor of someone else's service. In other areas of the program we were the ones serving, but being served was difficult. In the host family situation you realize you can never give back what they've given to you.


8. Did you have a favorite weekly activity?

Roundtable and seminary classes were my favorite activities. Friday was my favorite day though because we'd go to class in the morning and see other fellows. Then we'd leave class feeling spiritually full after all that we had learned.


9. What advice would you give to prospective students interested in applying?

I mean, do it! Definitely apply. Fellows is a really unique opportunity and there's no other chance to be with 11 other people who are growing in the same way as you.


10. If you could go back, would you do it again?

Yes, I would! Fellows gave me an understanding of the real world that I really needed. I don't know what my year would have been like if I hadn't done the program. It was an important experience.

ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT

MORGAN MAYO (2013-2014)

1. Did you have any pre-conceived notions about the Fellows Program that were different in reality?

I don't think I realized how busy I was going to be. I didn't have many expectations, but I knew we'd be taking some classes and working with the church. I didn't realize how much we would be involved in. I learned the capacity the Lord has given me to handle things has immensely grown through all of the Fellows commitments.


2. What did you expect to learn through the program and how, if at all, did that differ from what you actually learned?

I definitely thought I would learn so many different things about God that I didn't know. The main thing I learned during Fellows was the Gospel and the Gospel lived out. I totally learned what the Gospel meant. I thought I already knew, but definitely learned it during Fellows.


3. What do you think it means for the Gospel to be lived out?

Dying to myself, my wants and my desires - focusing on others the way Christ has done that for us. The Gospel lived out means picking up our cross everyday and trusting Him. Every day in Fellows is so different - you have to literally trust the Lord that each day is a new day. Focusing on others was also difficult as I really struggled with being around people I didn't necessarily choose to be around. I had to rely on the Lord to die to myself. 


4. What was the most rewarding part of being a Fellow?

We had so many opportunities to serve people and learn in classes - so many opportunities to dive into a lot of areas that I wouldn't have necessarily chosen to do on my own.


5. What was one of the most memorable moments as a Fellow?

Some of the most memorable moments were on Tuesday nights at Roundtable. I really enjoyed the times that the girls got to spend together. We had so many sleepovers - I always spent the night with somebody. Overall, Tuesday nights and times spent with the girls were the most memorable.


One particular moment that was memorable was when we were in Nicaragua and I found out I got into nursing school. We had very minimal wifi. One email popped up and I found out. Tears started streaming down my face and one of the guys had to read the email to me. 


6. How would you summarize your Fellows experience in one sentence?

My Fellows year was one of the hardest, best and most rewarding years.


7. How did working in an internship jumpstart or prepare you for your career afterwards?

Working as a medical assistant, I got encouragement from the doctors I worked with to pursue nursing school. Actually working in a doctor's office in a Christian setting pushed me towards really pursuing it. 


8. How did God change your outlook on faith, family, community or work?

Well, kind of it all. Before, I put everything in its own compartment and then after Fellows, I learned to integrate those compartments together to live the "seamless" life. I learned that God controls all of it - not just this area or another. He controls the whole thing. He is in every part of my life, not just my home life or my work life.


9. What advice would you give to prospective students interested in applying?

Definitely apply. It is for sure one of the best things you could do after college. It is a great year to evaluate yourself and what you're doing. You have the opportunity to learn and grow intentionally with the Lord and other Christians as you learn how to be in community with people. 


10. If you could go back, would you do it again?

Absolutely. 

alumni spotlight

Caleb cleveland (2015-2016)

1. Why did you choose to become a Briarwood Fellow?

The main reason I chose to become a Briarwood Fellow was because I recognized that I was missing something. I thought I had a good idea of what life was going to look like, but during the summer before Fellows, I realized I was lacking something. It didn't feel right. I was dragging through the job I had and it didn't feel like a good fit for me. The idea of community and living a seamless life was really appealing.


2. What was your favorite weekly activity as a Fellow?

My favorite weekly activity was children's ministry on Wednesday night through Ignite. I also really loved roundtable and our seminary classes. I also enjoyed tutoring. Before Fellows, I felt that I was wasting so much time because the margins of my life were so big. In Fellows with a tighter schedule, I didn't have to worry about missing out on doing other things because what I was doing was really important.


3. What was the most rewarding part of the program?

The part that stood out to me the most and had the biggest impact on my life was giving up my time in several different areas to things I wouldn't have necessarily volunteered for. After taking the test that determines motivations, I realized that my top motivation was meeting needs. At the same time, I realized I was going the extra mile in service. I was trying to be different parts of the church body. Fellows did a really great job of helping me see what pieces of the body of Christ I function best as and gave me opportunities to serve in those capacities.


4. What was the most memorable moment?

The Nicaragua trip was probably the most memorable moment. It's hard to even say that - there were a lot! I thought I knew what to expect going in, but it was very different than what I had expected. Going door-to-door sharing the Gospel with people and getting invited into their homes was completely foreign to me. I got to see people I was really good friends with and had grown close to in community present the Gospel with someone who lived a completely different life than them. Something about being in another country, sharing the Gospel and seeing God work is so powerful. You start to see the small piece you are and how big God is. You see how He's working in Birmingham, Alabama and also in Esteli, Nicaragua. It's really cool to be able to be a part of God's plan to see how He uses each and every one of us. 


5. Did you have any embarrassing moments? If so, what were they?

Yes, 100%. On the plane ride back from Nicaragua I fell asleep with my mouth wide open. Jonathan and Erik were sitting next to me trying to stack pretzels in my mouth while I slept. Everyone was awake and laughing. That's probably the most embarrassing? 


6. How would you describe the program in one word?

Seamless.


7. How did working in an internship jumpstart or prepare you for your career afterwards?

When I first started Fellows, I told Seth I needed an internship that was very structured because I was lacking in self-motivation. I ended up with a retail position that was really easy, but over time could expand into doing marketing work and meeting with people - self-motivating things. I learned how to overcome the lack of motivation that I had before. The program itself helped me understand I really love teaching - and that's what I need to pursue. 


8. What advice would you give to prospective students interested in applying?

Do not let your fear or expectation of needing to start a job - regardless of your major - be a reason to not do Fellows. The Fellows Program is a great way to springboard into a career while preparing you to be successful.


9. In retrospect, what are you most thankful for from your time as a Fellow?

I'm thankful that God brought me to do the program. I'm thankful for the people I got to spend time with and the relationships I got to build. I'm thankful to Briarwood Presbyterian Church for hosting the program. I'm thankful for what the program is doing for the church. 

ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT

KATIE WILLIS (2013-2014)

1. Why did you choose to become a Briarwood Fellow?

Right after graduation, I knew I was doing CO Beach Project and then had no idea what I was going to do after. Seth had come to a CO meeting a month before to talk about Fellows, but I did not give it a second thought. I remember Matt Fransisco emailed me to tell me to look into the program and I went back to the Fellows website. I had such a peace about it. I don't think there was one specific reason why I chose Fellows, but the Lord had very clearly directed me and this was what I was supposed to do. I knew the Lord had answered that prayer.


2. What did you expect to learn through the program and how, if at all, did that differ from what you actually learned?

I don't really know what I expected to learn from Fellows. It was amazing, but it was a lot harder than I expected it to be. It was the first time in my life I had been put in such close contact with people that were very different than myself. It showed me a whole lot about myself and how I view people who are different than me. I think I learned a lot about the Church because of that - a body of believers that are all very different. 


3. What was the most rewarding part of being a Briarwood Fellow?

For me, I think it was that it brought me to Briarwood Presbyterian Church. I did not actually become a believer until halfway through my junior year of college. It wasn't until Fellows and Briarwood that I experienced consistent church attendance, worshiping with other believers and people constantly pouring into me. 


4. Do you have a memorable moment during your nine months?

The Washington D.C. trip. I had never been to D.C. before, and I fell in love so hard and so fast. I was researching living in D.C. and how I could make it happen.


5. How would you summarize your Fellows experience in one sentence?

Being in the Fellows program was the best thing that I didn't know I needed...it was the best thing I could have done right after college.


6. How would you describe the program in one word?

What is one word that means: "it works"? Effective. 


7. Did you have a favorite weekly activity?

Hands-down Roundtable. Although I did love the seminary classes too. Roundtable was so refreshing and such a good time of being able to come together and be intentional, but relax and enjoy each other's company. We learned what being vulnerable with other people looks like. 


8. What advice would you give to prospective students interested in applying?

Do it. It was such an incredible experience for me. Fellows was such a good way to transition out of college. 


9. Would you go back and do it again?

Oh yeah. 100%.