#MyWheaton Alumni Blog

Posted December 7, 2016 by
Tags: Young Alumni The Liberal Arts Entrepreneurship Graduate School Spiritual Life


It was during the celebration of my bachelor’s degree that someone mentioned the Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) program at Wheaton College’s Graduate School to me. The thought of continuing my studies at this prestigious college had never occurred to me, and I was not sure if I would even be accepted. As I considered applying, I realized that strengthening marriages had been a passion of mine for many years. I had spoken on the topic both in the United States and abroad, and as I worked alongside my husband, Paul, who is Lead Pastor of Wheaton Christian Center, we knew that there was something missing in our counseling sessions. 

With both a personal passion and ministry need, I applied to Wheaton’s MFT program. As I moved through the program, I was most attracted to the integration of faith and learning. It was during the time I was enrolled in the program that my husband and I became burdened by visiting several of our youth in the DuPage County Jail. We knew something had to change. As I studied the effects of mental illness in African-American families, I knew that I had to be a part of the solution. The tipping point for me was when I was in a MFT class with Dr. Jake Johnson, learning about a day in the life of a Chicago teenager. My heart broke and I realized that we had to help stop the cycle of trauma and recidivism (a person's relapse into criminal behavior) in the African-American community. 


Out of this passion, I co-founded the Carlton Center of DuPage and Kane Counties (CCKD). CCKD provides anger management resources, substance abuse counseling, job-readiness and life skills training, and other services to juvenile offenders and at-risk youth. In addition, spiritual and psychotherapy counseling services and parenting classes are offered to the youth and their families. Our goal is to help reduce the recidivism rate in the African-American population, which research shows is quite high. We want to do something to change the trajectory of youth who often lack parental monitoring, resources, and good role models. We are currently working with Kane County Probation Services to provide the required services. 

My time in the Marriage and Family Therapy program at Wheaton College taught me to appreciate my own vulnerability so that I can now walk alongside others in their times of need. The knowledge I received was comprehensive and life-changing. I am grateful to have received this opportunity to develop myself in ways that allow me to continue pursuing God’s call on my life.


Fiona Arthurs M.A. ’15 received a master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) from the Wheaton College Graduate School. She is a women’s ministry pastor at Wheaton Christian Center, author of Foolish Things Wives Do to Mess Up Their Marriages (EGEA Publications, 2015), and is co-founder of the Carlton Center of DuPage and Kane Counties (CCKD). Photo captions (from top): Fiona speaks to an audience of over 15,000 in Harare, Zimbabwe, on healing emotional wounds from childhood—the audience included government officials and women from all walks of life; Fiona with The Carlton Center Staff on their first day of classes in Spring of 2016—all staff are volunteers and have various backgrounds including criminal justice, law enforcement, education, and more. 

To connect with alumni in various careers and vocations nationwide, join Wheaton in Network, a Vocation and Alumni Engagement program that allows alumni and parents to make themselves available to advise or mentor Wheaton students and recent grads. Students and alumni are able to contact advisers or mentors to learn from their experiences. To learn more about Wheaton College Graduate School programs, connect with Wheaton College Graduate School Admissions. Set up a visit, or apply now.

yeesum-loThe past ten years of my life have included living in five cities and an adventure at every turn. God has surprised me in so many ways with how He has brought me from my hometown of Hong Kong, to Wheaton, to New York, to Los Angeles, and finally, to my current place in Sydney, Australia. 

My career in entertainment started at Wheaton, crewing on small digital projects late at night in the Smith/Traber basement, producing an embarrassingly bad class film, directing short films with my favourite Improv troupe, “Faux Posse,” when Marty Jones ’10 and Tim Hunt ’10 hosted the Talent Show. In my second year, I landed a summer internship at NBC Universal in New York City and effectively started my first real job in television. I met a producer through Dr. Ken Chase (who was kind enough to make an introduction even though I didn’t take any classes with him!) and relocated to Los Angeles as an associate in that producer’s media company after I graduated. Shortly thereafter, I was accepted into the University of Southern California’s Peter Stark Producing Program—a highly regarded MFA program at the world’s best film school. From there, I was placed in an internship, which turned into a full-time job at what was then Reveille Productions (“The Office,” “Ugly Betty”). Today, I work for Endemol Shine Australia, the Australian arm of Endemol Shine Group, one of the largest global television production houses in the world—home of “MasterChef,” “Big Brother,” “Deal or No Deal,” “Black Mirror,” and many more. 

I wake up every morning and head to work with Dr. Leland Ryken’s words in my ears—that is, to avoid the “cheap and tawdry”—even now that I am almost eight years into a career in entertainment. In the world of reality television where the mandate is often to create “car crash TV,” avoiding the superficial is certainly a tall order. I have been given wonderful opportunities to work with industry mentors, senior producers, and business executives who have made immense efforts to go beyond their call of duty and promote a culture that values integrity and inspiration in storytelling; who go against the grain in an industry culture that rewards deceit and scandal. It is an immense responsibility to play a part in bringing the human narrative of our generation to a global audience and shaping our culture in ways both big and small. I certainly know that I approach all the work that I do with a deep respect for integrity, always considering how we can use the influence we have to influence more people for the better. 

The industries that seem farthest and most discordant with our faith and the values that accompany it are always the ones that are most in need of the messages of hope and grace. While it never seems to get any easier, the daily challenges, the many failures, and the moments of redemption strengthen our faith. Wheaton was a safe space for me to foster my interest in the entertainment field (I still remember the rush of seeing my work on the Edman Chapel screen), but more importantly, my education at Wheaton gave me a firm foundation of faith to stand on as I boldly pursue a career in the media industry. 


Yeesum Lo ’09 graduated from Wheaton with a degree in English literature and a minor in biblical and theological studies. She went on to receive a master’s degree from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts - Peter Stark Producing Program in 2012, and currently works as a Corporate Project Manager and Producer at Endemol Shine Australia. Yeesum has worked on global television formats including “The Voice,” “MasterChef,” “The Biggest Loser,” and many more. She also produced The Great Australian Spelling Bee, something that her English major “played a huge part in making [her] qualified for.” Photo captions (from left): Yeesum working on set at Fox Studios Australia; Yeesum on the set of The Voice.

To connect with alumni in various careers and vocations nationwide, join Wheaton in Network, a Vocation and Alumni Engagement program that allows alumni and parents to make themselves available to advise or mentor Wheaton students and recent grads. Students and alumni are able to contact advisers or mentors to learn from their experiences.

I am a firefighter/EMT in the Denver, Colorado metro area. We are an “all hazard” fire and rescue agency that responds to structure fires, medical emergencies, technical rescues, water rescues, wildfires, hazardous material incidents, and other emergency situations. 

I love going to work. while I still have much to learn about my job, I am surrounded by people who go out of their way to help me become a better public servant and man at literally any time of the day or night. We do not just work together as firefighters--we live together as a family. 

One of the greatest challenges about my job is seeing people who are deeply hurting. I see the realities of the world’s brokenness and sin in very raw ways on the job; however, as Chaplain Kellough once said to me, “God equips whom he calls,” and the mercy of God continues to provide me strength and hope daily. 

Many people are surprised that I ended up in the fire service after completing a degree in Christian education at Wheaton College, and ask me when I changed my mind. In reality, I never did. 

While I didn’t start dreaming this job until my senior year at Wheaton, I have felt drawn to this type of career for quite some time. My work goes beyond the job description--it provides an opportunity to build strong community, serve the oppressed, challenge false definitions of masculinity, and be a good steward of my gifts and abilities. The beautiful thing is that I learned all of these things at Wheaton. 

I also had the opportunity to play football at Wheaton for two years. During that time I grew tremendously and made incredible friends, but one of the best things that occurred was a career-ending injury. Over the course of a few weeks, I went from starting defensive end to water boy. While my first reaction was profound bitterness, I eventually realized that Jesus did not die for me because I could tackle quarterbacks or because I belonged to an outstanding team. 

Anyone who has lost something that defines them can relate. When I eventually got over myself, I came to see a lot of sin in my life that needed to go and a Savior who was willing to take all of it. I realized that I had no reason to boast in myself or my abilities, and that ultimately helped me learn how to see others as Christ sees me. In a job where it’s easy to grow tired of being compassionate, the ability to see each person I encounter with the eyes of Jesus is a total game changer. 

I hope we can realize that ministry is not exclusive to churches, non-profits, international missions, camps, etc. As those redeemed by Christ, we belong to a priesthood of believers in which there is no professional hierarchy. Though we are led into different vocations, the only reason that we have life at all is because Jesus first forgave us. Work is not a “necessary evil,” but an opportunity to love, serve, and honor God. 

My advice to Wheaton students is focus your efforts on loving others instead of appearing impressive. You will get far more out of your time at Wheaton and will be a better person for it. Embrace the concept of “relevant irrelevance,” and if you don’t know what that means, email me or ask Dr. Laura Barwegen. Also, observe the Sabbath. Busyness is overrated. The Creator is wise in commanding us to rest. After all, we find great meaning and abundant life not when we attempt to honor ourselves, but when we honor God and our neighbors. 

Ryan Kerns ’15 graduated with a degree in Christian education and ministry. He currently works as a firefighter/EMT in the Denver, Colorado, metro area. Photo caption: Ryan on shift in Denver. 

To learn more about Wheaton, connect with Wheaton College Undergraduate Admissions. Set up a visit, or apply now. To connect with alumni in various careers and vocations nationwide, join Wheaton in Network, a Vocation and Alumni Engagement program that allows alumni and parents to make themselves available to advise or mentor Wheaton students and recent grads. Students and alumni are able to contact advisers or mentors to learn from their experiences. 


I started running at the age of 12. I continued to run because through running, I found success, friendships, and joy. Back then, I didn’t–I couldn’t–know that running would become the hobby/passion/pursuit that it is for me today. Even when I resolved to run collegiately and I was accepted into and chose to attend Wheaton College, I had no sense that I would be running marathons and chasing down Olympic Trial qualifying standards. 

Time passes, we do what we need to do in order to take the next step, and we move forward. We weigh our options and try to figure out what it is that we want. We pray. We trust and hope that we are headed in the right direction. And life unfolds. 

I studied political science and theology at Wheaton, a double major that I wasn’t sure how I’d use. I loved ideas–about the role of government in a democracy and how the Early Church understood the Trinity. I was energized by discussions of Barth’s doctrine of revelation and the Electoral College and the role of women in the church. Wheaton was a good fit and a safe space for me. I learned to think critically–most significantly, about myself and about God.

Competing in varsity track and cross country at Wheaton affirmed my passion for running. It gave me an opportunity to grow my talents, find my strengths, and it taught me what it means to be accepted and loved. My best friends were–and continue to be–my teammates on the cross country and track teams. Running, much like Wheaton, attracts and creates good people. 


The stock market crashed in September of my senior year at Wheaton. I watched friends graduate and enter an “adult life” that seemed hard and tedious. I wasn’t ready to stop learning. I prayed and hoped and weighed my options. That’s more or less how I came to earn a Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary. 

I ran my first marathon the fall after I graduated Wheaton because my friends were doing it. I continue to run marathons because through training and competing in them, I develop friendships, experience success, and find joy. 

At its most basic level, running is about taking the next step. Basic, but not easy when, as I have often found, moving forward involves coming to terms with yourself–your limitations and false assumptions, but also your unacknowledged strengths and fundamental beliefs. 

The analogies between life, faith, and running a marathon are many and frequently drawn. No more significantly than in these pivotal moments: moments of decision, movement, and of defining strength. In the classroom and through running, Wheaton prepared me, in a myriad of intentional and accidental ways, for these moments, and in them, to be brave and tough, supported by faith, and hopeful toward life’s unfolding.


Lisa Baumert ’09 earned a Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary in 2012, and majored in political science and theology at Wheaton. She currently works for Public Radio International in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she lives with her husband, Jaron Balgaard ’08. She attained NCAA All-American status as a member of the varsity cross country and track teams at Wheaton where she also set school records and was a multiple National Meet qualifier. Lisa qualified for and competed in the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Trial Marathons after graduation. 

Photo captions (from top): Lisa celebrates graduation from Princeton Theological Seminary; Lisa and Brandon Mull ’08 with friends at the conclusion of the Olympic Trial Marathon in Los Angeles, February 2016; Lisa running in Minneapolis, where she runs with the Twin Cities Track Club and dreams of one day owning a pug. 

To connect with alumni in various careers and vocations nationwide, join Wheaton in Network, a Vocation and Alumni Engagement program that allows alumni and parents to make themselves available to advise or mentor Wheaton students and recent grads. Students and young alumni are able to contact advisors or mentors to learn from their experiences.


Caleb and I married shortly after I graduated from Wheaton and spent the next eight years traveling wherever the Army took us. We had tossed around the idea of getting out of the military but had not come to a consensus before Caleb left on what would be his final deployment. While serving with 1st Group Special Forces in Afghanistan, he started reading about farming. He called home midway through his deployment and told me that he thought we should consider farming, specifically raising pastured meat and eggs. I was surprised to say the least, but I tried to have an open mind and entertain the possibility. 

After further research, prayer, and lots of conversations, we chose to get out of the Army and pursue what was becoming our shared dream. We spent the following two years learning from internationally acclaimed farmer, author and speaker Joel Salatin and his son Daniel of Polyface Farms in Swoope, Virginia. One year ago we struck out on our own and are now in Caleb’s hometown of Jackson, Tennessee. Today, we are proud to serve our community by providing chicken, beef, pork, lamb, and eggs that are both healthy and beneficial to the environment.

One of the greatest joys of farm life has been the ability and freedom to work together as a family. This is an obvious contrast to our experience in the military, where we had little to no interaction with Caleb’s work. Our kids have loved the transition to farming and the excitement of raising all kinds of critters! We also believe that the farm provides a wonderful platform for them to learn hard work, entrepreneurship, patience, and faithfulness; and that’s just a start.  


While we are grateful for the decision we made three years ago, our move to the farm has not been an easy one. One of the biggest challenges that we face is the financial reality of starting a business, especially one with significant upfront costs. We have been stretched to trust the Lord in new ways and to rely on Him for everything from the life of our animals to providing customers to purchase our products. The Lord has been patient with us as we learn to trust Him more each day.

Another major challenge has been educating our consumers. In a culture that celebrates and reinforces the concept that cheaper is better, it is an uphill battle to get people to ask the “why’s” about their food choices. “Why is my burger so cheap?” “What does the term ‘natural’ really mean?” And so on. There is a direct correlation between the decreasing price of food and the increased cost of healthcare. Food matters. And the way we grow that food matters. If we began to ask more questions about where our food comes from and the life it lived before it landed on our plate, I believe that we would make vastly different choices.      

Amidst the challenges and successes, we are keenly aware of the road that has led us here and all the tools that the Lord has used to prepare us for this season.  Our time at Wheaton is at the top of that list, and we share a sense of gratitude for our time there.  We believe that Wheaton does a wonderful job at teaching students to think outside the box. Whether it was Caleb’s training with ROTC or my semester abroad with Human Needs and Global Resources ( HNGR), we both felt challenged to go beyond our natural capacity, to improvise, think on our feet, make connections with people, and see it all through the lens of the Gospel. In starting our own business, we rely heavily on those skills and perspective.

Both Caleb and I look back at our time at Wheaton with an almost idyllic fondness, forgetting all the sleepless nights studying and the frigid Chicago winters. But it is the people–the friendships, the teachers, and the coaches–that stick out. It is the group of believers, joining together in pursuit of Jesus. It is the common bond of the Spirit that allows for open dialogue in an academic setting. For us, Wheaton represents a time in our life when we felt safe to ask questions, wrestle, seek guidance, and in the end, be reassured that God is in fact good and faithful and His Word is true.


Capt. Caleb ’05 and Betsy Johnson Curlin ’06 are co-owners of Marmilu Farms in Jackson, Tennessee, where they reside with their four children. Caleb graduated with a B.A. in Communication, and Betsy graduated with a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies ( biblical and theological studies / Christian formation and ministry). Photo captions (from top): Margo driving her sisters around the farm; Caleb with a newborn lamb; the Curlin’s second-born, Micah, out for a walk at sunset.

To connect with alumni in various careers and vocations nationwide, join Wheaton in Network, a Vocation and Alumni Engagement program that allows alumni and parents to make themselves available to advise or mentor Wheaton students and recent grads. Students and young alumni are able to contact advisors or mentors to learn from their experiences.