Higher education with a higher purpose
Jeannie Trudel wants tertiary students to grow in faith, not just learning
When Jeannie Trudel studied law at Monash University in Melbourne, there was nothing in her course that gave her an opportunity for development as a Christian believer or as a person.
“I learnt about the law, I learnt about economics, but I did not have the experience where my identity was realised in my profession – it’s like there’s a separation of life into professional life and then there’s church life,” says the president and CEO of Christian Heritage College (CHC) in Carindale, Brisbane.
By contrast, students who take degree courses at CHC and other Christian higher education institutions are more integrated and able to serve holistically in every sphere of life.
“Don’t get me wrong – secular institutions have a place in society that is good but it’s not for everyone,” says Trudel. “In contrast, when I look at our CHC graduates, the common theme is ‘my life has been transformed, I know who I am, and I know who I serve.'”
About 700 students take degree courses at CHC across five fields – business, education and humanities, liberal arts, social sciences and ministries – with the critical difference that they are shaped by a biblical worldview.
“My premise is this: the 18- to 24-year-olds are [at] a critical time for spiritual development. In Australia, parents will spend a lot of money on K-12 education because they believe they want to instil values in their kids. But at very critical junctures of their lives, parents are willing to send their kids off to secular institutions and you find that the greatest fallout is during those years,” she observes.
“So why is it that we are not valuing Christian higher education in Australia, where we can develop students and see their lives transformed during their transition into full adulthood? That’s what we offer.”
“We want to develop students and be part of their journey of transformation” – Jeannie Trudel
In the US, the Christian university sector is well established – the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities has more than 100 members – and Trudel would love to see the sector in Australia grow in numbers, influence and innovation.
Trudel hopes to develop the sector through a new body called ACHEA (Australian Christian Higher Education Alliance), which has seven members.
“I believe that CHC has an important role to play in the kingdom of God. We want to develop students and be part of their journey of transformation, so that they can serve effectively wherever they’re called in business, social sciences, in ministry, in education.
‘I would love to see more of that happen not just for CHC but for Christian higher education in Australia.”