Inside the Discussion

Junior biostatistics major Matt Gilleskie explores the Soul of the University

Gilleskie focuses on one of his many assignments

By Matt Gilleskie

In the discussion group “The Soul of the University,” the North Carolina Study Center is challenging students and faculty to examine the institution of the university through a gospel-focused lens. The group offers an array of academic experience which provokes discussion and introduces helpful ideological diversity. Among those present include a retired computer science professor, a classics major, a philosophy major turned accounting Ph.D., an Anglican priest, and roughly ten more students, undergraduate and graduate.

I spend the majority of my time immersed in its culture, and yet I rarely question its practices and methodologies.

A brief scripture reading typically begins our discussion, which hinges on a short article. Thus far, we have read essays by George Marsden and Nicholas Wolterstorff. We have learned  in large part through the application of readings to specific academic situations. My participation in the group forces me to think critically about the institution of the university. As a student, I spend the majority of my time immersed in its culture, and yet I rarely question its practices and methodologies. I am learning that the Gospel relates to all of life, not superficially like I once assumed, but deeply, so deeply that I cannot comprehend it totally. The wisdom of others in the discussion group, both in the form of assigned readings and the wealth and variety of academic experience, help me to plumb these depths. Because of this group, I consider more carefully the institution of the university and my place in it as a follower of Christ.

Summer Reflections: La Familia

Junior Robbie Wooten shares memories from his time at Pico Escondido, a Young Life camp in the Dominican Republic

Robbie (far right, highest in the air) catches some air with his friends.


Sitting at the Study Center, eating Harris Teeter sandwiches and drinking tea with friends, I feel at home once again in Chapel Hill. Cole asks me about my summer, and I begin to panic.  How could I summarize my month-long mission trip in one brief sentence?  I only have one shot before he loses focus.  Here it goes.

“It was amazing… a really life-giving experience. We had such a family down there, working together to build for God’s kingdom in the DR.  Jesus was really with us.” 

I feel pretty satisfied with that answer.  Cole seems interested and happy to hear about it.

Indeed Jesus was with us.  Our community was really close.  We were a family.  I made lifelong friends, around the country and around the globe.  We got so close because we were on mission together.

This was not just any mission, either.  We were living in the middle of poverty, preparing a beautiful Young Life camp for Dominican kids.  We were praying for Jesus to bring his Kingdom of justice and love to the DR, and together we were raking grass to help make it happen.  It was a really exciting mission.

Our community was really close.  We were a family.  I made lifelong friends, around the country and around the globe.

I miss my mission trip friends.  We had a good thing going.  We shared a purpose.  You simply cannot beat the fellowship of co-mission!  I am excited to get back to it soon.  But I am in school for at least one more year.  Am I going to simply look past this year to whatever mission lies beyond?

Drinking my hot breakfast tea at the Study Center, I see a community before my eyes.  These friends are asking me questions.  Brandt makes a silly joke and I laugh.  It is good to be with them.  We are not working together in the DR, but we are sharing life together.  We are encouraging one another.  Seeking to discern God’s call on our lives.  Learning together.

I look down at a book I have found from the Study Center shelf.  It is a proposal for understanding the unity of the New and Old Testaments.  I have heard lots in class about how they supposedly do not line up, but I am beginning to see a cohesive story in the Bible.  It is a story of Justice at work from Genesis to Luke to Revelation, a story of God’s people expanding and growing as a missionary community of friends.  I am realizing I want to be a part of God’s story wherever I am.  I am happy to be living, fellowshipping and studying for just a little bit longer in Chapel Hill.

Summer Reflections: Merciful Justice

Rising junior Mariah Harrelson spent her summer on the most famous hill in America, Capitol Hill

By Mariah Harrelson

This summer, I was blessed by the amazing opportunity to intern in a North Carolina Senator’s district office and a congressional D.C. office. I’m beginning my junior year studying Political Science and Public Policy this fall, and not only have I learned so much this summer about my studies, but God has also been moving in incredible ways to reaffirm His calling for my life and gift me with opportunities to glorify Him with my passion for policy work.

The calling found in Micah 6:8 has motivated my desire to pursue a career in policy and the justice system:

“And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

More than ever this summer I have seen that – just as Christ advocates for us – we as Christians have the opportunity, both through our daily interactions and careers, to demonstrate the Gospel by being advocates for others.

Washington, D.C. is an intersection of ideologies, people from across the nation and those from around the world. Throughout my internship, I was able to have conversations about faith and politics with those I met. Absolute truth, the validity of the Bible, and religion versus relationship were among the topics of discussion as opportunities arose to share the reason behind my career goals.

I am so excited to return to Chapel Hill this fall with a renewed context and vision for the future through my involvement in Student Government, Cru, the Campus Y, and the Study Center’s Lydia Group, a mentorship community for undergraduate women. For me, the Study Center has been the intersection of academics, faith, and community at Carolina, and this group has continuously encouraged me to seek a career rooted in Christ, pursue my passion, and invest in those around me. God has already used the Study Center in incredible ways, and I cannot wait to see how God will use the Study Center this fall to continue the work He’s already started both in my life and in our Carolina community!