Biola Welcomes New Faculty for Fall 2018

20 new faculty members join Biola’s esteemed faculty

Sep. 27, 2018 By Caleb Aguilera

Biola University welcomes 20 new faculty members and two faculty appointments this fall — each of whom represent the university’s aspiration to attract and retain the finest Christian scholars. The new professors vary in interest and expertise from forensic DNA and agricultural development to narrative game design.

 

To learn about Biola’s new faculty, read their thoughts below on the value of Christian higher education and the significance of a strong foundation in their specific fields.

 

School of Humanities and Social Sciences

 

Laurie Wilson

Torrey Honors Institute

 

Laurie Wilson received her master’s degree in Greek and Latin and her doctoral degree in classics from the University of St. Andrews where she was an H.B. Earhart Foundation Fellow and a Postgraduate Fellow in the James Wilson Programme for Constitutional Studies. This background reflects her passion for interdisciplinary research, which has focused on Augustine, Cicero and writings from the American founders. Wilson has taught at University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif., Trinity Christian School in Kailua, Hawaii where she also served as a consultant to the Board of Directors and at Pacific Rim Christian University in Honolulu, Hawaii.

 

“My faith causes me to view education as never neutral but value laden,” Wilson said. “I view all subjects as integrated, across time as well as academic disciplines, with theology at the center. Within this context, the great books are not the study of futile questions but rather a search for discoverable answers. Certainly, our knowledge has limits, but we are the children of a Father who is both transcendent and immanent, who speaks to us through Scripture, reveals himself through creation, and gives us the daily inward assurance of his Spirit. Reading the great books within the context of Christian higher education enables students to examine the ways that faith gives purpose to their studies, transforms their perspectives, impacts their lives and motivates them to use their knowledge in the loving service of others.”

 

School of Fine Arts and Communication

 

Astri Swendsrud

Art

 

Astri Swendsrud is a visual artist and educator who lives and works in Los Angeles. Since 2009, she has taught at Biola and other institutions across Southern California as an adjunct instructor. Swendsrud focuses on interdisciplinary practices, which includes creating drawings, sculptures, performances and installation environments that investigate issues of belief, interpretation and transformation. Swendsrud received her Master of Fine Arts from CalArts in 2008. Her work is regularly exhibited in solo and group shows nationally, including exhibitions at Los Angeles galleries JOAN, Richard Telles Fine Art and many others. Additionally, Swendsrud is co-founder and co-director of the artist-run exhibition space Elephant in Los Angeles. Her book, “The Semi-Tropic Spiritualist Guidebook,” will be published in November 2018 by Insert Blanc Press.

 

“The visual arts are located at a fascinating cultural intersection, with ties to philosophy, metaphysics, politics, history and popular culture, among other disciplines,” said Swendsrud. “From this position, the artist finds herself in a place to cast a critical eye on what she observes, to examine the prevailing norms that often distract us from contemplating and understanding the ideas, principles and values that govern our views of the world. This penchant for cultural engagement and critique allows artists to have a strategic voice in society — a voice that confronts that which is perceived to be socially, intellectually or ethically damaging and that has a platform to present new ways of thinking, being and doing. As an art professor within the context of Christian higher education, I encourage my students to question, study, explore and grow — to become thoughtful and engaged voices within culture as effective visual communicators.”

 

Anna Sinclair

Media, Journalism and Public Relations

 

Anna Sinclair earned her Bachelors of Science in Public Relations at Northern Arizona University and her Masters of Organizational Leadership at Biola University. Sinclair spent several years working for the Museum of Making Music in Carlsbad, Calif. and then transitioned to Mariners Church in Irvine, Calif. Volunteerism was a major role within her positions at both institutions. Her master’s thesis included study on the generational and professional differences of individuals which in turn affect where and how those individuals volunteer their time. Based on her research, Sinclair created a model for strategic and targeted volunteer outreach that institutions such as museums could utilize for their docent programs. After her time at Mariners Church, Sinclair accepted a position at Ambassador Advertising Agency, where she served as an account executive for nearly seven years. Sinclair learned the broadcasting industry in full while working with such clients as Joni Eareckson Tada, Elizabeth George, Gary Chapman and other Christian ministries that utilize radio broadcasting. She transitioned from working at Ambassador full-time to becoming an adjunct at Biola teaching in the Media, Journalism and Public Relations department.

 

“In both the public relations and leadership industry, it's all about people,” said Sinclair. “And the best way to succeed with people is by establishing trust, integrity and moral character. Without those foundations, everything fractures. So too with the Christian faith. Were it not for the foundation of Christ, the ultimate example of trust, integrity and moral character, everything around us — including our very selves — falls away. So, in essence, a strong Christian faith within these fields is not just significant. It's everything.”

 

 

School of Science, Technology and Health

 

Lori Peirson

Communication Sciences and Disorders


Lori Peirson comes to Biola with 32 years of experience from St. Jude Medical Center, where she

provided care to patients with a wide variety of medical diagnoses. During her time there, she managed the Speech Pathology Department, bringing in new programs and therapy techniques to ensure state of the art care given by highly skilled clinicians. Her department grew from eight speech language pathologists to a total of 28. She now provides the oversight for the Biola Speech Clinic for undergraduate and graduate students, and she organizes the graduate externship placements across Southern California. Throughout Peirson’s career, it has been her passion to help the next generation of speech language pathologists gain the knowledge and skills required to be an excellent clinician while sharing her faith with patients, co-workers and students. Now, as the Clinic Coordinator at Biola, she has a greater opportunity to spread that passion to students by helping them integrate their faith and share the love of Christ as they serve a broken and hurting world. She joins in the mission and vision of the Communication Sciences and Disorders Department in her desire to grow students into strong clinicians with a heart to serve others with excellence and show the love of God to the millions of people with communication disorders.

 

“God created mankind with the ability to communicate at a level of complexity and sophistication that no other creature on earth was given,” said Peirson. “The ability to communicate in this manner is what makes us human. However, many people experience impairment of communication which negatively impacts their ability to express their basic needs, wants and desires. Our Communication Disorders Department makes it a priority to incorporate faith into our student’s daily activities. When they go out from Biola and into their first job, they will be able to minister to their patients’ mind, body and spirit — impacting them for Christ. They will have many opportunities to speak with them about the Lord, pray with them or simply pray for them. Because of their strong foundation in the Lord they can be confident in sharing the precious message of salvation with others.”

 

Patrick Sun

Biological Sciences

 

With deep cultural ties to the oceans and a passion for environmental stewardship, Patrick Sun pursued a doctorate at the University of Southern California in Marine and Environmental Biology and continued training as a postdoctoral fellow in the Leonard Davis School of Gerontology. His research examines differences in stress response to pollution and climate change in different populations, between sexes and at different ages. Research and professional development have taken him across the globe from local destinations such as Catalina and the Santa Cruz Islands to international locations such as Hong Kong and Thailand where he was instilled with a wonder of God and love for his people. Sun hopes to equip the next generation of environmental stewards who will safeguard our natural resources and the people that depend on those resources.

 

“I believe a Christian university seeks to preserve the original intent and original calling God has for higher education, which is the integration of faith and learning by implementing an educational theory based on Scripture,” Sun said. “This allows Christian universities to assist in the development of their students both spiritually and academically. As we integrate our faith and learning we can build a foundation based on the ultimate truth of God revealed through Scripture. Integrating faith into every level of academic pursuits leads to true academic freedom. Institutions of higher learning strive to develop cultures of objectivity, free of bias. However, only true freedom is found in Jesus Christ (Galatians 5:1). As a result, Christian universities are the bastion of true academic freedom where students are trained to become lifelong learners that are equipped to effectively pursue the ultimate truth of the universe, found only in God.”

 

Kelsey Miller

Kinesiology

 

Kelsey Miller graduated with her Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology from Biola University in 2011 and Master of Science in Kinesiology from California State University, Fullerton in 2017. Miller’s teaching interests and professional experience are in the areas of sports performance, personal training, program design, strength and conditioning, sports psychology and nutrition. She has certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association as a strength and conditioning coach and personal trainer as well as over 8 years of experience in those areas. Miller co-founded and currently runs Ascension Strength & Performance, a small business providing sports performance and personal training services. In addition, she has experience performing fitness assessments with professional athletes from the St. Louis Cardinals and the Anaheim Ducks. Miller is passionate about bridging the gap between research science and practice. To that end, she aims to provide the most up-to-date, relevant information to her students by using a variety of teaching tools and techniques. She is eager to help students explore God’s unique design of the human body within the context of human movement.

 

“Christ centeredness is at the core of higher education because he is the creator of all disciplines of study,” Miller said. “By incorporating Christianity into our fields of study, we are able to approach intellectual inquiry not only with rigor, but with the perspective that he is the ultimate creator of what we study. We are called to be a light to the world by being experts in our fields of study who are constantly in pursuit of His word, while exemplifying grace and love to those we encounter. In the sciences, it is important to recognize that as we examine the human body, we ultimately begin to understand a small piece of God's design, and learn more about his nature through our studies and research. When students leave this place and go into their respective graduate schools and fields of work, they should be confident in not only their knowledge of the body but also in the knowledge of their creator and his love for them. We must teach students how to embrace Christian beliefs for themselves and engage the issues of our day with the ability to love those they disagree with. As [Biola’s] president often says, ‘we must have a firm center with soft edges,’ and show our students that it is possible to be in the world but not of it, and be that light that Scripture says the world so desperately needs.”

 

Chelsie Balli

Mathematics and Computer Science

 

Chelsie Balli completed her undergraduate studies at Biola, receiving a Bachelor of Science in mathematics with two additional minors in communication studies and elementary education. After completing her bachelor’s, Balli went on to earn a Master of Arts in Teaching and a Master of Science in Curriculum, Instruction, and Publication — all from Biola. Meanwhile, she spent nearly seven years working for a supplemental education program that focused on mathematics. She held various roles with the company, such as instructor, director, district manager, U.K. start-up specialist and education systems manager. In addition to an increased business sense and administrative skills, her time with the company kept her directly involved with mathematics education and the best practices for students. She has studied how confidence and understanding in mathematics are related to a person’s confidence and success in other areas of life. During her graduate studies, she focused her attention on specific areas of mathematics education including memory, understanding, self-talk and meaningful learning. She is also passionate about improving education in impoverished areas, both in the U.S. and in other nations.

 

“In our world today, truth is but a word,” Balli said. “Everyday, more and more people wrestle with the idea of truth and question God's existence. I believe that Christian higher education is vital more so today than ever before, as doubt, individualism, and hatred have become dominant attributes in our society. My field is deeply connected to truth and searching out truth. Math is not just about numbers and equations; it enables us to think critically about the world around us. This is something that our culture so desperately needs to embrace. Math helps us formulate ideas, test theories, create representations and explain concepts. God intended for us to know truth and to also know His love. As Christian institutions equip students with proper integration of faith and learning, new leaders can emerge and shift the trajectory of the next generation toward both truth and love.”

 

Brendon Anthony

Biological Sciences

 

Brendon Anthony was born and raised in Southern California. He graduated with his Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science from Biola in 2015 and his Masters of Science in Horticulture from Washington State University (WSU) in 2017. His research at WSU consisted of fruit tree physiology, orchard management, food science and sustainable agriculture. Anthony also co-founded and currently runs an international agricultural development non-profit, called Harvest Craft. They focus on bringing about social justice, economic development and environmental restoration to countries all across the world. He continues to travel and consult on sustainable agricultural systems for orphanages, rehabilitation centers for human trafficking victims, churches, schools and community centers. Anthony brings these skills and experiences to the classroom. He teaches an array of environmental science classes and continues to conduct research and lead programs for students at the Biola Organic Garden. Anthony cares deeply about the state of the environment and how we can be better stewards of it.

 

“Now more than ever, Christians need to be combatting the environmental crisis that we are in, not just for the sake of the environment, but for the sake of the people who are suffering because of its current state, most notably, the world's poor,” Anthony said. “We are called to love our neighbors and steward the planet, and by having a firm foundation of Christian beliefs and values in the environmental sciences field, we can come alongside Jesus' redemption more effectively. The significance of training up the next generation of scientists in Christian higher education will allow for novel discoveries and holistic solutions that can demonstrate Jesus' love for both humanity and the planet alike.

 

Eric Hedin

Physics

 

After completing his doctorate in experimental plasma physics and fusion energy research, Eric Hedin accepted a guest researcher position in fusion energy at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden. Hedin then transitioned into university teaching of physics and astronomy, including five years at Taylor University and 15 years at Ball State University, both located in Indiana. His current research interests focus primarily on computational nano-electronics. Together with his wife, Hedin also served in international ministry to immigrants and refugees in Sweden.

 

“I have had the privilege of studying the fields of physics and astronomy,” Hedin said. “It is a privilege to have gained access to some of the rich revelation of God’s wisdom revealed in His creation. Scientists throughout history have seen the handiwork of God in the things of nature. In more recent times, however, some scientists have undertaken to flat-out deny God’s existence. And yet, more and more evidence of God’s design in the cosmos and in life has come to light as further scientific study probes deeper. The biblical worldview provides the framework for interpreting the evidence of nature in terms of the creative work and purposes of God. Studying physics and astronomy at Biola University helps to train students in understanding not only how the universe works, but in seeing how its workings declare the glory of God.”

 

Tammy Henderson

Nursing

 

Tammy Henderson, a Biola alumna, has worked as a clinical bedside nurse for the past 25 years at the University of California, Irvine Health (UCIH). She began her nursing journey in the step-down telemetry unit. In 2000, after a unique calling from the Lord, Henderson transitioned to the burn intensive care unit where she cared for adults, pediatrics and critically ill patients. Early on in her career, Henderson was involved in practice change at UCIH with an improvement project to reduce Ventilator Associated Pneumonias. She demonstrated leadership as a mentor for the new grads and chair for the burn and pediatric practice councils. In 2014, Henderson began teaching as a clinical adjunct faculty member for Biola's nursing department and has taught every level of nursing students. She graduated with her Master of Science in Nursing at Grand Canyon University in 2016 with an emphasis in nursing education. Her clinical interests include evidence based research, infection prevention, the value of suffering and spiritual care at the bedside.

 

“I have had the incredible opportunity to attend a Christian school from sixth grade through my high school graduation and then onto a Christian University for both my Bachelor of Science in Nursing and Master of Science in Nursing,” Henderson said. “In sixth grade I received Christ and since then, I have always had a deep rooted desire to know more about my Savior and to study the Bible. It is through my own struggles, I have learned that suffering brings about growth and maturity. As an educator, I have been able to show the value of suffering for patients, students and the world around me in light of God's Word. Suffering is paramount in the field of nursing and it is crucial to understand that God allows suffering to accomplish His purpose. When Jesus died on the cross, He endured suffering to bring about reconciliation to a fallen and lost world. As a clinician and educator, I am able to share the love of God to those in pain and offer them an eternal hope that conquers death, pain and suffering.”

 

Richard Gunasekera

Biological Sciences

 

Richard Gunasekera has enjoyed a 20-year career in higher education as professor and a scientist in the field of Biochemical Genetics and Forensic DNA. He earned his bachelor’s in biochemistry at Baylor University, where he researched and published in organic synthesis as an undergraduate. Gunasekera earned a master’s degree in bio-organic chemistry from the University of Houston-Clear Lake, a master’s in molecular genetics and a doctorate in biomedical Sciences at the Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas. Before coming to Biola in 2018, Gunasekera founded the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Houston-Victoria and acted as the Department Head and later as Director of Graduate Studies. He has held faculty and research positions at Texas A&M University Health Science Center, the University of Houston-Clear Lake, Rice University in Houston. Gunasekera’s research now spans several interdisciplinary fields such as cancer biology, forensic DNA studies, nano-biotechnology and biochemical genetics. He has also received awards for excellence in teaching, research and as a distinguished faculty member from his previous institutions. He is committed to work as a team member to contribute toward building a world class institution and continue to make Biola a national leader in the sciences.

 

“In today’s modern society, science is of paramount importance,” Gunasekera said. “Science and technology seem to drive everything! From the smart phone to the Internet, to the engineering wonders of our modern vehicles, to genetics and medicine, it seems as if we cannot live without science. A belief and even a faith in the sciences are found in society. Science (scientia) actually means knowledge in Latin. There is knowledge and even evidence for the Biblical record, which can be gained using the modern scientific method. Evidence discovered in the past few decades, particularly from molecular biology, has provided support for the core of Christianity’s beliefs. I believe that it is now essential for Christian higher education to provide a contextualized science education to all students with the knowledge of such evidences that can address the bombardment that young Christians go through today that challenges their faith, even to the extent of some leaving their faith all-together.”

 

Stanley Ng

Engineering

Stanley Ng was born and raised in Southern California. His passion for teaching and mentoring the next generation of students is derived from engaging small changes for large impact in the world of engineering and healthcare. Ng is involved with the teaching and preparation of laboratories, which is a place and opportunity for students to examine God’s physical laws. His engineering journey primarily focuses on biophotonics, biomedical instrumentation, ophthalmology and diagnostics. In addition, Ng has a vested interest in science pedagogy and building bridges between science and theology.

 

“Christian higher education stands as the pinnacle of truth, not just from Scripture, but in all subjects,” Ng said. “Each discipline is unique in its expression of who God is and Biola University cultivates interdisciplinary interactions to reveal God’s glory. The educational experience is more than just knowledge — it’s discipleship. In sciences, the tendency is to discredit faith and focus primarily on the facts. The irony is that the facts point back to the almighty God. While it is an exciting time to learn about a growing industry, it is also important to get involved where the gospel is much needed. Beyond our intellect, God has given each one of us an opportunity to enter into a place with the intent to share the good news.”

 

Kit Ng

Biological Sciences

 

Kit Ng was born and raised in Hong Kong before moving to the United States during his teenage years. He received his Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and his doctorate in molecular, cellular and integrative physiology from the University of California, Davis. His doctoral work was on the impact of dietary lipids on human organs such as blood vessels, the brain and the kidney. He is interested in studying the role of lipids in human physiology. Before coming to Biola, Kit taught anatomy and physiology classes at several community colleges in the Bay Area and served as a faculty member at Notre Dame de Namur University in 2017. While teaching he developed an interest in the science of learning and teaching. Furthermore, as a first generation and international student, Kit has also mentored and ministered to students with similar backgrounds.

 

During my research and teaching career, the topic of my Christian faith rarely came up because of the perception that faith is either a taboo or irrelevant in the sciences and one who wants a career has best leave faith by the lab door,” Ng siad. “Whereas throughout history, scientists had viewed the pursuit of science and the worship of a creator God to go hand in hand. I believe that while science is a powerful tool to understand the physical reality, the answers to the big questions in life such as the purpose of life, the beginning of everything, or the human condition are best addressed by the Christian faith. Thus by focusing on doing gospel-centric STEM work at Biola, we have the opportunity to train the next generation of scientists holistically — not just doing good science but also a wholesome way to live life — and be the salt and light in STEM fields.”

 

 

School of Education

 

Lorelei Coddington

Education

 

Lorelei Coddington has served in numerous roles such as classroom teacher, researcher, and curriculum consultant, which have enabled her to support teacher development through coursework taught at Biola University, Claremont Graduate University and Whittier College. She received her Doctor of Education from Claremont Graduate University in 2014. Coddington’s research examines teacher knowledge, reflection and videos in professional development. This fall, her book, “Teaching Outside the Box: Technology-Infused Math Instruction,” will be published with Kendall/Hunt.

 

“The value of a Christian higher education is far greater than developing students’ intellect; it not only prepares students for academic excellence but also for the moral and spiritual challenges of life,” Coddington said. “A biblically centered higher education deeply roots students in the truth of scripture, which shapes their worldview, ultimately impacting their future life-decisions. Students who are deeply committed to a biblically centered life can be used by God to powerfully reach others with the gospel both at home, in the workplace and across the world.”

 

Joyce Lee Yang

Education

 

Joyce Yang served as a teacher, assistant principal, principal and director for nearly 20 years in  public schools across three states. She earned her doctorate from California State University, Fullerton where she conducted her dissertation research on female elementary school principals’ perceptions of work-life balance within their organizational and personal contexts. Yang has been a part of the Biola community since 2014 when she began teaching as an adjunct professor. She recently taught in Cambodia and looks forward to continuing her service to students as a full-time faculty member in the School of Education while furthering her research in educational leadership.

 

“Christian higher education is invaluable in today’s world, which is often devoid of Biblical beliefs and practices,” Yang said. “At Christian institutions, students have the opportunity to master their academic content while maturing in their faith. This intertwined experience of academic learning and growing in faith helps prepare students to become global citizens who are not only expert contributors in their field but also gracious ambassadors of Jesus.

 

Crowell School of Business

 

Andrea Marrero

Accounting

 

Andrea Marrero received her Master of Professional Accountancy from Biola University, and is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) licensed by the state of California. During her seven years in public accounting, Marrero worked as an auditor with Deloitte in Orange County and more recently for a local firm serving smaller businesses and individuals in audit, tax and consulting services. Marrero is currently working as a CPA for a firm in Orange County that provides businesses, churches and nonprofits with accounting and financial reporting processes. Marrero and her husband are passionate about serving at Disciple Church in Whittier, Calif. and helping people of all ages take control of their personal finances for God's glory as well as their own financial wellbeing. Her hope is that she will challenge all Biola students she works with to consider what plans God has for them in their future careers, spend time in community, grow, and serve in a local church during their time at Biola.

 

“I believe Christian higher education has the opportunity to equip and fortify future business men and women to impact the lives of their coworkers and clients for the sake of Jesus Christ,” Marrero. “The accounting field can be a very financially stable profession with consistent career progress. This often times enables individuals to be self-reliant and push aside any need they may feel to engage in spiritual conversations with Christians around them. It is my hope that our students enter this workplace rejoicing in the Lord for the opportunities in accounting he has given them, and that their joy and perseverance through trials would be a witness to all God has placed in their path.”

 

Brandon Ware

Business

 

Brandon Odell Ware’s interests lie primarily in the areas of business analytics and economics. His research is not only focused on food deserts, but on the consumers purchasing behavior. Before coming to Biola University, Warw served as an Adjunct Professor of Economics for the Lacy School of Business at Butler University and the DeVoe School of Business at Indiana Wesleyan University. He taught graduate business classes and undergraduate courses in economics, finance, statistics and strategy. In addition to teaching, Ware’s consulting practice focuses on data analytics, demographics, economic forecasting, strategy development, servant leadership and organizational culture change. He has worked with client firms in the following industries: non-profit, affordable housing, healthcare, food service and construction development.

 

“I echo the thoughts of other Christian scholars that Christian education should not blindfold the student’s eyes to all the world offers,” said Ware. “I believe a Christian’s education should be a liberating experience that not only expands their horizons, but deepens their insight, increases their godly wisdom and discernment, and most importantly, improves their ability to reach those who are lost. In 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, Paul says, ‘I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.’ My goal as a Christian professor is to prepare students for the battlefield of the real world. That’s accomplished by getting the student to know Christ on a personal level, not just knowing about Christ. There’s a difference between knowing a person and knowing of a person. Biola University has a unique opportunity to instill God’s values and purpose into education. I look forward to ensuring students have the right view of education in the world and [know] how crucial it is to know God’s truth as their foundation. When given any opportunity, I am reminded of John 3:30, ’He must increase, and I must decrease.’  We must give honor, glory and praise to God and use every ounce of [our]my talents to glorify his name.”

 
 

Helen M. Mitchell

Leadership and Ethics

 

Helen Mitchell comes to Biola University as a leadership and strategy coach, speaker, and author. She is the Director of the Talbot Center for Faith, Work and Economics at Talbot School of Theology at Biola University. Mitchell has been sought out as an expert to incorporate and apply faith, work and economics in both business and in the local church. She has spoken at conferences, on radio programs, at business and pastoral groups, guest lectured at other universities and authored faith and work articles as well as small group curriculum. She started her business career with AT&T becoming an Area Vice President with Lucent Technologies at the age of 30 and holding various leadership roles. As an early adopter of faith, work and economics in the local church and a licensed minister on the pastoral staff, she was the architect and visionary of the Saddleback@Work ministry at Saddleback Church.

 

“Today’s fast changing world is full of complexities and ever competing demands for our time, energy, focus and values,” Mitchell said. “The value of a Christian education, and one at Biola University, is to bring together culture, work and life with a Biblical foundation. To think and act biblically in all we do requires a foundation of beliefs, values and morals from which to navigate the world, think critically and to make decisions. The value of a Christian education helps students understand what it means to be a Christian in the world and prepares them to live an impactful Christian life in all that they do.”

 

School of Cinema and Media Arts

 

Michael Steffen

Cinema and Media Arts

 

Michael Steffen is a narrative game designer, film producer and educator. In his new role as a Cinema and Media Arts professor, Steffen is working to develop a new concentration in Games and Interactive Media. His primary area of research is the design of new narrative techniques for interactive game stories, and he is especially interested in telling stories that share the gospel.  He is currently designing Telmahre: a 3-D adventure game about a medieval priest who gradually loses his faith over centuries until he discovers the true meaning of grace. Steffen received his Master of Fine Arts in Interactive Media from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts in 2006. His thesis was the original version of Telmahre, and focused primarily on telling a tragic story through interactive video characters. Steffen has previously taught at John Paul the Great Catholic University; California State University, Channel Islands; California Lutheran University and Mesa College. He has consulted in game design for several companies, including Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and Sony Pictures. He has also written and produced several short films, including the award-winning “God of Commerce.”

 

“Cinema is about communication: every film says something whether it’s trying to or not,” Steffen said. “Digital games are a special form of cinema that allow the viewer to become part of the story, interacting with it and altering the outcome. This immersion can have such a powerful effect on players that it is critical for us to have believers in the industry creating games with Christ-honoring messages. Games can also be a strong tool for evangelism, using both story and mechanics (rules) to introduce concepts such as grace, hope and redemption, and then gently leading players to the only True Source for these things.”

 

Abel Vang

Cinema and Media Arts

 

Abel Vang worked on Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino as a voice actor, an assistant to casting and as a 2nd Unit on the exclusive Blu-ray documentary, Gran Torino: Next Door. He worked as a script consultant for Oscar-winner, Lynne Littman, on her screenplay adaptation of Anne Fadiman's National Book Critics Circle Award Winner in 1997, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down. In 2011, Vang won the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting for his war-drama screenplay, The Tiger's Child that he co-wrote with his brother. His latest feature film, Bedeviled, sold to Voltage Pictures and Freestyle Releasing. He has three feature films slated for production this year. Vang holds a Master of Fine Arts in Cinema & Television Production from the University of Southern California and a Bachelor of Science in Biology from California State University, Fresno.

 

“It's important that in Christian higher education we train new and young storytellers to shape the narrative with a Christ-centered perspective,” said Vang. “Students and professionals in cinema may not always create content that is specifically Christian, but they can certainly minister with the platform that they are given. A simple prayer on a movie set goes a long way. On my last film, I used to pray before the shoot and that sparked a long existential conversation with my cinematographer who was not a believer. At the end of production, he came to Christ. Yes, evangelism can happen on a movie set. Take every opportunity to live out the Great Commission.”

 

Written by Jenna Loumagne, manager of media relations. Contact Jenna for more information at (562) 777-4061 or jenna.loumagne@biola.edu.

 

Comments

  • Sunny Henderson Oct. 17, 2018 at 11:05 AM

    Welcome to all these awesome new members of the faculty! Congratulations Tammy Henderson! Your love of the Lord will shine through to your students. You have amazing incites to pass along to the nursing profession!

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