HPU’s Stories of Faith

Jul 17th, 2019

HPU’s Stories of Faith

This story is featured in the Spring 2019 edition of the HPU Magazine. Discover below how HPU’s Religous Life Organizations foster fellowship and collaboration among students. 

No matter their faith, HPU students celebrate in many ways. Here are some of their stories.


Every Christmas, Christine Watt puts her faith to work.

For the past two years, Watt has coordinated HPU’s Angel Tree project and helped anyone on campus become Santa Claus for local children at Christmas. And there are many children, at least 150 from two months to 12 years old.

Watt, the junior theater major from Austin, Texas, sees the tags and thinks not of gifts, but of children. Children like Eric.

“Jesus teaches us to help other people in the world like Eric,” she says. “They are like my next-door neighbor. How could I sit here and not do something?”


Mikayla Johnson wore a $1.50 thrift store dress with multi-colored flowers as eye-catching as any highway billboard. She has pictures to prove it.

Johnson wore it to the Tacky Prom, one of the many events organized by Young Life College, one of HPU’s largest religious organizations.

Young Life College has nearly 100 members. Johnson, a junior Spanish

major from nearby Winston-Salem, North Carolina, is one of its nine leaders. Her dress represents how she and her relationship with God have grown.

“I care more about people,” she says. “That’s a great thing, a weighty thing. I hurt when they hurt.”



As a Muslim American from Pakistan, Bisharat Khan grew up in a post 9/11 world that made him wary of others and other religions. That all changed nearly three years ago. Why?

HPU’s Interfaith Dinner Club.

He ate with students who practiced almost every religion. They shared food in the basement of Hayworth Chapel and talked about their faith and dreams.

The dinners lasted at least two hours. Khan kept coming back, month after month. He knew why.

“I realized we’re not different people,” says the pharmacy doctoral student from High Point, North Carolina. “We’re the same inside.”



When she came to HPU from small-town Massachusetts, Tessa May didn’t get homesick. HPU’s Board of Stewards helped her with that.

She joined the board her freshman year and helped coordinate weekly chapel services. She discovered fun places to eat, and she found friendships.

May is now a junior, a special education major and the board’s president. She grew up Episcopalian, in Millis, Massachusetts, and wrestled with questions about her faith.

At HPU, she found answers — and a rule to live by.

“To love people for who they are,” she says. “That’s the No. 1 thing I need to do.”



Zach Posner looked across the HPU ballroom and saw scores of students with their families. They had two things in common: They were all Jewish, and they were all fellowshipping together during an HPU Family Weekend Bagel Brunch.

“Seeing all those people,” Posner says, “you realize how far the organization has come.”

Posner is talking about Hillel, HPU’s Jewish organization.

Posner, the outgoing president from Livingston, New Jersey, graduated in May with degrees in criminal justice and psychology. At HPU, he and other members worked hard to create a campus presence and support one another.

And Hillel grew. 

“If everyone says, ‘Not me,’” Posner says, “how is it going to change?”


Courtney Wallen sings with men and women who look like her and praise God through song. And praise God, they do.

Wallen started with HPU’s Genesis Gospel Choir her freshman year. In May, she graduated with a degree in broadcast journalism. She now steps into her career and steps away from a choir that helped her grow far from her home in Oxford, Connecticut. 

She’d sing spirituals like “King Jesus Is Listening” and  connect with her family’s spiritual roots remembering what she calls the “old church.”

“That,” she says, “is a part of me.”