Rising World Changers
Meet Nine Accomplished Graduates from the Class of 2021 who are Ready to Change the World
Sheila is living proof that miracles exist. In middle school, a train wreck left Sheila with serious injuries and a low chance of survival. Not only did she defy the odds and recover in less than a month, but that experience completely reinvigorated her faith.
“I physically and spiritually experienced God,” Sheila says. “He saved my life, and there’s no way I cannot serve Him.”
Sheila relied on this strong foundation for her faith when she faced the difficult transition of moving to the U.S. from her homeland of Kenya seven years ago. Despite her family’s hardships after this move, Sheila says she knows they were following God in obedience: “Every adversity has made me grow closer to God and built my character.”
Sheila’s passion for medicine developed as she watched how her mother, a nurse, cared so much for her patients. Having graduated with her B.S. in Biophysical Sciences at Regent, she’ll head to New York to pursue her master’s and doctoral in biomedical engineering. She hopes to help revolutionize the treatment of cancer patients using new technology.
While working in the intense and sometimes hostile environment of politics in Washington, D.C., Arielle knows how to stand strong in her faith. She credits her education at Regent with teaching her how to navigate D.C. as a Christian leader. “The professors really integrated academic excellence with growing your faith,” she explains. “That set me up well for the job that I’m doing now.”
As assistant director of the Center for Religious Liberty at Family Research Council, Arielle sees the nonprofit sector as a powerful tool for creating policy solutions that benefit the U.S. and countries across the globe.
Every year, she sees reports of religious persecution increasing around the world. Her goal is to advocate for those facing that persecution and give them the freedom to practice their faith in peace. It’s a calling she believes her time at Regent prepared and equipped her to do.
“The skills I learned at Regent are skills that I use every single day in my work,” Arielle says.
With a successful acting career in Bollywood, Swapnil was living “the dream.” He had fame, money and connections—and yet something was still missing.
Swapnil shares, “I could feel God nudging me, telling me that my true purpose was elsewhere.”
Swapnil saw firsthand the many people in the entertainment industry who struggled with trauma and mental health disorders. Unfortunately, the stigma surrounding it made it difficult for them to speak out and seek help. He felt he could step into that space with the proper training and offer up that help.
After much prayer, he decided to pursue his doctorate at Regent. “It was the hand of God upon my life,” he says.
Many nights throughout his degree program, he would drive across campus to work at the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) as a prayer representative when he finished up with schoolwork and patients. Through the empathy modeled by his professors and his job training at CBN, he learned how to be an effective psychologist and someone who could minister the love of Christ to those in need.
“I fell in love with my job; I fell in love with praying,” Swapnil says. “It made me aware of the kind of man I wanted to be.”
Entering his senior year of college, Eugene was a star running back for a Division 1 school with big dreams of playing in the NFL. But after a career-ending knee injury, his plans came crashing down.
“I was just devastated,” says Eugene. “This was my dream since I was five years old, and I felt like I was worthless because my identity was so wrapped up in it.”
A friend suggested that Eugene go to church. It was the words of his pastor, who told Eugene that his worth is not found in athletics but Jesus Christ alone, that helped him overcome his depression.
Eugene accepted Jesus as his Savior and began to see his life in a different light. He knew that he had so much more to offer the world and credits Regent—and the encouragement of his professors—with helping him discover what he believes is now his true calling: writing.
While pursuing his degree, he started writing his first novel, The Athlete-Student: Freshman Year, using his own experience to craft a story that he hopes will show student-athletes the value of education.
“It’s the most beautiful thing in the world when you discover what you feel like you were put on this earth to do,” Eugene says. “It’s done some incredible things in my life by just saying yes to Regent.”
“How can someone be bored when there’s always something to learn?”
These were the words of Yvette’s grandmother that would sustain her throughout her educational journey as a first-generation college student. Her mother—a single parent—also worked hard to provide for their family, always encouraging Yvette to pursue her dreams.
“I knew I couldn’t stop at high school,” Yvette says. “I felt I owed it to my family to continue.”
Yvette found God’s calling for her life in her 21 years as a teacher and administrator. It was the perfect fit for a lifelong learner—a place where she could help others in their education while also growing on her own. “I’ve always found it important to partner with my students,” she says. “I’m actually teaching and learning with them.”
While pursuing her doctorate at Regent, Yvette saw as she was poured into by Regent faculty, she too became more equipped to pour into others. The support of her professors, her husband Daryl, and sons Darius and Darian, propelled her to the finish line.
“This degree doesn’t just belong to me; it belongs to my family,” she says.
In 2020, Devin’s summer plans changed when he received a long-awaited email response from the office of U.S. Vice President Mike Pence: they had a place for him on their staff.
It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work for the vice president during a pandemic, civil unrest, a Supreme Court nomination, and an election. Fortunately, the challenges of such an unprecedented year didn’t deter Devin but instead strengthened his desire for public service and to one day run for elected office.
“It gave me a bigger vision for life and for what purpose the Lord might have for me,” Devin says. “But it was also a powerful reminder that my hope, my identity and my worth are not in civil government, but in God alone.”
During his time working in Washington, D.C., Devin often felt led to pray. So he’d go for runs around the city, praying over the branches of government and the American people.
The importance of prayer was something he saw time and again while pursuing his degree at Regent, a process he called both humbling and rewarding.
“I’m thankful for a legal experience that challenged me, shaped me and sanctified me,” says Devin. “It’s been a great place to grow to become more like the Lord.”
Odell and La Freada Riley are a true power couple. Serving as pastor and first lady of Power House Church of God in Christ in Monroe, Louisiana, they used their inspiring partnership, built on 39 years of marriage, to finish strong in their most recent endeavor: pursuing their doctorates at Regent.
As they pursued their educational development, the Rileys wanted to invest that back into their community. They have walked alongside many members of their congregation who are going back to school to get their GED and college degrees, continually encouraging them in their pursuit of knowledge.
Odell is especially passionate about teaching others financial literacy through godly principles. “When you teach people to live financially debt-free, what you’re doing is teaching them to be spiritually free from the traps of the world,” she says.
At Regent, the Rileys felt the professors truly cared about their students inside and outside the classroom. The learning environment strengthened their theological knowledge and also fostered their personal and spiritual growth.
“It was Kingdom-focused; about contribution to the Kingdom at large,” says Odell.
As a daughter of a migrant family, Michelle knows firsthand the realities of working hard and making sacrifices for a better life. After high school, she joined the Navy, serving her country for four years.
“The Navy opened the door to opportunities that I never knew were possible and instilled the leadership values that have helped me thrive even now,” says Michelle.
But her ultimate purpose—the call to nursing—came when her brother Henry experienced a life-altering accident that put him in a coma for nearly five months. He awoke to a different life, a poor prognosis and challenges surrounding basic functional living skills. “It was in this season, helping my brother relearn his alphabet and taking him to physical therapy, that God placed nursing on my heart,” Michelle shares.
After serving as a clinical nurse and now armed with a master’s degree, Michelle works full time as a clinical leader in the mother-baby unit of a hospital.
“This degree is opening up new opportunities and positioning me to influence policies and patient care,” she shares.
It’s also reminding Michelle to look to God as the Great Physician. “Proverbs 3:5 encourages us to, ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart.’ We must continue to trust God as we depend on science and knowledge.”