New faces join Union’s faculty

New faculty

Editor’s note: The Cardinal & Cream asked new professors to share why they chose to come to Union. The following is a question-and-answer session with those professors.

Alfred J. Custer II

Alfred J. Custer II; Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Practice; Doctor of Pharmacy; from Clemson, S.C.

Question: What brought you to Union?

Answer: I learned about the Union University School of Pharmacy when I spoke with Kent Stoneking and Blake Martin, the chairs of the Pharmacy Practice and Pharmaceutical Science Departments, respectively, at the ASHP Midyear Conference in Las Vegas.

Dr. Stoneking and Dr. Martin explained the mission of the school to provide a Christ-centered environment for students to grow in faith as they are developed as future pharmacists.

The opportunity to join other believers in glorifying God through our interaction with students led me to apply for a faculty position and eventually accept a role as an assistant professor in the Pharmacy Practice Department.

Q: Why did you choose to become a professor?

A: When I was in high school, I was certain that I did not want to have a career in teaching, but I was later inspired to teach by the professors at my pharmacy school.

Dr. Scott Sutton and Kathy Quarles-Moore exemplified for me the qualities of Christian pharmacists and academicians.

My experiences with these professors and with students helped to recognize the impact that I could have in academia.

Q: Why did you choose your particular field?

A: I chose pharmacy as a profession largely due to my interest in chemistry.

I found it fascinating that God created us in such a way that our bodies can be strengthened or healed by chemicals that are not naturally present in ourselves or our diet.

I pursued pharmacy in order to learn more about the ways that we respond to medication and to find new ways to treat diseases.


Teresa Johnson; Assistant Professor School of Nursing (Hendersonville Campus); Bachelor of Science, Nursing and Master of Science, Nursing; from McMinnville.

Q: What brought you to Union?

A: It was a God thing.

I had rekindled my desire for teaching only four days before learning that there was even a school of nursing in Hendersonville.

My husband and I were goal-setting, and I mentioned that I may want to pursue a formal teaching position, and four days later, I met Elisha Hill, assistant professor of nursing, who mentioned in a meeting what she did.

I followed her when she left and began asking questions.

It was almost like God just plopped it right in my lap!

Q: Why did you choose to become a professor?

A: I feel fulfilled when teaching. As a nurse, I am always teaching, whether it be patients, colleagues, friends, etc. My heart feels full when I am assisting others in their quest for knowledge and improvement.

Q: Why did you choose your particular field?

A: I have always wanted to help others. Other than that, I don’t really have an answer other than I was just drawn to it. It just felt right.


James Allen

James Allen; Visiting Assistant Professor of History; Bachelor of Arts in History, Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance, Master of Business Administration in Finance, Ph.D. in History; from Memphis.

Q: What brought you to Union?

A: My passion is for Christian higher education. Union is an excellent institution of such Christian higher education. I love the vision that Union’s leadership has for the future, and I’m from this area with family not far away.

Q: Why did you choose to become a professor?

A: I love teaching. Conveying not just the content of my field but also encouraging students to personally wrestle with such content from the perspective of a historically orthodox Christian worldview.

Q: Why did you choose your particular field?

A: I am passionate about utilizing such insights for the health, betterment and inspiration of Christ’s church this side of the second coming. I’ve never turned back on that lifelong quest, and by God’s grace, I will not do so.


Joyce Snyder; Associate Professor in Nursing; Associates degree, Bachelor of Science, and Master of Science in Nursing; from Goodlettsville.

Q: What brought you to Union?

A: I feel that God brought me here to Union at Hendersonville.

It has always been a desire of my heart to teach at some point in my career.

I had been praying fervently for God to help direct my path and feel that God opened this door for me.

To have an opportunity to combine my faith and the field of nursing is truly a blessing.

Q: Why did you choose to become a professor?

A: I have practiced in both as a registered nurse and an advanced practice nurse for a number of years.

I have learned what a gift it can be to serve others through the field of nursing and to be the hands and feet of Christ to others during times of hurting and illness.

It is so rewarding to see students understand complex nursing and medical content and learn how to apply this content in patient care.

To instill this desire of servanthood and service to students who have felt that God has called them to the field of nursing.

Q: Why did you choose your particular field?

A: I have been in the field of nursing for 27 years.

I have loved learning about the human body and how we are created.

I fell that it is an affirmation of a higher power.

It is the perfect field to combine my spiritual faith and knowledge of how our body is designed.


Colene Trent

Colene Trent; Assistant Professor of Economics; PhD in Economics, Master of Business Administration, Bachelor of Business Administration, double major in Finance and Economics; from Hayden, Ala.

Q:  What brought you to Union?

A: The job market for economics Ph.Ds is difficult to navigate, and job candidates typically apply to over 50 different job openings at universities throughout the nation.

Through stressful months of interviews and uncertainty about the future, God remained faithful.

When I received a job interview at Union, I could not have been more thrilled. During my interview at Union, I attended the five-year anniversary service for the 2008 tornado.

The service was a beautiful picture of Union’s heart and a clear indication that this is where I was supposed to be.

Q: Why did you choose to become a professor?

A: I took a part-time job at Edward Jones Investments while earning my MBA at the University of North Alabama with plans to pursue a career in corporate America.

My professors at UNA encouraged me to consider a career in teaching and allowed me to serve as the instructor for an economics class for international graduate students at UNA.

I absolutely loved being in the classroom and decided to pursue my doctoral degree in order to become a professor.

My love of teaching was confirmed by the classes I taught at the University of Mississippi.

Q:  Why did you choose your particular field?

A: I have always been interested in the business world and chose to obtain my undergraduate degree in finance.

Many of prerequisite classes were in economics, and I enjoyed my professors and classes so much that I decided to major in economics as well.

Economics is an interesting subject because it combines skills used in the disciplines of sociology, philosophy, math, history, and political science to analyze human behavior.

James Gray

Andrew Gray; Visiting Professor of English; Bachelor of Arts in English, Master of Fine Arts  in Creative Writing; from Hoover, Ala.

Q: What brought you to Union?

A: God’s providence and Montana’s ridiculous winters brought me to Union.

Q: Why did you choose to become a professor?

A: What other job would let me talk about incredible literature all day long? When I love a story, I want you to love it. Teaching gives me the opportunity to convince you.

Q: Why did you choose your particular field?

A: Storytelling makes me feel more attuned to existence.

It teaches me about the ways things are and the way things could be.

For whatever reason, nothing else is quite as thrilling.


Sharon Grissom

Sharon Grissom; Assistant Professor of Accounting; Bachelor of Accountancy, Master of Accountancy; from Baldwyn, Miss.

Q: What brought you to Union?

A: I have been interested in teaching at Union for over 10 years.

For the past seven years, I taught at a public university in Miss. and thoroughly enjoyed that job; however, it is refreshing to be on the campus of a Christian, particularly a Baptist, university.

It is icing on the cake that my brother, a church pastor, and his family live in Jackson.

I also have some close friends who live here.

Q: Why did you choose to become a professor?

A: I thoroughly enjoyed my high school accounting class and decided to major in accounting.

Accounting still fascinates me, but I knew early in my career as an accountant that I really wanted to teach someday.

Teaching accounting gives me the best of both worlds.

Q: Why did you choose your particular field?

A: My eleventh grade history teacher influenced me to go into accounting simply with an article he brought to class one day about promising career choices.

In addition, I loved my high school accounting class taken during my senior year.

Aptitude and interest tests taken just prior to entering college confirmed that some field of business would be a good direction for me.


John Klonowski

John Klonowski; Assistant Professor of theatre/speech; Bachelor of Arts in Speech Education, Master of Fine Arts  in Scenic Design; from Chicago, Ill.

Q: What brought you to Union?

A: For the last three years I have been working in the Theatre Department at Bethel University.

I thought it would be a good idea to connect with the theatre faculty at some of the nearby colleges, and I came across Union’s very own David Burke.

We happened to run into each other at a play at The Ned here in Jackson.

It was obviously a meeting ordained by God because the odds of us going to the same production, on the same day, and sitting directly behind each other is pretty far-fetched.

We developed a friendship over the past few years and an opportunity arose over the past year to come and teach at Union.

After much deliberate prayer, God revealed this is where He wants me to be.

Q: Why did you choose to become a professor?

A: Having the opportunity to not just teach students but to speak into their lives is something that God has called me to do. That is why I am here. Theatre is second.

Q: Why did you choose your particular field?

A: It’s challenging.

It requires collaboration, creativity and critical thinking.

I like to create and take something on a printed page and bring it to life.

It must be that Creator Spirit in me.


Anita Langston

Anita Langston; Assistant Professor; BSN, MSN in Nursing Education, Post Masters Certificate in Nurse Practitioner and Clinical Nurse Specialist; from Memphis.

Q: What brought you to Union?

A: Union’s reputation for quality nursing education is what brought me to Union.

Q: Why did you choose to become a professor?

A: The love of the nursing profession my entire life, natural progression to desire to teach and be a part of forming students into this professional role is why I chose to become a professor.

It is my desire to help students love nursing as much as I do.

Q: Why did you choose your particular field?

A: I believe that the nursing profession is a calling, and God provides the gifts and talents uniquely related to this role.


Kathleen Muray

Kathleen Murray; Visiting Professor of Communication Arts (Photojournalism) and faculty adviser of the Cardinal and Cream; Bachelor of Arts in Sociology with a minor in Photojournalism, Master of Fine Arts in Photography and Printmaking; from Fairview.

Q: What brought you to Union?

A: I originally came to Union as an undergraduate student.

A few leaders in my youth group in high school went to Union for college.

Because I looked up to them as role models in my life, I decided to look into Union for myself.

Q: Why did you choose to become a professor?

A: I have felt led to be a teacher from an early age, same goes with being a photographer.

Q: Why did you choose your particular field?

A: I was 10 years old when I knew what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be.


Shari Wherry

Shari Wherry; Associate professor; BSN, MSN, DNP; from Cumberland.

Q: What brought you to Union?

A: In the summer of 2009 an opportunity opened up for me.

It was called Union University.

I was at a conference in Nashville and met Dr. Kelly Hardin and Panny Smith at a vendor booth.

I asked a few questions, they gave me some information and I interviewed with Dr. Hardin the next morning.

Within the month, I was accepted into the first DNP cohort for Union.

All I can say is that God has his hand in it.

I had looked for years for doctorate level programs in public health, and I had seen some of the literature out there on DNP programs, but nothing seemed to stand out like Union.

Q: Why did you choose to become a professor?

A: God has given me the gift to teach.

I have been teaching since I was 14 years old.

Although my teaching experience in my youth was not in an academic setting, I enjoyed the interaction and growth that I saw and experienced from the teacher/student relationship.

Before coming to Union, I was a professor for more than a decade in a medical school.

Looking back, I believe God prepared the way for me to come to Union and join the faculty in the School of Nursing.

Q: Why did you choose your particular field?

A: I believe that God called me into the field of nursing.

My heart’s desire has always been to help people.

Several years into my marriage and four children later, I had a yearning for personal growth and a way to serve people.

I have found both of these in nursing.

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