Since fall 2013, a series of monthly dialogues titled ACTS Leadership Series: Solomon’s Porch has offered practical wisdom and encouragement to Union’s minority students and any others who wish to attend. From learning how to draw up a budget to hearing about the missionary work of a Guatemalan pastor, students gain a variety of perspectives from Union faculty and members of the Jackson community.
Matthew Marshall, director of service and diversity and co-creator of the series, said Dr. Jacqueline Taylor, assistant dean of students and director of the Vocatio Center, suggested the series be named after an area of the temple where Jesus gathered with his disciples. Marshall said he liked the association with the wisdom of Solomon alongside the teachings of Jesus. The portico area is thought to have looked much like the columned patio of the Bowld Commons, where the sessions are held in good weather, Marshall said.
Marshall worked with Taylor to design the series. They wanted to offer “life skill sessions,” Marshall said, consistent opportunities for minority students, student athletes and others to develop leadership skills and hear from people in the community.
The five sessions last year covered topics of faith, engaging other cultures with the gospel, financial management, academic commitment and developing solid leadership and work habits, Marshall said, all important topics he felt were not discussed often in other settings. He said he plans to survey students about what other topics they would like to cover.
Each session lasts about an hour and a half, Marshall said, with an average attendance of 40 to 50 students.
Marshall said he wants the students who attend Solomon’s Porch to develop a passion for the gospel, as well as leadership skills and wisdom. “You can never hear too much of the gospel,” he said.
Alma Hernandez, senior biology major and MOSAIC president, attended nearly all the Solomon’s Porch talks last year.
Her favorite session was one for Hispanic Heritage Week, she said. It focused on foreign missions and featured a pastor from Guatemala, like Hernandez’s parents, who spoke mostly in Spanish while a MOSAIC member translated.
Hernandez said she enjoys the series “bringing the community to Union” and knowing that the speakers experience the same life challenges as the students:
“It’s not just you, it’s not just people at Union, it’s in the community too.”
The first session of the semester will take place at 4 p.m. September 10 on the Bowld Patio. Marshall will speak about his experience becoming a Christian as a Union undergraduate, a story he thinks will be “surprising” to many students.
An earlier version of this article mistakenly attributed the naming of “Solomon’s Porch” to Matthew Marshall instead of Jacqueline Taylor. The article was updated Sept. 10 to correct the error.