SPARTANBURG, S.C. (courtesy smcsc.edu) — For most, a college education is a step in the journey to a career. For one Spartanburg Methodist College (SMC) student, her college education is a step on the way to her calling.
Genoa Tobin, Noa to those who know her, came to SMC knowing exactly where she wants to go – the ministry. The junior bachelor’s degree student has already begun her journey to becoming an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church (UMC). She credits SMC for helping her in her education as well as preparing her to face the challenges of the ordination program.
“I’ve learned so much at SMC. I’ve been able to explore my interests and I’ve honed my writing and critical thinking skills along the way,” Tobin said.
She gained an early interest in religious studies after someone introduced her to the writings of C.S. Lewis in high school. After reading The Four Loves, she couldn’t get enough of learning about religions around the world. Those studies focused her on Christian theology and drove her desire to join the ministry.
“As I learned more about the good news of Jesus Christ and saw my fellow Christians spreading it to the world, I came to believe that God wanted me to minister to others,” Tobin said. “I had grown up to love the liturgy of the church and the preaching of the word, so I decided that pursuing ordination as an elder was the way I wanted to go.”
When Tobin learned of SMC’s customizable bachelor’s degree program, which allows students to choose two concentrations, she knew she wanted to come here. She was excited that she would be able to study religion and another concentration, which became English. It was unlike any other program she had seen, which drove her decision to enroll.
Tobin has taken full advantage of the opportunities at SMC and has impressed her mentors and professors along the way. Two of those instructors noted her passion for learning and her compassion for others.
“She brings to her chosen calling her gifts of hard work, excellent critical thinking skills, and, most importantly, a naturally inquisitive nature,” said Dr. Lisa Unterseher, professor of religion.
Adjunct instructor of religion Dr. Stephen Hearne added, “Noa is the student that we all want to have in class. She has a genuine passion for learning and is compassionate toward others and seems to thoroughly enjoy helping other students learn.”
Tobin has already begun her journey toward ordination and is interning with Pastor Gryff Carosiello at Sharon United Methodist Church in Greer. The road to becoming an ordained elder is challenging, but Tobin says the lessons she is learning at SMC have already helped.
“As part of the process, I was interviewed by my district superintendent and the District Committee of Ordained Ministers. I used a lot of the interview skills I learned in professional communications to help me prepare for those interviews,” she said.
SMC’s professional development (PDEV) courses were created to help students learn the soft skills they need to succeed in the professional world. They provide critical skills that help graduates make an immediate impact in their chosen profession.
Clara Jane Hallar, assistant director of entrepreneurial leadership and one of Tobin’s PDEV instructors, noted her commitment to improving the skills she needed to succeed.
“I think what stands out the most is her quiet fierceness and introspective tenacity. Noa is grounded in her beliefs and continues to seek out advice on how to improve,” Hallar said. “PDEV has brought a language to Noa’s life. The communication skills, team dynamic, and understanding of who she is as a leader have solidified her path to be the best she can be.”
Tobin said the PDEV classes, combined with her internship at the church are giving her the confidence, skills, and hands-on experience she needs to succeed. Megan Georgion, director of professional development for internships and employer relations and another of Tobin’s PDEV instructors, noted her appreciation for the skills acquired in the courses.
“When first having Noa in class for professional communications, I immediately noticed how conscientious she was to quality work,” Georgion said. “Noa was excited to share that the interviewing techniques she learned in class, and the feedback from doing a mock interview, helped her navigate the first round of interviews in the ordination process.”
SMC Chaplain Tim Drum has been helping mentor Tobin and is confident in her ability to complete the challenging road ahead.
“Noa is a deeply focused, sincere student. She is studious and curious in her classwork, ready and willing to share her knowledge with other students, and deeply inquisitive about how to grow in her future field,” Drum said.
Tobin will need that drive and commitment to complete her journey into ordination as an elder. Drum indicated the process, beyond earning a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in divinity or theology from an accredited UMC seminary, can take several years to complete. Candidates must be commissioned by their local committee and recommended to the Board of Ordained Ministry for final ordination, all of which can take three to five years after college. But Drum is confident in Tobin.
“I have no doubt that Noa will succeed due to her hard work, sincerity, and willingness to learn,” he said. “I believe Noa has a bright future in the Christian ministry. Having leadership that is even-keeled, discerning, and willing to learn and try new things will be paramount for the success of the Church.”
For now, Tobin’s drive and passion are rooted right here at SMC, a place she is grateful for on her path.
“The most rewarding part of my journey has been meeting and getting to know all kinds of people,” she said. “I’ve met incredible mentors who guide me with their wisdom, worked with peers with different and similar perspectives, and I’ve ministered to people and they’ve ministered to me. I believe God has blessed me many times over.”