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MAY 2016

Graduates Are Challenged to Serve
Spring Commencement Highlights

SNU May Commencement 2016 -  Dr & Mrs Gresham, Ivy Ring CeremonyFor the 479 Southern Nazarene University students who were awarded degrees on May 14, 2016, it was the culmination of years of dedication and commitment to education. But it was also the beginning of opportunities to live out the challenge issued to them while at SNU - to practice servant leadership with a global perspective.

Beginning with the traditional processional, led by Dr. Stephen Green, elected by his Faculty peers to carry the University Mace, each of the two Commencement ceremonies celebrated the graduates and recognized outstanding achievements and accomplishments. Rev. Chuck Lauver, Church of the Nazarene pastor from Ft. Smith, Arkansas and father of a graduate, offered the opening prayer in the morning ceremony.

The Commencement address, delivered by Dr. Rick Harvey, Senior Pastor, Bethany First Church of the Nazarene and father of a graduate, challenged the graduates in both ceremonies to let God write their future, trusting Him for far better things than they can plan or imagine for themselves. With a backdrop of inspiring scripture and music by the SNU Chorale, Dr. Loren Gresham, President, declared to an appreciative audience that Southern Nazarene University is unapologetically Christian, and seeks to educate students in Christ-centered community, preparing them for servant leadership.

The President’s Award was presented to Mandie Oliver, a native of Colorado, graduating with a Nursing major and a minor in Music, and Felipe Simoes, from Brazil, who received his degree in International Business. These seniors were honored for their outstanding Christian example in scholarship, service and leadership.

In the afternoon ceremony, several in the School of Graduate and Professional Studies were recognized for having received the Distinguished Achievement Award, based on scholarship, community service, and exceptional participation in their specific academic program.

SNU Commencement May 2016The Doctor of Divinity degree was presented to author and speaker, Susie Shellenberger, who served at Focus on the Family for over two decades, and is an ordained Elder and Tenured Evangelist in the Church of the Nazarene. While a student at SNU, Susie, who graduated in 1978, was the first female ever elected to lead the Student Government Association.

In addition, Ambassador Kenneth Tillett, a graduate of SNU, was presented the Doctor of Humane Letters degree. Ambassador Tillett served the country of Belize in various positions of leadership beginning in 1975. He was named permanent representative to the United Nations for Belize and was a key negotiator in several important agreements and understandings with various nations, and has received numerous commendations and awards for his service.

Of the 479 degrees awarded in the Spring Commencement ceremonies, 165 traditional Bachelor degrees were granted. Professional Studies was represented by an additional 147 bachelor degrees from the campuses in Bethany, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and online students. Master degrees were awarded to 167 graduates from the main campus in Bethany, the Tulsa campus, and online students.  To view the Commencement ceremonies in their entirety, visit

To learn more about the Academic degree programs at Southern Nazarene University, visit or


SNU in Missions (SIMS) Teams Serving Around the World

SIMS ChapelIn a moving Chapel service, Rev. Joel Mullen, Director of the SIMS program at SNU, was joined by Dr. Loren Gresham, President, in commissioning 150 students, faculty, staff and alumni to go beyond the gates of SNU to serve around the world.

Southern Nazarene University has a long history of living out The Great Commission through ministry preparation, short-term missions opportunities and encouraging students to develop a global perspective of the Kingdom. One of the most effective student involvement programs in recent years is SIMS (SNU in Missions.) The number of participants has grown each year since its inception in 2013, and over the summer of 2016 there will be 21 teams of SNU students who, along with their mentors, will serve in 19 countries.

“One of the more inspiring aspects of the program has been the growth of the number of faculty, staff and alumni mentors who have shown such a passion for missions,” said Mullen. “It’s not something I particularly anticipated, but it has certainly been a positive for the students as they encourage them and model a life-long commitment to spreading the Gospel.”

With teams departing throughout the summer months, the logistics of travel, fundraising, coordination of projects with on-site missionaries and dealing with unexpected situations is keeping Mullen extremely busy. However, he is not content with status quo. “I definitely have a vision for the future and dream of seeing more and more people mobilized to participate in cross-cultural ministries,” he shared. “Finding ways for our students, as well as the Church at large, to see a world view of God’s mission and have the opportunity to serve together with Christians in many cultures is my goal,” Mullen said, “And a very important added benefit is that when these students graduate and are serving in their local church, they have been shaped to be effective Christians with a global perspective.”

Speaking about the 115 SNU students, some of whom will be serving with Joel in East Timor this summer, Mullen said, “We truly depend on the prayers of as many people as possible for wisdom, guidance and protection for these students, as well as the mentors.” In the Commissioning Chapel litany, Dr. Gresham expressed on behalf of the university family, “We have already been praying for you for many months, and we will continue to pray for you as you travel and as you serve, that God will protect you and use you for His glory.”

SIMS Final Day of Training

To receive updates on SIMS teams this summer, subscribe to the newsletter at To support the ongoing work of SIMS visit or contact Joel Mullen (SIMS Coordinator) for more information or 405.789.6400 x6872.

Bringing a Global Perspective to SNU

Living Out The Great Commission

Joel, Sarah Mullen & FamilyWhen you answer God’s call to serve, you open doors to adventure, opportunity and fulfillment - according to this global couple. Joel Mullen, a graduate of Southern Nazarene University, and his wife, Sara, a graduate of Mount Vernon Nazarene University, met in Papua, New Guinea on a Youth in Mission team. They married in 1996 and served on the Southeast Europe Field and in Italy for 14 years prior to “coming home” to SNU. 

Currently, Joel serves as Pastor of Student Ministries at SNU, facilitating mission and ministry opportunities for the entire SNU community. Joel came to SNU from Rogers, Arkansas and graduated with a Theology/Business degree. Later, he earned the Master of Divinity at Nazarene Theological Seminary and is completing a Doctor of Ministry degree from Bakke Graduate University. Sara is from Cadillac, Michigan and, in addition to her undergraduate degree from MVNU, received the certificate in Cross-Cultural Ministries from Nazarene Theological Seminary.

After 15 years of marriage “God called us to embark on an adoption adventure,” said Sara, “and we said, ‘“Yes, let’s go!”’ So in 2011, while the Mullen’s were serving in Italy, the doors were opened for adoption of Levi (from Ethiopia) and Lia (from China.) Just recently, they expanded their family with the adoption of Luca (age 3) from Poland. When sharing about the adoption journey and their three children, the Mullen’s say, “It’s difficult to express with words our deep joy and our profound sense of calling to be good parents to Levi, Lia and Luca.” “God graciously welcomed us into his family long ago in order that we might also graciously welcome them into ours,” they declared.Joel, Sarah Mullen & Family

Recently, Sara served as Chapel speaker and spoke to the students about laying aside their personal agendas and expectations and letting God write their story. Certainly, for Sara and Joel, the story, so far, has been an adventure that has given them a global perspective of the Kingdom. In the twenty years they have been married they have traveled to over 60 countries, learned three languages and adopted three amazing children from three different continents. Her message to the SNU student body called them to listen for “burning bush” moments in their lives when God speaks, and urged them to respond and let God set their course.

To learn more about Student Ministries visit You can listen to Sara Mullen’s Chapel message from May 3, 2016, at

Our Nazarene Heritage
Founded in 1899, Southern Nazarene University is a private, Christian, liberal arts university - a service of the Church of the Nazarene. Located on a 40-acre campus just west of Oklahoma City, SNU grew out of several small colleges committed to training people for service to God and their fellow man. More than 32,000 alumni work and serve throughout the United States and the world. Read About Our Heritage