Q&A with Derek Melleby, Director of College Transition Initiative

"I help students make the most of their college experience from a Christian perspective." Derek Melleby is the co-author of The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness: A Guide for Students.
February 22 nd 2008

Inspired by the interviews in the Paris Review and Bomb magazine, "The Questions" in Sports Illustrated, and the regular interviews on the blogs of Tom Peters and Guy Kawasaki, Comment has asked a diverse group of mentors for their stories.

Comment: How would you explain what you do to an interested nine-year-old child?

DM: I help students make the most of their college experience from a Christian perspective. (Is that even close? I don't know many nine-year-olds!)

Comment: What first drew you to this work?

DM: I was mentored by a campus minister while in college and I thought: I would like my life to have an influence on others in the same way he is having on me. That drew me toward campus ministry. And then during my graduate work I gained an even bigger vision of the importance of the college years on a person's life as well as the cultural influence higher education exerts on society. That instilled in me a desire to have some kind of impact on college students and institutions of higher education, which drew me toward my work of helping students transition from high school to college.

Comment: As a novice, what were your most valuable learning experiences?

DM: I befriended people I wanted to be like and gleaned wisdom from them. Sometimes this was very intentional. I asked older, wiser people to meet with me regularly so that I could ask questions and I gave them the freedom to ask me tough questions. I would bring a 3" X 5" card filled with questions I wanted to ask. Sometimes it was from "afar," through reading books, attending lectures, and emailing questions to people I didn't know personally.

Comment: What is the best advice you've ever been given?

DM: Write thank you notes.

Comment: From what sources do you draw inspiration for your work?

DM: Hearing stories of redemption and restoration. Hearing and seeing the Kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven, in real, tangible, changing ways. This can be through personal testimonies, music, film, novels, and not always from Christians. Oh, the mystery of it all!

Comment: What rituals and habits structure your workday?

DM: I have a pretty rigid (putting it lightly!) morning routine of silence, prayer and Bible study. After that there is no "typical day."

Comment: What are your favorite tools?

DM: Laptop, 3x5 cards (everywhere!), Pentel EnerGel pens, books and lectures on CD, power point, and a French press.

Comment: Tell us about a project that delighted you.

DM: My wife and I took a group of college students to do Tsunami relief in Thailand. It was one of the most meaningful times in my life. Every aspect of the trip was exhilarating; the planning and preparation, the "mission" of building homes for families living in temporary shelters, the return trip, and the debrief. It was a tremendous growing experience as a husband, leader, mentor, and disciple.

Comment: How do you plan your work?

DM: I'm required to write out a ministry plan twice a year and do weekly check-ins with my area director. I try to schedule intentional times of reflection and planning in August to prepare for the year. But, to be honest, my best ideas usually come in the shower or when driving!

Comment: How does your work connect to other aspects of your life?

DM: I remember hearing a speaker talk about how living a "balanced" life is not biblical because it presupposes disharmony. He suggested that the "balanced life" idea came from the Greeks, but a more biblical vision of life would be one of integration or seamlessness. I'd have to take his word for it on the Greek stuff—that I don't know—but I do try to live an integrated life, not elevating one aspect of life over another. You'd have to double check with my wife, but I'm pretty intentional about it, continually asking: What does faithfulness to Christ look like? As an employee? As a husband? As church member? As a son? As a citizen? Et cetera. What does it mean to integrate my faith into each of these areas of life?

Topics: Culture Education

Derek Melleby is the Director of CPYU's College Transition Initiative, through a partnership with the Coalition for Christian Outreach. The Initiative helps college-bound high school juniors and seniors, and their parents, successfully make the transition from high school to college. He is the co-author of The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness: A Guide for Students (Brazos Press) and lives in Mount Joy, Pennsylvania with his wife Heidi and son Jacob.