Master-Minded Alumni

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For over 110 years, Cairn University has been educating students to serve Christ in the church, society, and the world as
biblically minded, well-educated, and professionally competent men and women of character. When the University set out to offer graduate programs in divinity, education, counseling, and business over 30 years ago, the mission stayed the same but the definition of “student” expanded.

The University fulfills its mission not just by dispensing biblically integrated education into the hearts and minds of recent high school graduates but also through those who want to continue their education at an institution that will
advance their career without asking them to compromise on their conviction that Christ and his Word must be at the center of their lives.

Here, you will meet (or perhaps, remeet) four alumni who are using their Cairn graduate education to serve Christ in the church, society, and the world. They are using their master’s degrees to the glory of and in service to their Master.

Jason Crocker ’13/G’16

Jason’s journey at the University started when his hometown pastor encouraged him to transfer to a Bible college. In God’s timing, Jason was led to Cairn. He transferred into the biblical studies program with the intent to enroll in a seminary after graduation. When the time came to choose a seminary, he decided to stay at his alma mater. Earning a Master of Divinity degree at Cairn allowed him to stay connected to the faculty and continue to learn and serve at the church he had been attending. The local, beautiful young woman who would eventually become his wife (Heather [Douglas] Crocker ’13) was certainly another deciding factor.

Within a year of graduation, Jason was candidating at the church where he now serves as the associate pastor. For the past seven years, he has been at Fellowship Bible Church in Northeast Philadelphia, where his primary responsibility is to oversee the youth and young adult ministries in addition to being on the preaching rotation. With Heather’s missions background, their family has been blessed to come alongside the church’s vision of missions and global ministry. In 2023, Jason spent two weeks in Cameroon, teaching, preaching, and helping to lead a conference for the pastors in the region.

While his ministry responsibilities are widespread, his approach to ministry has a singular philosophy: preach the Word and tell the truth. To make the gospel more appealing by weakening its message is a real temptation, especially for those whose livelihoods depend on filling the seats in front of their pulpits. But if we truly believe the Bible to be God’s Word, then there is no room for compromise. This was a particularly poignant lesson that Jason learned in his Hebrew studies with Dr. Schnittjer:

“That class created a healthy, reverential fear in me. It reminded me that what is written in this book in front of me is, in fact, God’s Word, and it needs to be taken seriously. But how awesome is our God that he said, ‘Take my Word seriously! Preach my Word! Yes, I know you will struggle to do so at times, but I’m still going to give it to you?’”

Jason loves God’s Word, God’s people, and teaching God’s people to love God’s Word. In his ministry, he has created spaces where fellow Christians can edify one another, dialogue about different theological views flows freely, and Scripture is the final authority.

“I always say, ‘If you’re not being sharpened amongst brothers and sisters, good luck being sharpened amongst wolves. They’re going to eat you alive. So I need to tell you the truth of Scripture, even when it’s hard.’”

Matthew Valverde G’23

Matthew’s family moved from Long Island, NY, to Lancaster County at the beginning of his first year of middle school. While changing schools can often only add to the challenges of moving, it was actually the factor that aided his transition the most. At Dayspring Christian Academy, Matthew quickly found community amongst his classmates and faculty.

Matthew graduated from Dayspring and went to college to pursue petroleum engineering—a well-paying career that would use his natural giftings in math and science. But before the end of his freshman year, he started to have a strange
feeling. While his success in the program should have planted nothing but green flags for his future in the field, a small part of him was convinced that this was not what he should be doing. After graduation, he spent a few years working for an engineering company, but that feeling was still there. Through prayer, that little feeling grew into a deeper conviction that God was calling him to return to and teach at Dayspring. He knew it was time to make the transition when roles and responsibilities started changing at his engineering job around the same time Dayspring was looking for a new science

His first school year as Mr. Valverde could be summarized as knowing what he was teaching but knowing a bit less about
how he should be teaching it. That’s when he enrolled in the MS in Educational Leadership & Administration program. The program afforded him the opportunity to refine his educational philosophy and pedagogy and take courses that better prepare him for his future goal of being a part of the school’s administrative leadership.

Matthew is now in his fifth year of teaching and is the chair of the mathematics department at Dayspring Christian Academy. In his role, he teaches high school math and science courses in addition to coaching boys’ basketball. When asked what he enjoys most about his job, he said this:

“I love working with the kids. I love investing in the next generation and having conversations about biblical truth. I love seeing the ‘Aha!’ moments when they wrestle with hard things and then finally understand them. I love to instill confidence in the kids, to teach them that God has gifted them with talents and abilities. I want them to build a strong work ethic. I want them to be biblically sound when they leave here. There are so many mentorship opportunities that I have by working here with the students. I love these students. Plus, I love math.”

Paz Shroyer ’16/G’16

Paz’s career with ChoiceOne began as a volunteer. She started serving as a mentor at this women’s resource center in 2003, partly because her sister was a teen mom and she wanted to come alongside other women who were in similar positions and facing similar choices.

After her husband passed away from brain cancer in 2006, Paz felt the Lord calling her to serve him more fully, potentially as a missionary. She enrolled at the University the following fall—originally just for a Bible degree, but she later decided to continue her education in the graduate counseling program. The more she learned about Christ, his Word, and the counseling profession, the more she was able to serve and mentor women at ChoiceOne.

Paz transitioned from volunteer to counselor after finishing the clinical third year of the counseling program in 2017. Her first language is Spanish, so she is able to uniquely contribute to the organization by taking a caseload of primarily Latina women who benefit from receiving counseling in their native language.

In addition to the measureless impact she has had on the lives of women, one of the most significant contributions Paz
made to the organization was assisting in the launch of CO2, ChoiceOne’s professional counseling center. A play off of the organization’s name, CO2 is where women “exhale” and are able to talk with a professional counselor who can help them work through various issues. Because of the generosity of staff and donors, these sessions are offered at little to no cost for those who need it.

While ChoiceOne and CO2 meet very practical needs— from ultrasounds and prenatal mentoring to diapers, formula, and professional counseling—these are not simply pro-life services but vehicles to further the Kingdom of God. Paz has
stayed at ChoiceOne for over 20 years because the gospel stays at the center of her work:

“I enjoy being able to bring hope to these clients who come from hopeless situations, letting them know that there is hope, and introducing them to our heavenly Father, who is the God of hope,” said Paz. “And I can do this with an empathetic heart. I’m still facing a great loss, but I know that God comforts me in that loss, and he can offer them the same comfort.”

Breana Farrell ’17/G’17

Breana graduated in 2017 from the accounting + MBA dual-level program and was immediately hired by Tait Weller, the same accounting firm that she interned with the previous year. At Tait Weller, she worked her way up the ladder while she studied for her CPA exams: first an audit associate, then a senior, and then a supervisor.

Breana earned her CPA credential at the end of 2020. As a woman of color in a male-dominated profession, she knew this was an important step in her career. After six years at Tait Weller, she accepted an audit supervisor position at Citrin
Cooperman, a Philadelphia-based accounting firm. In this role, Breana leads a team of accountants who audit the books of
several businesses and corporations.

Some might assume a Christian college education is a hindrance on a resume for a competitive and secular career field. Breana believes that earning her degree from a Christian university like Cairn gives her a competitive edge in the job market:

“Being a Christian in the business world is probably the biggest advantage I have, especially in auditing. There is so much unethical behavior that can happen in business, so the fact that my integrity is not just a job responsibility but an essential part of my character is an extra layer of assurance for employers. I don’t ever question, ‘Should I sweep this under the rug?’ or say, ‘This is not exactly right, but we’ll let it slide for the bottom line’ because my reason to be honest is, ultimately, my relationship with Christ not my job.”

Breana’s faith, her parents’ service-oriented Jamaican background, and the Cairn mission also motivate her to use her gifts and knowledge of finance to help the broader community. She serves as treasurer of Young Caribbean Professional Network, sits on the finance committee of Alpha Care, and is a member of the National Association of Black Accountants. In the future, Breana would like to, in addition to owning her own accounting firm, open a nonprofit that offers financial services to underserved communities:

“Volunteering has given me the opportunity to see that a great need exists for financial literacy and services in underserved communities,” said Breana. “Financial literacy is not taught adequately in schools, and hiring a finance professional to fill that knowledge gap is a luxury many individuals cannot afford. My goal is to use the knowledge and skills that I have and offer them to those who need it most.”

Lydia Garrison ’18/G’22 is the managing editor of Cairn. She can be reached at