Name: Mandy Oleson
Occupation: Currently studying at Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus, Ohio
Graduation Year: 2003
Favorite Book: Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation by Parker Palmer
Advice: "Embrace the opportunity -- to learn, to grow, to travel, to play, to laugh, to cry, and to love -- and be changed by how the opportunity embraces you."
Mandy Oleson is a Wittenberg alumnus who graduated in 2003 with a degree in history. Oleson is a candidate for ordained ministry in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and she is currently in her third year in the Master of Divinity program at Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio. After graduating from Wittenberg, Oleson was a Fulbright recipient and an English teaching assistant in Salzburg, Austria. She also completed a Master of Arts in European Society from University College London before starting seminary school. “My training is preparing me to be a servant-leader in the twenty-first century church,” Oleson says. Some of her favorite aspects about training to be a pastor “are the unexpected experiences of grace.” She recalls her involvement with the Swahili Service for the Columbus Community: “In May 2009, we jumped head first into a ministry we weren’t sure would even draw enough people to have a worship service. Almost a year and a half later, the service continues to grow and bring Tanzanians and East Africans together to worship in the language of their hearts. It is a powerful and humbling experience.”
Oleson’s training and education have also allowed her to travel extensively. She is currently serving a one-year internship at Zion Lutheran Church in San Antonio, Texas. She also completed a week-long immersion course at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky. One thing Oleson appreciates about seminary is that it doesn’t just restrict her travels to within the United States. “I have been able to travel to the Middle East on a study seminar to explore both biblical culture and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Oleson remarks, noting both the historical and political aspects of her work. But her true travel highlights were “living, studying and working in Salzburg and London for the first five years after graduating [from Wittenberg].” She hopes one day to travel to Tanzania to continue to grow the relationships that she developed in London and Columbus through the Swahili ministries in both cities.
“My degree from Wittenberg, and especially my experiences in the history department, broadened my perspective and encouraged me to explore the world and to reflect on my place within the global network of humanity,” says Oleson. She values how both Wittenberg University and the History Department asked her "to think, to reason, to analyze, to be curious, to ask questions and to wrestle with the answers." She also points out, “rather than putting me into a box, Wittenberg and the history faculty challenged me to take down the walls of my box and see the beauty and diversity on the other side.” Oleson credits Wittenberg for giving her a quiet confidence in herself and her ability to make a positive contribution wherever she may be. “Wittenberg, and especially the history faculty, helped me see that we do pass the light on, but only when we are open to receiving the light that others are passing to us.”