The stories of five Campbell University alumni who bring their faith to their respective professions and have carved out space to serve and show God’s love to those around them.
By Kate Stoneburner
“All Christians are called to a priestly work; to consecrate their taxicabs and office desks to God.”
Those are the words of Oscar Romero, archbishop of San Salvador, but the often-perplexing question of how an office desk can be holy is asked by cultures around the world — and by students, faculty and staff in Buies Creek.
Campbell’s mission is to prepare students, regardless of their faith identity, for purposeful lives and meaningful service. Campbell students gain perspectives informed by a Christian worldview, and opportunities abound for study of the Bible and servant leadership in underserved communities.
When a Campbell student leaves campus, they know that Christian vocation is more than the work of pastors, priests and ministers. But how do they (and how do we) translate the mundane tasks of non-clergy workplaces into the holy?
In scripture, the concept of calling goes deeper than any one aspect of life, such as work and career. The calling to follow Christ lies at the root of every other calling, and envelops all members of the church: young or old, staff member or entrepreneur, un- or underemployed, student or retiree.
It goes beyond our careers or economic status and reaches into our personal and family commitments, social and community commitments, and, for some Campbell alumni, our work as well.
Honoring God, whether it’s by healing, listening or teaching, is not necessarily built into their careers, but these five alumni brought their faith to work and carved out space to serve and show God’s love to those around them.
Their paths weren’t always clear, and they did not always feel a strong sense of “calling,” but between the lines of their resumes are stories of purpose and meaningful service.
The Truest Version of Me | Christie Stafford (’06)
Christie Stafford’s favorite part of driving to Campbell is coming up the hill on NC 27 from the east, the view of the water tower on the horizon and the familiar feeling coming over her that says, “I’m home.”
When she was a freshman, that view was a symbol of independence from her beloved but familiar community of Nahunta (a community near Goldsboro best known for its pork production), and Campbell was a place where she could just be “Christie” — instead of being “Curtis and Joan’s daughter.” She couldn’t wait to develop an identity of her own.
Stafford took the first step toward discovering herself by enrolling as an English major hoping to eventually become a child advocacy lawyer. She soon discovered, however, that the emotions accompanying such a high-conflict and involved career were too draining to pursue.
After a brief stint in children’s psychology courses with the same results, she considered youth ministry before landing on teaching — something she had always enjoyed but that educators in her family had warned her was a trying and often underappreciated profession.
Stafford knew that the emotional investment in a class of students that would only be in her care for a short time would rival the difficulties of a career in child advocacy, but she fell in love with the field in her Educational Studies classes. Those classes combined her passions for reading and learning, encouraging others and caring for children perfectly, and Stafford eventually convinced her parents that education was where she belonged.
Now in her 15th year of teaching, Stafford believes teaching is a form of ministry, even though “faith” can be a taboo subject in public schools. This year, above all others, she has worked to intentionally be Christie Stafford, Follower of Jesus first and Christie Stafford, Teacher of English second.
Stafford came to Campbell with strong faith bolstered by her family’s regular church attendance, but her time in Buies Creek helped her take ownership of it like never before.
“I knew what people believed in my Sunday school classes,” she says, “but Campbell opened up an opportunity for me to see how other people thought in Sunday school classes around the world.”
This revelation was surprising, inspiring to her study of the Bible, and crucial to her understanding of what it meant to be a teacher.
“In a classroom of 30 students, kids are bringing plenty of different viewpoints — even as young as elementary, but especially in a middle school setting,” says the seventh-grade teacher. “It’s a huge lifeskill for them to be able to acknowledge and consider others’ perspectives without compromising their own. And that’s what I learned at Campbell.”
Amid the confusion and uncertainty of teaching in pandemic conditions, Stafford spent time in serious self-reflection on her career, and decided on a new motto for the school year: Souls over standards.
The question is the same one she asked when she left her hometown for Campbell — Who will I be when I leave here?
Stafford began asking herself, Who will my students be when they leave my classroom? and, How am I going to help them grow, not just academically, but as a person?
“There were a couple of years where my motto as a teacher was ‘standards over everything,’” Stafford recalls. “I didn’t see it happening, but pressure from leadership and personal desire to excel as a teacher convinced me that if I didn’t focus on scores and get perfect results, I had failed.”
The pandemic changed all of that for Stafford. As she looked around at her classroom (thankfully still hers after safety measures led to room changes for some of her coworkers) she considered the obstacles her students would face coming to school in the midst of COVID and made a decision.
“I just thought, ‘next year, I don’t want who I am in my faith to be on the sidelines in this classroom.’ I see now that I had been compartmentalizing my career and my faith, and I had to stop focusing on the standards to focus on the individuals.”
Stafford began incorporating a quote for her class to focus on each week. Her students spend time reflecting on the ways the quote applies to their pasts, their class reading and their current circumstances and share their thoughts through writing prompts and discussion periods. Regardless of their test scores, she hopes it will lead them to consider what it means to live intentionally, take ownership for choices and be true to themselves. Souls over standards.
“Of course scores are important, but in the long run, no one asks about your seventh grade test score average. What is really important in seventh grade is the ethic you develop and the way you treat people. I had lost sight of that. I prayed for my students, sure— often about their scores, and often it sounded more like a complaint than a prayer. This year I’ve stopped attaching numbers to them. God has shifted my perspective and priorities. And I feel like my classroom is better for it.
Outside of the classroom, Stafford continues to be involved at Campbell on the Alumni Board of Directors and CamelLink, the student-alumni mentor program. At her first board meeting, she says she felt out of place. Surrounded by doctors, lawyers and community representatives, she didn’t know what she was doing on the board as a “small town teacher.”
“But when I said it out loud, they told me ‘Christie, you are so much more than that.’ And that’s how it always is at Campbell, from my first day in Buies Creek. I wouldn’t be the teacher I am today without it. I saw how to love like Jesus because I was loved like Jesus.”
Despite her love of the classroom, Stafford says she has always found more joy in learning more about God in teaching. She loves her English background because it gives her a literary lens for reading the Bible. She also loves to research, study theology and write and share her findings. With that in mind, in the spring she’ll be starting as a student at Campbell again in the Master of Arts in Faith and Leadership Formation program.
“I think life’s journey is all about searching for who God wants me to be — not what I’m supposed to be because it’s what I want, but finding what He created me to be. That’s the truest version of Christie there is.”
Faith, Healing and Intellect | Corey Furman (’95)
Boone pharmacist Corey Furman did not pick Campbell University because of its up-and-coming pharmacy program. In fact, when he entered the class of 1995, he was sure that he did not want to become a pharmacist. Working for his dad at the family pharmacy practice from the time he was old enough to take out the trash through high school was enough to tell him that.
He was not enthusiastic about following in his father’s professional footsteps. But in the back of his mind, Furman knew that taking over the practice someday would be a good Plan B if his career didn’t work out.
He just wasn’t sure what that Plan A career might be.
Furman’s decision to attend Campbell was also not based on a gut feeling, a professional passion or a call from God to move to Buies Creek. But he’s firm in his belief that God can work in someone’s life to guide them without an unmistakable sense of calling.
“I had so many mentors at Campbell,” he says. “There were people who helped me and molded me into a better student. But what they were really showing me was more like discipleship. And I realize this now looking back. They were showing me how Christians behave— taking an interest, talking to you, loving you and helping you out before you get up the nerve to ask.”
So while Furman can’t point to an exact feeling that led him to Buies Creek, he can point to a mission trip that strengthened his faith and made it clear that pharmacy school was exactly where he needed to be.
During a clinical rotation at a hospital in Kenya, Furman learned the hospital’s pharmacist had been praying for someone to help him while he took a break to be with his newborn. After giving Furman three days of training, the pharmacist left for home, leaving the fourth-year pharmacy student to run the operation.
“On that trip is when I started diving more into scripture and asking what my role is as a servant,” Furman recalls. “Taking care of others is something we are all told to do. But from a Christian perspective, that takes on a more total, more sacrificial meaning.”
In 1994, the Rwanda genocide began. Still just a student, Furman was technically a representative of World Medical Missions and certainly the closest thing to a pharmacist in the area. He was sent to help with relief efforts in Rwanda, an experience that changed how Furman related to the world and one that strengthened his relationship with God. He went on to do mission work in Uganda, Sudan, Afghanistan, Peru, Haiti and Southern Lebanon.
Today, Furman is the president of Boone Drugs Inc., a family business — with stores across the Carolinas — that he and his wife Ashley Furman (PharmD ’96) run with his father. He helped celebrate the original Boone Drug’s 100-year anniversary last year, reading the company mission statement: “We honor God by providing the pharmaceutical and healthcare needs for our community.”
Furman and his family have expanded their pharmacy’s services to include a drive-through COVID-19 test site. While Corey runs the business side, Ashley can often be seen outside in her bright yellow suit, mask and shield on, running to and fro and swabbing as safely as possible. On numerous occasions, she has paused to pray with people as they go through that line.
“Everyone being tested is experiencing such vulnerability,” Furman says. “They’re hoping fervently that they don’t have it because if they do they can’t see their new grandbaby, or their dad in the hospital, or their wife who has a respirator. We find opportunities to share the truth of the gospel with those people when they come through that line.”
The Furmans decided early on that faith would be at the center of their business model.
“We are fortunate to live in an area that embraces the way we promote our values. Perhaps there are customers we have lost because they heard our Christian-based radio commercial. But what’s more important — to make the sale or to stand up for the ideals and truths that we believe in?”
It was determination to be open about their beliefs that led the Furmans to partner with Campbell’s College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences in 2007. They helped create an elective course specifically designed to equip health science students for mission work and send them into communities facing need.
“There are few schools today that provide both outstanding academic education and a solid Christian atmosphere,” Furman says. “So many people are raised in a Christian environment only to arrive at college to find that the academic community does not endorse what they have been told is truth all their life. Students are told they cannot be Christian and believe in sciences and truths of higher education. Campbell is a rare exception to this trend in education, and we wanted to make sure its students continue to have opportunities to see and serve the world, using both their faith and their intellect.”
A Deeper Form of Advocacy | Shaquasha Williams (’17)
Shaquasha Williams felt at home at Campbell from the start.
“I know everyone says that about Campbell,” she says, “but it rang true for me. It felt like home. I cried when I got that acceptance letter, because I just knew that’s where I was supposed to be.”
Growing up in a small town, Williams’ faith was more of a tradition and a family activity than a worldview that belonged to her. Being Christian was the norm, and Williams believed strongly in her family’s values. But gaining independence at Campbell showed her how important it would be to make her faith her own, practice it independently, make bible-based choices and think for herself.
She liked being around like-minded people, walking past the chapel daily and having easy access to Bible studies. She joined Sigma Alpha Omega, a Christian sorority, and saw a spiritual side to every aspect of the campus community. It was never difficult to align her belief in serving others with her social work major. But Williams’ original goal was not to be a therapist, but a family attorney.
“I knew I wanted to help families, and it seemed to me that many attorneys lacked or overlooked the importance of individual emotional connection. The law may be black and white, but I wanted deeper advocacy. I wanted to bring a more loving connection into it.”
Williams saw a need for family attorneys with empathy, who are committed to following the law and also have a strong understanding of individual circumstances and human rights. To do that, she wanted to understand family dynamics better, and chose social work for her major.
Under Professor and Social Work Chair Dr. Eugene Sumner, Williams fell in love with the social work field and spent a few semesters torn between social work and law school.
“It was only tough because I knew working with families was what I wanted to do, and I was just seeing two ways of making it happen,” she recalls. “I looked up to Sumner so much as an example of what it looks like to be humble and faith-filled in that profession, and could see myself following in those footsteps. But I’d spent so long aspiring to law school it didn’t feel like a possibility.”
God made the decision for her in the end, Williams says. Her transition from focusing on a law career to becoming a clinical social worker was surprisingly easy. Her LSAT score just missed entry to Campbell Law School, and while she was considering next steps, she came across a piece of scripture she had hanging on a wall in her dorm room, encouraging her to trust God’s will.
“It reminded me that God had plans for me that were better than mine,” she says. “I always thought Campbell would be a stepping stone to law school. But when I realized I wasn’t going, I felt peace. I had fallen in love with social work. I felt like family attorney had only ever been just a goal, and being a clinical social worker was my calling.”
That same scripture also encouraged Williams when she struggled to find jobs right out of her masters program at East Carolina University. Just when she was reminding herself to trust that God would work out a good career path, an old friend from Campbell contacted her with news of a job opening at Waynesboro Family Clinic, where Williams is happily employed today.
Williams has a certificate in substance abuse counseling and a passion for helping those who have been neglected or struggle with addiction. She’s especially passionate about fostering understanding of mental health in rural communities. Just as therapists must realize how incredibly formative and deeply-held religious beliefs are, Williams knows the importance of helping communities break down mental health stigmas in order to better serve and support one another.
“To me there is a close connection between mental health therapists and pastors and clergy. Your spiritual advisors and your mental health advisors should both be challenging the mental health stigma, and they should also support each other’s goals — helping people develop strong faith and getting to the heart of beliefs that will shape people’s choices.”
An Investment in Service | Marshall Allen (’10)
Marshall Allen would say his faith journey ebbed and flowed on the road to Campbell, but watching his father leave a career to study and enter ministry stuck with him. He knew it was important to devote time and energy to his relationship with God. But at first, it seemed difficult to do so without directly going into ministry.
Without knowing exactly what he wanted in a career, Allen knew there was something different about Campbell. The business school already knew his name before he committed to the major in 2006. He took a business law class with Professor Jimmy Witherspoon, one thing led to another, and he ended up a trust major.
“I got hooked on the service aspect,” he says. “There is an empathy that you have to have in tough situations and an emphasis on building relationships, all culminating in helping meet a family’s needs.”
Today, Allen is a trust officer at Advocacy Trust. The independent firm works with people with special needs to figure out how to manage money they’ve received from settlements. While serving an often neglected population has helped Allen line up his career and faith more than ever before, he learned long ago that God will use those who love Him for good, regardless of what career they choose.
“As a trust officer, I can confidently tell you that when it comes to living out our faith, why we invest and how we invest matters more than where we invest. When our heart is in the right place with God, pieces are apt to fall into place.”
Like many Campbell Trust students, Allen began his career with Wells Fargo in Winston-Salem, working largely behind the scenes. Seeking the relationship-building work that he fell in love with as a student, he moved to Florida to find a more client-facing job, taking his family with him. Allen immediately discovered what a totally different world South Florida is from eastern North Carolina.
“Encountering ultra-high-wealth clients in South Florida was a daily occurrence — $50 million or $100 million net worths were normal. And there were times when I might work with a difficult beneficiary — someone whose worldview was different enough from my own that it seemed like their sole purpose in life was waking up and thinking, ‘How can I make more money today?’”
Nine times out of 10, Allen says, his clients were kind, generous and made him feel good about his career. And while there were times when he questioned whether or not he had chosen the right field, Allen’s family grew to love South Florida. He earned his MBA there before moving back to North Carolina to be closer to family, but ultimately learned that serving God is possible even without a defined sense of career “rightness.”
“You can serve God in any field. In finance, in factory work, anywhere. And in many fields in which it can be difficult to feel ‘called,’ there is great need. There are always ways to minister to and share faith with colleagues, whether its opening conversations through theology books or Bibles on your desk, humbly serving your company or taking on burdens when a coworker is in need.”
Allen and his wife, Erika, whom he met at Campbell’s welcome picnic in Academic Circle, hope to teach their children that no matter where God places them, they can serve and love others. And when it comes to education and career, Allen says he still views Campbell as a place to develop a solid Christian worldview.
“When it comes to developing faith in our children, we often talk about insulating, not isolating them. Rather than being smacked in the face by the real world when they leave our home, we’d prefer to walk with them and teach them to love others in a world that might have strayed from Christ more than any other time in history.”
The Allens are licensed foster parents and plan to continue fostering in 2021. Allen also mentors Campbell students through the Charlotte Alumni Network, serves on the Alumni Board of Directors, conducts on-campus interviews for open positions at Advocacy Trust and hosts Campbell students through internships.
Caring Still Matters | Cherie Dickson Salisbury (’17 DO)
Not long ago, Cherie Salisbury wanted to be a politician. She could see herself as a senator or representative, and she marked political science as her major entering her freshman year of college at a small school in Michigan.
Medicine, she says, was the farthest thing from her mind. In fact, the sight of blood made her queasy. “I had to leave biology class when you just mentioned the word ‘blood,’” she recalls.
But in the car on her way to college move-in, Salisbury happened to be listening to a CD on diet with her mother, lamenting that her squeamishness prevented her from studying health science when her mother spoke up.
“She told me, ‘If you’re meant to do this, God will make a way for it. There are therapies and breathing practices and lots of ways to handle aversions.’ And that’s where it started. I switched majors as soon as I got to campus.”
Making the choice to pursue medicine was all it took. Salisbury says walking into her first bio lab, she felt nothing— no nausea, no fear.
“It was a God thing, I know. Because I’m interested in science, but I’m less interested in medicine for its own sake and more interested in using it as a tool to serve others and serve the Lord.”
Even after discovering her passion, the road to Campbell wasn’t easy for Salisbury. She faced financial hardships that led to school transfers, which ended in an extra year of study thanks to lost credits.
She took an extra year to study up for the MCAT and apply to medical schools, then spent a year in a post-bac program. But she counts the delay as a blessing as well.
The gap year and post-bacc program gave Salisbury time to work with a medical missionary group at a rural women and children’s hospital in Pakistan. She spent a month on call, delivering babies and gaining hands-on experience she never dreamed of. Learning more about other faiths and seeing her patients’ need was heartbreaking.
“I felt like the Lord said, ‘you’re going to be shown that the wealth and prestige of medicine doesn’t matter — this matters, caring for people matters.’”
As a medical student and into her career, Salisbury has made it a habit to offer to pray with her patients. She’s seen enough to know that facing medical problems is exhausting, frightening and not something to compartmentalize away from a patient’s spritiual life if they don’t want to.
“Everyone has a story. Some of my patients haven’t seen a physician in many years and don’t trust doctors. Others share their most intimate thoughts with us. Either way, we meet our patients at their most vulnerable.”
Today, Salisbury works at Christ Health Center in Birmingham, Alabama. A federally qualified health center, Christ Health sees insured and uninsured patients, a majority of whom are on Medicare or Medicaid and from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.
COVID-19 has made the center a “whirwind of activity,” which can be taxing and tiring, but Salisbury starts each day with “some time with the Lord” to overcome whatever awaits.
“It is the only way that I can have the strength and empathy to love my patients,” she says.
To Salisbury, the spiritual care she offers her patients is just as important as the physical.
“When I’m in those conversations, I tell them, ‘You are not unnoticed. You are a son or a daughter of the Lord who cares for you and sees you.’ I just speak the truth.”
The connection between Salisbury’s faith and her career choice was made long before she joined the first graduating class at Campbell’s School of Osteopathic Medicine. Sick of applications and with a spot secured already at a school in Virginia, she wasn’t considering Campbell at all — except for a tug from God when she saw the phrase “we are training physicians in a Christian environment” in a Campbell brochure.
When she interviewed at Campbell, Salisbury and her interviewer both teared up sharing stories of faith. Suddenly, her convoluted journey to med school made sense — she was waiting for Campbell.
In Buies Creek, she was able to continue to integrate her worldview with her profession. Salisbury learned how to encourage and be encouraged by other believers while being welcoming to Christians and non-Christians alike, and particularly credits Associate Professor Dr. Charlotte Paolini as a faith mentor.
“I remember my parents had been praying that I would be able to be my whole self wherever I ended up studying. That I would be able to go to an interview and not just say that I love medicine and the human body and want to learn about them, but say that I want to serve the Lord by healing people.”