In Focus
Philosophy &
Religious Studies

From Biology to Ministry:How One Professor Influenced a Student’s Journey

By Amanda Mayotte ’15

Marisa Moon ’18

When New York native Marisa Moon ’18 first set foot on the Hill for a campus visit, she knew MMU was the place for her. Its beautiful location, compelling programs, skilled faculty, and opportunity for a bowling scholarship helped seal the deal over another school closer to home.

“I fell in love immediately,” Moon says.

She became a biology major on the pre-med track with the goal of working in a hospital. She joined the Science Club, earned a spot on the bowling team, became a residential peer minister, and added religious studies as a second major. Life at MMU was comfortable.

Then, a conversation with Joe Nguyen, associate professor of chemistry, changed Moon’s career trajectory in a most unexpected way.

“He looked at me and said, ‘I don’t see your passion for this subject,’ ” Moon says. “At that point, I had done so much with biology, I didn’t know what else I might want to do. He said, ‘I think you know. Why did you add that second major?’ ”

Religion has always been a part of Moon’s life. She was involved with youth groups, fundraisers, conference trips, camps, and volunteering with her hometown church, Prince of Peace.

“The way people interact through religion and the way it can create community fascinates me,” Moon says.

After much reflection, Moon decided on a path she hadn’t thought about before: seminary school. She will attend United Lutheran Seminary in Philadelphia this fall and hopes to become a minister at a congregation to continue building the community spirit she holds dear.

“There’s a lot of stigma around religion,” Moon says. “I want people to know it is a welcoming community, and it is a community that will support you. That’s one of my big things—being accepting of everyone.”

Although her career goals have changed, she hasn’t lost the dream of working in a health care setting. Moon also hopes to spend time as a minister in a hospital. She job shadowed in the chaplaincy area at Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids to get a glimpse of the future.

“In that setting, you meet people where they are,” she says. “Not everyone has the same beliefs, and you have to be a bit of a chameleon. Coming to a Catholic university as a Lutheran has helped me practice that.” ■


“There’s a lot of stigma around religion,” Marisa Moon ’18 says. “I want people to know it is a welcoming and supportive community. That’s one
of my big things—being accepting of everyone.”


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