KNOXVILLE — Samuel Baggett graduated from Johnson in 2015 with little expectation of returning to his alma mater. But after a residency and short-term job at Christ’s Church of the Valley in Phoenix, Arizona, Baggett is now a lecturer in communication and technical director in the School of Communication and Creative Arts.
Baggett described the circumstances that led him to Johnson for the first time as a student.
“I went to a small private Christian high school and something that juniors and seniors were allowed to do was go on this thing called a college tour,” he said.
Baggett explained that one stop on the tour of Christian colleges was Johnson, but he wasn’t immediately interested.
“I remember we were in the student center and they were playing the radio,” he said. “They were playing this heavy metal song by this Christian band called Norma Jean and I was really into metal at the time so that’s the one thing I remembered about Johnson,” he laughed.
This brief experience would lead him to remember Johnson two years later after receiving a certificate in audio engineering from a trade school in Arizona.
“I decided it would be good to have a degree to help me get a job,” he said. “I thought about Johnson, I thought about that experience with the heavy metal song and discovered that we had a media program here.”
Baggett, who grew up moving from state to state frequently due to his father’s job as a corporate safety manager, said that finding a home church was always a priority in his family.
Baggett said that the fact that he would earn a degree in Bible and theology as well as media at Johnson was extremely important to him.
“I realized I didn’t understand as much about the Bible as I wanted to in high school so the door kind of opened for me to come to Johnson and learn more about the Bible,” he said. “Knowing that faith is important was a big draw that got me here.”
Baggett said that from the beginning he was heavily involved with audio production at Johnson.
“Jeff Tolbert was the main sound guy before and working with him and the work-study team opened up a lot of opportunities to learn,” he said. “Besides chapel, I got to run a couple different events. Homecoming one year I got to run sound as a student which was really cool.”
Baggett also volunteered with community churches such as Seymour Heights, Crossings and Sevier Heights to help with audio production.
“I felt like I was able to invest a little bit of my skills into Johnson and I got a lot from it, I got a lot of great relevant experience toward what I wanted to do and what I’m doing now,” he said.
After graduation, Baggett moved to Phoenix unsure of his career in audio production and eager to explore different areas of ministry.
“I did everything from youth ministry, to children’s ministry, to a little bit of pastoral [ministry]. I coached a kindergarten boy’s soccer team and never thought I’d do anything like that but loved it. We lost more games than we won but it was so much fun,” he said, laughing.
Baggett explained this this experience led him to realize something crucial about his future career.
“I learned that my passion was more helping people, or teaching people than any gear or buttons that I had to press.”
Over Christmas break 2015, the halfway point in his residency, Baggett began thinking about the possibility of returning to Johnson.
“I knew that basically all of the programs were growing and I just thought maybe as the school continues to grow they could use some help, or maybe I could come back to Johnson and invest back into that community that I love and feels like my home,” he said.
Baggett reached out to the Dean of the School of Communication and Creative Arts, Matthew Broaddus, to see if there were any positions available.
“Long story short nothing was available but it opened a line of communication with me and Matthew,” he said.
After the residency at CCV, Baggett was offered a job at the church in their production department.
“It was a lot of fun but it wasn’t a good fit. The job that I had was exclusively working with the tech side of things and not really utilizing my passion for working for people,” he said.
Baggett began to feel burnt out, something he said he remembered being taught about at Johnson.
“Youth ministers and pastors everywhere start feeling burnout after a couple of years and I felt it after two months,” he said, frowning.
Another reason Baggett felt it was time to move on was his fiancée, Rachelle, who was working at a church in Illinois.
“I decided to resign from that job before having another job to go to which was what a lot of people would consider foolish and I would agree,” he said, laughing. “But it was a faith thing, I had to step out in faith and do it.”
Baggett said that his trust paid off when, shortly after leaving CCV, he received an email from Broaddus.
“There was a vacancy in the position that I’m in now to teach some of the audio classes and to work with media services doing chapel [and] events like Homecoming, all the things I got to do as a student with work-study,” he said.
Baggett said that since beginning work two months ago he has learned a lot about how to help students learn.
“I think that’s my favorite part so far is learning how to be a teacher. I feel like there’s a lot to learn, I haven’t had any formal teaching experience, but I’ve been around the subject matter that I am teaching for a long, long time,” he said.
Baggett said the he enjoys witnessing students grow into their talent or calling.
“If I get to help give a little bit of direction to a student that is trying to figure out what they want to do with their life, if I can be a stepping stone along the way then I’m satisfied,” he said, smiling.
Samuel and Rachelle got married in late November 2016 just weeks before he began working at Johnson.
“We got back from the honeymoon and then packed all of our things into our cars and came down to Johnson,” he said.
Rachelle Baggett was hired in the Advancement Office shortly after.
“She actually works on the second floor of the EAC and I’m working on the third floor which is cool. She’s a month in and she’s had a lot put on her plate but she’s handling it in stride and she’s loving it,” he said.
Baggett explained that he hopes to help extend the audio program in the next several years at Johnson.
“I’ve got a lot of ideas, I want to be optimistic and I want to be as productive as I can,” he said. “We’re growing as a program and its exciting that I get to play a part in it and maybe help steer the ship, at least from the audio side of things, in the right direction.”
Baggett said that no matter what changes in the program, the students are his primary focus.
“To me it all comes down to, students are here to learn and ultimately to get jobs. So that’s kind of my personal goal is: how do I help students learn the skills that they need to get the jobs that they want so that they can make an impact on the world,” he said. “As Christian practitioners of media, [they will] leave the world a better place than they found it and help spread the Gospel.”