Category: Students


Alumni Feature: Kayla Bowman

KISSIMMEE— Kayla Bowman works as Choir Director and Elementary Music Teacher at Mountain Missions School (MMS) in Virginia.

Bowman graduated from Johnson University Florida May 2017 with a Musical Arts degree. She and her husband, Eddy Bowman, married shortly after graduation and started working at Mountain Missions school. Eddy serves as a Bible teacher and campus minister.

Mountain Missions School is located in Grundy, Virginia. Founded by Sam Hurley in 1921, MMS is a private, residential school whose mission is to provide care and refuge for children in need. Their story is one of sacrifice and compassion. Over 200,000 children have attended the school with nearly 95% of them continuing their education through college.

The Bowmans were unsure of their future when God provided this unique opportunity. Bowman’s great aunt had worked at MMS for several years when she informed her about the choir director’s resignation. Bowman always wanted to teach music but her imagination had not featured ministry in this way.

According to Bowman, working at MMS has been a unique experience. “The big defining word [for MSS]”, Bowman said, “is different.” Children from different cultures and worship traditions attend to gain an education and a better future.

As Bowman became more involved in leading songs during chapel, she quickly realized the difference. Children are energetic and participative, but not in the same ways.

“The beauty of MMS is being able to connect with students individually,” She said. “Everything is communal here.”

One memorable moment for the couple was when an 8th grader approached Eddy after Bible class concerning baptism. Her guardians had continually removed her from school when she tried to be baptized. She no longer knew what to do. Eddy has been counseling her through this struggle.

When asked who or what from her time at Johnson was most influential in preparing her, Bowman had her answer right away.

The music program faculty,” Bowman said. “They prepared me for everything I needed for this job.”

As Bowman has reflected on her education at Johnson, her main message to current students is “everything you do now matters; it’s all useful even if you don’t see it right now.” She wants students to trust in their professors and build healthy habits before leaving. She has seen all of her studies help her in her full-time job.


JUTN sophomore creates business out of passion for photography


Sophomore Hannah Mattson laughs at a photo that she just took, admiring the personality that she captured in the photo. Photo Courtesy of Sarah Moser Photography

Knoxville- JUTN sophomore Hannah Mattson has transformed her passion for photography into a job and part-time business.

Mattson is currently pursuing a degree in human services with a focus in psychology at JUTN. She is exploring various ways in which she could use this degree in the future but is still unsure of what she would like to do.  However, Mattson has been able to express her passion for photography through her job in the JUTN graphics department as well as her own business, Hannah Mattson Photography.

Mattson’s love for photography started when she was a young girl and continues to grow.

“Anytime I had the chance to get a camera and take pictures I have loved to do that,” She said.  “I remember from when I was little I have loved to take pictures and take detailed pictures and pictures of people or whatever it might be. I’ve always had a passion for it.”

Mattson began working in Johnson’s graphics department as one of the two student photographers in September. She works alongside the graphic designer each week. The graphic designer will share with Mattson and the other student photographer what her vision is for the week and then the photographers have the freedom to plan and execute photography sessions.

“We get pictures for sporting events, chapel, any type of Founders Day, Homecoming, basically any big event the graphics department – the other photographer and I – try to get as many pictures as we can for that,” Mattson said.

Currently Mattson is working on a project to photograph each of the majors offered at Johnson.

“We are trying to get more pictures for every different major so that we can market the majors better and so that people can see really hands-on what we do (at JUTN) through pictures,” She said. “We are giving students that are possibly going to come here a perspective of what it is like to come here.”

Once the photographs are taken and edited, the graphics department along with the director of communications may feature the content in the Johnson Magazine, the annual report, marketing brochures for prospective students, or social media content for the university. Mattson’s work has been featured in many of the publications that Johnson produces.

While Mattson has always had a love for photography, it was not until she began working for the graphics department that she began to make great strides in work as a photographer.

“I kept falling more in love with (photography) as I was able to use the camera that we have here and so after that I started thinking ‘maybe I could make a business out of this or potentially do something more apart from school,’” Mattson said.

After some brainstorming, Mattson decided to begin building her business. Last semester she did this primarily through building her portfolio and getting more pictures so that future clients would have past work to view before choosing her as their photographer. This semester Mattson decided to launch her Instagram, which can be found at @hannahmattsonphoto, in order to get her name out more.

“It has kind of been a slow and gradual process of starting my business and I don’t really know where I want it to go or where I am taking it, but I am taking it slow right now since I am in college,” Mattson said.

At this stage, Mattson views her business as a “side gig” and an extra way to make money. If someone asks her to take their photos, she is happy about it, but if someone does not ask her to take their photos, she could not care less about it.

Balancing college and a photography business present itself with some unique challenges for Mattson.

“A lot of times photo shoots are done on the weekends and a lot of times I want my weekends to be kind of chilling and not doing anything,” Mattson said. “I think it is hard because I have to sacrifice my time that I want to go out and take pictures or whatever that might be.”

Along with school and photography, Mattson also works at Starbucks, so with an increase of people asking her to do photo shoots she has had to find a balance in managing her time, but she has found a way to make it work.

Not only has finding a balance between her jobs brought about challenges but learning how to edit her photos in a way that makes them original has been a learning process. Mattson had help from a few people, including her sister who started her own photography business when she was in college, but she has mostly been learning how to photograph and edit on her own.

“I think in a technical sense, getting my editing styles the way that I like them is one of the greatest challenges that I have faced,” Mattson said. “It can be really hard, and you can find a lot of easy imperfections in those and a lot of times it’s hard to not get discouraged about those things.”

Finding an editing style that worked for her was an important feature, to stay on track with one of her main goals.

“My goal is to get natural looking photos, so I guess that is one of the bigger challenges,” she said.

While running a business brings about many challenges, there are many aspects that bring Mattson joy as well. One of the most exciting parts for her is the marketing and social media aspect of her business.

“I did a giveaway a few weeks ago that was a lot of fun that I was able to make a few posts about and then it was cool to see all of the people that entered into the contest,” Mattson said.

She has enjoyed seeing how marketing works, especially seeing how influential social media sites like Facebook and Instagram can be for an individual and a business. Alongside the media, Mattson enjoys getting to know different people.

“I’ve enjoyed learning different ways to pose people and bring the natural side of each person out because obviously when you are in front of the camera it can be intimidating so and seeing the people and their personalities coming out in the pictures,” Mattson said.

Mattson would love to travel to a beach and take pictures of people with the sunset. Taking photos at the Grand Canyon would also be a dream photo shoot session for her. No matter where she is taking the photos, Mattson enjoys photo shoots with multiple people because she loves capturing the way that people interact with one another.

While being a photographer has its challenges, the joy that Mattson receives from it inspires her to continue doing what she does.


JU Students and Professor Attend Leadership Conference

This past week, two JU students and a professor had the opportunity to attend the United States Naval Academy Leadership Conference in Annapolis, Md.

The theme of this year’s conference, “Inside Out Leadership”, was primarily focused on helping leaders know themselves first so that they could better lead those they’re in  charge of. There were a multitude of speakers and panels covering the various facets of leadership.

Some of this year’s speakers were former Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg, the 16th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Peter Pace, and President of Operations at NPR Loren Mayor.

“(The speakers) were excellent,” sophomore Elijah Muller said. “They gave me a lot to think about when it comes to my leadership abilities.”

This was the largest attendance the conference has ever had with over 400 delegates coming from over 120 institutions around the world. The delegates were allowed to discuss the information they were learning at the conference as well as get leadership tips from one another in discussion groups that were moderated by midshipmen at the academy.

“One of the most enjoyable parts of the conference was getting to interact with the other delegates,” Dr. Daniel Overdorf said. “Getting to meet with students from other universities and military academies and also seeing the caliber of the students at the Naval Academy was amazing.”

Throughout the week, the delegates from JU got to explore the grounds of the Naval Academy, tour a patrol boat, and explore downtown Annapolis.

Dr. Gerald Mattingly, who helps coordinate the trip for the JU delegation every year hopes that the students and professors that go will return and use what they learned at the conference to better JU.


Students encouraged to participate in upcoming faith, sexuality conversations

Knoxville — Johnson University’s Counseling Center is hosting round table discussions for students who are interested in diving deeper into the topic of faith and sexuality.

These discussion groups are an opportunity for students to debrief following the Faith and Sexuality lectures presented by Mark Yarhouse, here Thursday.

These discussions will be held at 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, in the private dining hall. They are an open-ended conversation between students and faculty, touching on the information given by Yarhouse.

Emily Eisenhart, Director of Clinical Services, said that the conversation will mainly be “focused on what was heard from the lectures” and “continuing the idea of being hospitable to those that are different from us.”

She also said that the format of the conversations will be informal.

The format is intended to allow students to discuss their questions, comments and concerns in a safe environment. The conversation will be facilitated and guided by a faculty or staff member.

“We know that there are students that are struggling with issues of sexual identity or may be in a different place than the majority on campus,”  Eisenhart said. “And we want those students to feel welcome.. to feel hope.”

Eisenhart said that support for students thinking through sexual identity issues is available beyond the meeting Tuesday.

“If sexual identity topics are personal to them and they find themselves in that minority here at Johnson, they can receive support here at the counseling center,” she said. “We can’t stress enough how confidential their sessions are.”

All students at JU are encouraged to attend this round table discussion and become more educated on the topic of sexual identity.

“This is a topic we really need to consider and engage,” Eisenhart said.

“How can we move toward people, rather than disregard where they’re at?”

She said this is an opportunity to meet people where they are and walk with them through differences.


Fall Senior Recitals

KISSIMMEE — Two seniors at the Johnson University Florida campus performed recitals to cap off their education.

Audrey Olsheske, a Musical Arts student, was first to perform her recital entitled “More Than A Conqueror” October 26 at 6:30 p.m. in the gym.

Brent Glover, a Worship Ministry student, followed with his recital entitled “Hold Us Together” on November 9.

Each recital lasted approximately one hour and consisted of vocal and piano pieces. During vocal pieces, both students were accompanied by Tony Cason on piano.

The senior recital is required for music majors and serves as a class.  It is a “…time for us music students to use what we have learned,” stated Olsheske. “It is a time for people to gather around and support you.”

Students prepare for this moment every year of their studies.  “It is an opportunity to show our professors, family, and friends what we have learned and how we have grown as musicians/worship leaders during our time at Johnson,” Glover said.

Additionally, Glover saw his recital as a personal confirmation that he obtained the skills necessary for his calling.

“I went from someone who could sing a little bit and play guitar to someone who can sing a lot better and lead worship from multiple instruments, along with being able to responsibly and biblically structure services,” Glover said.

Olsheske experienced difficulty when planning her recital. She was nervous and uncertain if she should perform. But, her nerves turned to joy after her recital.

“My favorite part would be the standing ovation I received at the end,” Olsheske said. “I’m an introvert and definitely NOT an attention seeker, but it felt great to know people really enjoyed what I had done.”

Glover’s favorite part was being able to minister to his family members through his recital. He encouraged all by witnessing to Christ in both song and word. He led the audience in an extended time of worship featuring songs “Is He Worthy?” and “Hold Us Together.”

Both Glover and Olsheske extended special thanks to their professors without whom their success would have been impossible.

“I have grown exponentially in my singing ability and my musicianship,” Glover said.

“Dr. Reyes, Dirk Donahue, and Tony Cason have all done such a great job at helping me get to where I am today, musically and more,” Olsheske said.

Glover accepted a job as the campus worship pastor for Tomoka Christian Church’s Palm Bay campus and will be joining them full-time after he graduates.

Olsheske is unsure what she will do after graduation. She said she is certain, however, that things will all work out.






JUFL Cycling Event Raises over $30,000 for Missions

Over Spring Break (March 17-21) faculty and students from JUFL participated in the Key West Bike Ride 2018 (#KWBR2018), a cycling tour created by Ends of the Earth Cycling (a division of New Mission Systems International).

In 2016 Ends Cycling hosted the Tennessee Bike Ride in conjunction with JU—a 300-mile trek from JUTN to VA and back. After experiencing near-freezing temperatures in the Cherokee National Forest in March 2016, Ends made a decision to host this year’s JU-partnered tour in Florida.  

The KWBR2018 took more than 30 cyclists, and support staff from NMSI headquarters in Ft. Myers to the southernmost point of the U.S. in Key West. Cyclists included students Christian Arnold, Jessica Hammock, Rodrigo Monteroso, Leah Hardin, and Dr. Les Hardin (Professor of NT). Seth McManus (student, SGA President) and Elisabeth Arnold (alumnus) provided support staff for the tour.

Ends Cycling hosts tours specifically to raise money and awareness of worldwide mission work. This year’s KWBR2018 sought to raise money for Africa Hope’s School of Youth Ministry Training. The median age on the continent of Africa is currently 18 years old, making youth ministry key for the growth of the Kingdom there.

Justin Hanneken, Executive Director of Ends Cycling, had the following to say about Ends Cycling’s partnership with JU:

“Following a successful Tennessee Bike Ride in March 2016, we at Ends Cycling were so excited to partner with Johnson University again. We knew the only way this would work for the Key West Bike Ride 2017 was to have the tour over JU’s Spring Break. We also knew that God would have to provide a staff member on campus to help us out. He did exactly that through our ‘bro’ and friend, Dr. Les Hardin. Les organized an incredible group of students and JU alumni who were an absolute blessing to the team! Over the course of 5 days, we became family and God was glorified as we had the opportunity to #PrayPedalRepeat for the youth of Africa.”  

Each Ends Cycling participant is asked to commit to raise funds for the designated mission. The KWBR2018 group raised an excess of $30,000 to promote and facilitate youth work in Africa.

Participants in Key West Bike Ride had the following to say about their experiences:

“The KWBR was an awesome way to spend my spring break. Even though I’m not a cyclist, I found a way to plug-in and help serve the riders by moving equipment, helping with worship, and preaching at one of the stops.” —Seth McManus, SGA President

“Intentional discipleship occurs at every part in the team: praising one another for daily accomplishments, pushing one another to work harder, and supporting one another when trouble arises.” —Christian Arnold, JUFL Alumnus and M.A. Student

“KWBR was an awesome opportunity that trained my body and exercised my faith. Carving out specific time to train 6 days a week helped me prioritize my day and even helped me do better in my classes because I was forced to stick to a strict schedule. On the ride I was constantly praying for YouthHOPE in Africa because being on the bike for 8 or so hours a day provides a great opportunity for focusing on prayer.” —Jessica Hammock, JUFL student

“The past two years (2017 & 2018), I have served as a support staff member caring for the needs of cyclists. It is such a rewarding experience as I grow close to people from different faith backgrounds all coming together to use their love of cycling for the cause of global youth outreach.” —Elisabeth Arnold, JUFL Alumnus

JUFL students will once again have the opportunity to participate in the KWBR this upcoming Spring Break (Mar. 16-21, 2019). KWBR19 will raise funds for youth work in Thailand. Anyone interested in cycling or helping as a support staff member is encouraged to speak with Dr. Les Hardin for more information.

For more on the work of Ends of the Earth Cycling, visit and follow them at #PrayPedalRepeat.


Freshman enters into new college experience with hopeful anticipation

KNOXVILLE — Alyssa Bode is excited as she begins her freshman year of college. She is pursuing a business degree at Johnson University.

On Aug. 17, 2018, Bode moves into her college dorm room. She traveled from her home in Dandridge.

Bode grew up with two twin brothers, Levi Bode and Dakota Bode. Alyssa began homeschooling in the seventh grade alongside her brothers. The rest of her middle and high school experience was spent getting her education at home.

After visiting JU the summer before her 12th-grade year, Alyssa knew JU was where she wanted to be.

“I loved being homeschooled but, the atmosphere here was really cool. I love getting to meet people from different places,” Alyssa said. “I would compare every school to Johnson. They had my major, and the people were really friendly.”

Alyssa said she fell in love with the scenic views of the campus. She said she admired the communal atmosphere of the people on campus.

“I love how much everyone here loves Jesus and each other,” she said. “I knew I wanted to play a part in that.”

Since her arrival, she has found people to grow in community with. Alyssa said she has participated in all of the activities from Genesis Weekend, the university’s freshmen welcome experience.

“Saturday night was my favorite,” she said. “I was able to get to know people. The worship was really cool too.”

Alyssa said she is looking forward to pursuing her business major at JU and hopes to continue to meet new people.





Resident Assistant feels importance of job as she impacts incoming freshmen


Knoxville — As the 2018 school year begins, senior Carli Long reflects about her time at Johnson.

Growing up in Memphis, Long heard about Johnson from her youth pastors who both attended Johnson. While sharing stories from their time as students, Long’s youth pastors encouraged the students to tour their alma mater.

“I didn’t want to be a preacher,” Long said. “I asked them why I would go to Johnson Bible College.”

After reassuring Long that the school offered a multitude of majors and that the name had been changed to Johnson University, Long’s youth pastors convinced her to tour the school.

“When I came here for Preview Day, it just felt like home,” Long said. After four years, coming back on campus still feels like home. Pursuing a degree in Education, Long hopes to complete the Holistic Education Masters after graduating in the spring.

At the beginning of every year, Long said she looks forward to meeting new people and deepening current relationships.

“I love the personal side that comes with going to Johnson,” Long said. “It is a very strong, tight-knit community.”

Long has been a Freshman Resident Assistant for three years, a job that she is passionate about, mainly because of her Freshman RA’s who invested in her.

“One of the reasons I keep coming back to being a Freshman RA is that I love being able to pour into new girls,” Long said.

In a way, walking with these freshmen is Long’s way of helping raise the next generation of Johnson students. Looking back over her four years at Johnson, Long offered advice to the new freshman, reminding them that “transition takes time.” Coming as a freshman is a drastic change, and is easy to become discouraged when the transition does not come quickly.

As graduation quickly approaches, Long has been praying how she can invest in people with her remaining time.

“My goal right now is focusing on the present, enjoying each day I get here at Johnson,” Long said. “I want to take mentor my new freshman girls and to be there for them because I know how important this season of life is for them.”

There are many stories Long said she will remember from her time at Johnson, especially memories made as an RA.

“Just a few days in as my first year being an RA, one of my girls came to my room saying she had caught her mac and cheese on fire,” Long remembered fondly. Both trying to keep calm while also reframe from la­ughing, Long remembers opening the door to see black smoke coming from the room.


JU Sophomore gearing up for new year, new singing opportunity​

Knoxville — Caleb Giffin, a Sophomore at Johnson University, is preparing for his second year of college.

“I am very excited to dig deeper into my Bible knowledge and continue building my new and current relationships,” he said.

Giffin is a Worship Ministry major and said he is excited to get back into his classes. One project in particular that he is excited about being apart of is Vox Royale.

Vox Royale is a new music performance group starting this semester that will include both a cappella and other forms of music.

Only a handful of Worship Ministry students were selected to be part of this new opportunity.

“I am looking forward to working with super talented vocalists and performing songs outside of the traditional worship music,” Giffin said.

Music is not the only activity Griffin has been involved in at JU.

Giffin said he is involved in a couple of work-study positions around campus. One position he said he also held last year is landscape assistant for Plant Services. Along with that position, Giffin said he is also going to be a teachers assistant for Mark Weedman.

He said that outside of campus life, he is looking forward to church-hunting Sundays.

“It is really interesting to see how differently churches run things,” he said.

Giffin said he found out about the university through a Johnson recruitment team when attending Camp Rudolph located in Virginia.

He said he chose Johnson because of the current students he had met and the great things he had heard about the music program.