Unlikely majors, extracurriculars help alumna make connections in pastoral work

March 28, 2024

Albion was where Kelsey Burns French ’17 realized she wanted to become a pastor. Today, she also realizes that her somewhat unlikely majors—Spanish and psychology—along with many of her extracurriculars, have made her work a little easier and a little better.

To illustrate this point, French reflected that last year her churches in rural Hopkins and South Monterey, Michigan, embraced a local family in crisis. “The mother had limited English skills but “I was able to talk with her in Spanish and share in some catharsis and venting,” French recalled. “Especially with COVID, I’ve seen how my psychology background helped me understand mental health issues, and it also meant a lot to me that I could use my Spanish skills to help someone.”

From preaching on Sundays to presiding over funerals, making hospital visits, and even serving as her congregation’s Gen Z technology consultant, French relishes the work she began in 2020. “I am lucky that my congregation is quite inclusive ideologically,” she said, referring especially to her interest in social justice and LGBTQAI+ inclusion. “I spend a lot of time putting my professional and personal energy into how I can lead with integrity—meeting people where they are and guiding us toward being a place that can share God’s love in tangible ways.”

French’s extracurricular involvement also turned out to be unexpected “prep for ministry.” Her love for Albion’s Concert Choir continues and French is a choir member in her own church, even occasionally stepping in as substitute director. Albion College Chapel taught her “everything from managing volunteer leadership to planning worship and problem solving on the fly,” she said. “Union Board gave me helpful skills in planning different kinds of events.”

A 2020 graduate of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, French plans on using those Albion skills for many years to come. “It is fairly unique to have achieved my main career goal this quickly,” she mused, “There are not many fields where you finish your education and are given the job with the title you were aiming for. Of course, there are ways I can grow and evolve in my career, but this job isn’t one where I will always be striving for the next promotion. I am happy with that.”