Anderson University alumna Stefanie Vinsel BA '11 has always had a passion for caring for people. Beginning her journey at AU as a nursing student, Vinsel soon realized her joy came not only from helping people but also from being creative. Interested in filmmaking, Vinsel pursued a major in communication arts, with a focus in audio/video/cinema production.
“I was very interested in filmmaking, but never thought I could make a tangible thing out of the interest. But I could!” said Vinsel. As her faculty advisor, Dr. Donald Boggs, professor of communication, helped guide Vinsel throughout her years at AU. “Stefanie was a very engaged student who had plans to work internationally,” said Boggs. “She had a high degree of caring for people. Stefanie has the sensitivity and ability to get outside of the cultural presuppositions and her own head, and to get inside others’.”
It was during her time at AU that Vinsel heard of Jonathan Zerkle, an AU alumnus working with Youth with a Mission (YWAM), a short-term Christian missionary organization. YWAM has a school specializing in photography and video, teaching people to use them as tools to raise awareness of issues around the world. “I was hooked,” said Vinsel. “I could be creative while traveling and helping people.”
[Photo: Stefanie Vinsel spends time with new friends Deborah and Rebekah while working with Youth With a Mission in Uganda.]
As a junior at AU, Vinsel contacted Zerkle to learn more about the program. “It is always fun to cross paths with another who has taken a similar road as you,” said Zerkle. Vinsel promised herself this was a goal she would pursue after graduation, and that is what she did. “It was a dream and commitment I wasn’t willing to give up,” she said.
Following graduation, Vinsel began working with YWAM in Hawaii using the skills she had learned through audio/video/cinema production. “I was taking a video class, as well as working with YWAM’s grassroots news and creating local stories through photo and video,” said Vinsel.
Led by Zerkle, Vinsel took part in the YWAM Discipleship Training School, alongside 50 other students. “Stefanie was very resourceful, took strong initiative, and was a confident leader. While some of these things are more personal traits, I am confident in saying that her time at AU fostered and grew these qualities in her,” said Zerkle. “I was impressed with her media skills and knowledge. I know that AU prepared her well.”
After her time in Hawaii, Vinsel and others involved traveled to a YWAM base in Arua, Uganda, where they used their skills in photography and videography to help Ugandan people. “I was so encouraged to see Stefanie leave Hawaii after six months with YWAM as a radical believer and lover of Jesus,” said Zerkle.
During her time in Uganda, Vinsel was given the opportunity to assist with two videos to help raise support for the base and to create a website for the women in the community to sell their handmade purses. To Vinsel, these people were much more than a story that needed to be recorded. “I went to Africa to make God known, not to create a story about it. I tried building relationships with the people and spending time with them before I even thought about creating something for them,” said Vinsel. “People just want to feel important and loved, and if you spend enough time with them and truly invest in their lives, a story begins to unravel.”
YWAM helped foster the same passion in both Vinsel and Zerkle. “The greatest thing about YWAM is the way the organization encourages, champions, and makes a space for visionaries,” said Zerkle. “YWAM grants opportunities to be created for growth and for understanding to occur, allowing messages to be shared.”
Since her time at AU, Vinsel has used her talents, passions, and education to help others around the world. “I learned so much during my time with YWAM,” said Vinsel. “I started with YWAM thinking I would just go after the production aspect of it all but soon realized how much I needed to learn about truly creating something that will move and inspire people.”
— Hannah Schumacher is a senior from Bluffton, Ohio, majoring in communications arts and writing. Schumacher is an associate with Fifth Street Communications®, writing on behalf of the Anderson University Office of University Communications.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of about 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson University continues to be recognized as one of America's top colleges by U.S. News and World Report, The Princeton Review, and Forbes. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, music, nursing, and theology.