Started in 1983, the Missions Fair at Anderson University has connected students to life-changing opportunities in missions for 30 years. The fair was created by Dr. Fred Shively, professor of religion and director of ministry education, a little over 10 years after he started teaching at AU. “I’d known of these things happening on other campuses, and I thought ‘We need something like that on our campus,’” said Shively.
Shively approached Don Collins, the campus pastor at the time, in the spring of 1983, and by that fall they were ready to implement the fair. “We decided that the best time to do it was during what we then called Spiritual Emphasis Week II, and now it’s called Impact Your World Week,” said Shively. Since its inception, the Missions Fair has coincided with this special week on campus.
[Photo: Peggy Beverly of Church of God Global Missions was one of the many representatives who connected with students during the 30th Annual Missions Fair at Anderson University in early February.]
The goal was to bring several missionary and ministry agencies to the school, so that students could learn more about them and have better opportunities for internships or trips. “We got a long list, and must have invited 150 organizations that first year,” said Shively. “We didn’t get that many to come, obviously, but we got about 30 that year.” Since then, the fair has averaged about 20 to 25 organizations each year.
The list of organizations has grown and developed over the years, with many of them returning for years at a time. “Every year though, we try to bring in a few more that we haven’t had on the list, just from agencies that we know about,” said Shively.
In years past, representatives from these organizations have also participated in panels for students, or presented in ministry classes. The fair has always been held in the bottom of Decker Hall, and one year there were so many organizations that tables were set up on the upper floors of the building.
Since 2006, Sheila MacMurray, the office manager for the Department of Religious Studies, has taken over the majority of the planning for the fair. “The contact with the representatives is a huge part of the planning,” she said. The representatives continually enjoy the unique setup that AU offers at the Missions Fair. They each have their own booth in an area with high traffic flow, and they also receive meal passes and the opportunity to attend chapel.
Justin Snoddy, a senior majoring in Bible and religion and minoring in Christian ministry, met with representatives during his sophomore year, and ended up taking a life-changing internship because of the conversations he had at the fair. He went to the Missions Fair initially to look into a specific organization, but their team had already been filled. “As I began to walk away, I noticed another booth, which was HEART Institute. After a few years of not coming to the fair, the director of the program, decided to reconnect with AU,” said Snoddy. “He began to explain to me what the program’s mission is and what the students learn and do while going through the program. I was sold instantly.”
Snoddy spent several months the next year as a facilities intern for HEART Institute, where he worked with students to ensure that they were in the best environment possible to learn and develop their skills. “I believe that God had been working from the beginning to bring me to HEART and to show me His plans for me,” said Snoddy.
Snoddy is just one example of the many students and alumni who have found internships and jobs as a result of the Missions Fair. “I think it’s one of those things now that people are very aware of what it means,” said MacMurray. “When you go down there and walk through, more than likely a representative is going to try to engage you and see if you are looking for an opportunity.”
The opportunities that the Missions Fair creates are central to its success over the past 30 years and in the years to come.
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.