Student explores passion for social justice during field experience
Emily Teague’s field experiences took place prior to the Coronavirus Pandemic (COVID-19). All photos and mentions of in-person interactions occurred prior to the Center for Disease Control and Preventions’s recommendations of social distancing.
Emily Teague knew going into college that she wanted to pursue a career in ministry. However, she wasn’t exactly sure what that looked like. After transferring to University of Findlay, changing her major, deciding to take on a double major, and completing impactful field experiences, her idea of what a career in ministry can look like expanded.
Understanding Her Call to Ministry
Ever since Teague began attending church in the seventh grade, other people would point out that they thought she should pursue ministry. At first, she was resistant to the idea because she hadn’t grown up in the church and was unsure if she had the knowledge base. Because of her apprehension, she began her college career majoring in psychology at another institution. However, she was redshirted during her cross-country season, got a concussion, and ultimately struggled with her transition.
In the Spring of 2017, Teague transferred to Findlay and decided to follow this call to ministry by majoring in Religious Studies. “When everything seemed like it was just not working out as it should be, I started trying to understand more about ministry – reading scripture, practicing prayer more personally,” she said. “I felt a call, but I still had no idea what that meant. So, I kind of just dived into it and said hopefully clarity comes.”
Shortly after coming to Findlay, she joined campus ministry to help her understand more of the foundational aspects of faith. Despite being able to graduate a year early, she decided to take on a second major in Philosophy. Over time, she was able to clear up some misconceptions she had about working in ministry. “Being at Findlay and the different internships and experiences that I’ve had have helped me realize I can do all sorts of work and still be working for ministry for the kingdom of God and it doesn’t have to be ordained ministry,” she said. “So, that’s been a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders that I don’t have to do this set-in stone path that I decided when I was 19.”
Impactful Field Experiences
Both the Philosophy and Religious Studies Programs require that students complete a field experience where they apply the concepts they’ve learned in their courses to real life situations. For her religious studies field experience, Teague volunteered during The Well, a summer faith experience for high school students on Findlay’s campus. However, for her philosophy field experience, she wanted to step out of her comfort zone. “I wanted to do something totally different, something I had not done before to branch out and learn different skills,” she said.
She decided the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) was a perfect fit to not only apply her philosophical knowledge, but also learn new social justice skills. FLOC’s website states that members are “Called upon to challenge the deplorable conditions of the broader workforce that remains voiceless, powerless, and invisible to mainstream America.” Throughout the fall 2019 semester, Teague learned about FLOC, their goals and mission, community organizing, and then wrote a philosophical analysis exploring the topic of wage theft among farm workers and the moral grounding for helping them.
During her field experience, Teague was also responsible for organizing FLOC pickets in Findlay, which included calling the local police department to inform them that there would be a demonstration, and ensuring that the demonstration stayed on public property. She also did a letter drop to Circle K, informing their manager when the picket would happen, why they were there, and gave them a list of the actions FLOC would like to see Circle K take.
FLOC holds pickets in Ohio, Kentucky, and North Carolina to bring awareness to the way migrant workers are treated and apply pressure to the companies responsible for the poor working conditions. To get the attention of the companies, FLOC selects one product at specific stores to picket. The goal of the pickets is to put pressure on the stores’ corporate offices to then put pressure on the tobacco companies’ corporate offices, so they make a change in the working conditions. “It is not a night and day switch,” Teague said. “So, a huge goal for FLOC is to keep bringing these pickets to other towns so they can keep adding pressure.”
At the beginning of the semester, Teague went to North Carolina with FLOC to visit some of the farm workers and see what their working conditions were like. Starting her field experience with this kept things in perspective for her throughout her semester working with the organization. “When I don’t want to do this or there’s a lot going on on-campus, it pales in comparison,” she said. “Field experience is tailored to helping the student – you’re learning skills, you’re trying to apply these things- but it’s also largely not about me.”
Working with FLOC opened Teague to the realm of possibilities after graduation. She realized that her call to ministry can look different than giving a sermon. “I knew there were a lot of social justice issues that were important to me, but I had no idea how to help,” Teague said. “I had never really seen it modeled how you can do action that is helping the cause beyond sharing information. The huge draw for me was learning how to put into practice principles that were important to me.”
Adjusting to Remote Learning
Currently, Teague is adjusting to learning remotely during her final semester due to the Coronavirus Pandemic (COVID-19). Spending the final days of her last semester at Findlay learning remotely, sacrificing campus ministry events, and missing graduation is bittersweet for Teague. “There has definitely been some time of grieving while seeing friends move home early, missing the discussion with classmates in my last few philosophy classes, watching my time as a campus ministry leader come quickly to an end, and seeing events like the baccalaureate service and graduation get canceled.” However, she doesn’t spend too long wishing for a different outcome. She stresses how thankful she is to be healthy, working, and to have had such a positive impact at Findlay. “My time at UF has been so great and there would never have been a right time to be done with classes, campus ministry, and other aspects of campus life,” Teague said. “I would still be grieving all these things, just in a more typical kind of process that all students go through eventually. This will certainly be a memorable way to transition out of life as an undergrad student.”
After graduating, Teague will pursue a master’s degree in social work, saying she wants to help people who are on the margins. “I always knew that I wanted to work with people and I wanted to help people, and I’ve learned through the years that can look like a million different things,” she said.
To learn more about Findlay’s Religious Studies and Philosophy Programs, visit https://www.findlay.edu/arts-humanities-social-sciences/religious-studies/.