The Power of Alumni Referrals | Geneva College
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The Power of Alumni Referrals

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Alumni referrals are powerful, both in the lives of students and for the well-being of the College. When an alumnus takes the time to speak with a young person about Geneva College, the value of their testimonial is greater than any well-produced video, impressive brochure, or artfully-designed webpage that a college’s enrollment and marketing offices can create. When you share your personal experience and talk about the way in which you were shaped at Geneva, you provide a student with the tools they need to make an informed decision about college. 

Referrals also provide substantial financial benefits to students. The Gold & White Program for alumni referrals provides a $4,000 grant ($1,000 per year) to students introduced to Geneva by an alumnus during the student's high school years. This grant is awarded in addition to all other scholarships and grants given by the College, excluding the Legacy Grant which is awarded in the same amount automatically to children and grandchildren of alumni. 

Alumni referrals make up a large portion of every incoming class at Geneva. As such, taking the time to refer a student is one of the most powerful actions you can take as an alumnus. Here are four stories showcasing how alumni referrals have significantly altered the lives of students. 


Isabelle Sparr is a senior secondary history education major from Hudson, Ohio. Her parents, Rob ’96 and Heather ’96 Sparr, are both graduates of the student ministry program at Geneva, and so she grew up hearing many stories about their memories of campus and the program. Her youth pastor in high school, Vince Latz ’09, was also a student ministry grad and had told her about his experience in the world of biblical studies at Geneva.  

Before Isabelle ever visited campus, she knew names like Dr. Jonathan Watt and Dr. Byron Curtis, and had a picture in her mind about what a Geneva experience might be. But when her parents and Vince took her to campus for Homecoming, she was able to contextualize their fun stories. 

She later came for an official campus tour, and remembers sitting in Skye Lounge while President Troup was having a discussion with their tour group. She remembers, “Dr. Troup was having some discussion with us . . . I think it was about the meaning of time if I remember correctly. And while we were talking about that, I thought, ‘He’s already teaching us even though I’m not even fully a part of the college yet. He’s already getting us involved.’ I could see from just that alone that this must be what the entire school is like.” 

The experiences of her parents and youth pastor at Geneva underscored her own experiences on campus, setting the stage for her to commit to attending the College. 

With both of her parents, a brother, and a sister all involved in ministry or missions, Isabelle decided to pursue kingdom work from a different angle — teaching. 

“That’s my mission field. I’d like to teach freshman in high school. Within one year they start as middle schoolers and end up high schoolers. That transition can get crazy, and many of them don’t have youth ministers or anyone like that to work with. My job is to bring the gospel to them, through my teaching and my conduct, to show love to them. Although it does intimidate me, I want to work with them.” 

Reflecting on her time at Geneva, Isabelle lists living in City House, enjoying the Mystery Bus Trip, helping produce a film for Film Fest, and traveling to Italy with Dr. Jeff Cole and a group of other students as highlights of her college career. 

Isabelle was recently inducted into Phi Alpha Theta National History Honor Society and Alpha Chi National College Honor Society. She was a mentor to several honors students over her time at Geneva and was inducted into Alpha Chi with several of her mentees, which was a proud moment for her. 

As she looks forward to commencement in May, Isabelle is excited to celebrate with many of the professors that made her time at Geneva so valuable. Her high school graduation in 2020 was done in an isolated, drive-in fashion that didn’t allow her to enjoy that accomplishment with her teachers in the way she had hoped. She looks forward to celebrating with her classmates and introducing her parents to many of the professors in the Departments of Education and History that have been with her through the past four years. 


Amanda Young is a senior business administration major with concentrations in management and human resources management. Amanda grew up only 15 minutes from the College, so initially didn’t consider it an option because she wasn’t sure she wanted to study quite so close to home.  

But Amanda’s father, Michael Young '81, deeply wanted her to experience the Christian foundation that Geneva offers. She says, “That’s a huge foundation in our life. He wanted me to continue to foster and build my faith. 

“I didn’t even really consider Geneva for a bit, but my dad said, ‘I really think you should try this.’ So I went on a tour and then I fell in love with the campus. I loved the atmosphere and liked the professors who talked to me. I was really drawn here.” 

Only one week into the semester, Amanda’s family was hit by tragedy when her father passed away. Transitioning to college for the first time can be difficult under normal circumstances, but Amanda had to experience that transition on top of the hardship and grief of her dad’s passing. 

However, she says that the support she experienced on campus was a great comfort, and it reassured her that she was in the right place. 

“Initially, when I was going through the passing, I only told my professors, and that was it. But they sent flowers which was really encouraging. I thought, ‘Wow. It’s only a week of me being here. I feel like I’m a part of something.’” 

She says the kindness she felt was emblematic of the way she would feel supported throughout her time at Geneva. “I tell other people they truly care about their students here — and that’s not just buzzwords.”  

Amanda joined the marching band in her first semester, which she says was helpful in the transition. “It was really good to build friends there and we all had that mutual hobby of creating music and doing so for God. So the first shows that we put on the field after all the hours of marching and music rehearsals . . . all that coming together was really cool.” 

Amanda made the dean’s list for the first time after her first semester, which was a fun moment for her. 

“In high school, the dean’s list was a bit of a daunting thing. So finding out I made the dean’s list here was super exciting for me. It’s kind of scary as a freshmen so it just felt like, ‘Wow. I’m doing well.’” 

Her mom has been in human resources for over 20 years, giving Amanda many stories of management and HR that helped her decide she wanted to pursue a career in that field. After graduation, she hopes to work in an HR department for a midsized company and believes that Geneva has prepared her well for the work. 

“Faith integration is huge here. It’s really helped me to think about going into life knowing that I won’t always agree with other people and they won’t always agree with me, but that I should treat them how God would treat them. When we talk about calling we often think about missions work overseas or being a pastor. But one thing that really was emphasized in our business classes and that was really eye-opening for me was that God created business and you can still be doing God’s will and project your faith in your business.” 

Amanda is excited for graduation, especially because, similarly to Isabelle, her high school commencement included an empty auditorium and a silent walk across a stage. She is happy to graduate with family and friends watching, as well as with people who know her well from years of being in classrooms and doing work together. 


Nicholas Heidengren, a commuter and senior double major in accounting and finance from Center Township, Pa., is on track to become a certified public accountant. But it was sports that connected him first to Geneva. 

Nick has been on the men’s tennis team since his sophomore year at Geneva, and he plays volleyball any chance he gets. It was volleyball that first connected Nick to the Geneva community and influenced his decision to attend the College. Growing up, he attended Beaver County Christian School (BCCS) only a few blocks away from Geneva’s campus in Beaver Falls. Several of his friends were considering Geneva, and his older brother Nate ‘21 was already enrolled. Most notably, through BCCS, he was acquainted with the Townsend family.  

Deeply committed community members, Bill ‘91 and Christi ‘91 Townsend often invite friends and students to compete in a small summer league at their sand volleyball courts. Nick became a regular on their volleyball court — something he has continued through college — and became friends with two of the Townsend children, Dan ‘21 and Maggie ‘23. As his relationship with the family grew and he shared his concerns about paying for college, Christi was able to refer him through the Gold & White Program. With the $4,000 he received through Christi’s referral, along with other scholarships and grants through Geneva’s Office of Financial Aid, Nick was able to afford an education at Geneva without the substantial debt he would have faced at the other schools he was considering. 

“It is nice not having to worry about [those loans], but also, the Townsend family has had a very big impact on my life. They’ve been a good example of what Christians are like in school or playing sports. They provided an amazing environment every summer. I’m just very thankful for their words of wisdom over the years.” 

His first semester at Geneva, Nick began an engineering track, but quickly realized that the math involved wasn’t for him. One of his classes relied heavily on work with spreadsheets though, and he found he enjoyed that much more. So, after a semester, he pivoted to finance and accounting.  

Before college, Nick considered himself fairly introverted, but he says that being at Geneva brought him out of his shell. He enjoyed getting to know the professors in the business department, and found them all to be fun, friendly, and outgoing, which really sold the program to him. 

Besides his athletic pursuits, he is the vice president of the accounting club, treasurer for Alpha Chi, and a member of the Delta Mu Delta international business honor society. 

Already, Nick has accepted a job at Maher Duessel, a Pittsburgh-based auditing firm. He hopes to be involved in a local church after graduation, and to be a light in his workplace and a witness for Christ as an accountant. 


Growing up, Emily Callahan faced a significant amount of instability due to several moves and school changes, even up through high school. In her senior year of high school, she moved from New York to Pennsylvania and began attending Eden Christian Academy in Pittsburgh.  

Emily had just recently come to faith in Jesus, and was unsure how the transition into a new environment would go. She says, “I became a Christian when I was 16 or 17, so everything was fresh and I just fell in love with Jesus and the Body of Christ. I found a really good church in New York, but when I moved to Pennsylvania, I had that great loss. But then I went to Eden Christian Academy and I was so thankful that the Lord directed me there.” 

At Eden she found a community that loved the Lord, discipled her, prayed for her, and built their curriculum around the Bible, which was a new concept for her. Wanting to continue in a similar environment after high school, she began to talk to the director of college and career counseling, Brenda Cischke, MA ’17 about finding a college with comparable attributes. Brenda helped Emily develop a short list of Christian colleges. She encouraged her to consider Geneva not only for its nurturing Christian environment, but because of its communication disorders major that would build upon Emily’s high school study of American Sign Language (ASL). 

On Brenda’s advice, Emily took a tour of Geneva and was immediately sold. “I have never gotten a tour that was so personal. Everyone at the front desk greeted me so politely, and they were so hospitable. They really got to know me, asked a bunch of questions, and so I got the same feeling that I did at Eden because I could tell they were taking the time to be intentional to find out my interests and who I was, and showed me how I matched with Geneva. I never felt forced; I felt invited.”

At Geneva, Eden worked in the admissions office, showing that same intentionality to prospective students when they showed up for tours. 

While a student, Emily, too, experienced a hard loss. “My stepdad passed away when I was a sophomore here at Geneva, and that was the first close person in my life that had passed away. So it was the first time I was really dealing with death. I never knew how real that could feel and I’ve never grieved like that before. But me being at Geneva during that time was definitely something that God orchestrated, because I was surrounded by so many people who loved me and loved the Lord. I could talk about death and life after death. They gave me that hope, that even though there is pain and grief and a time for lament, he loved the Lord so there is hope in the eternity he has in Christ.” 

“My professors just poured into me so much. They prayed over me. They had lunch with me. My friends and my classmates wrote me cards. A lot of them even came to my stepdad’s celebration of life, which was really nice. They supported me not only in the classroom but outside the classroom as well.” 

Emily graduated in December 2023 with a communication disorders degree. She intends to work as a speech language pathology assistant, knowing she loves the clinical experiences she has had, and is looking forward to shining the light of Christ to her patients and the children she works with. 

“Geneva takes that mission [of serving God and neighbor] and fosters it in you and helps cultivate it so you want to do the same. When you go out into wherever God calls you to be it helps to motivate you to love other people as image bearers.” 

Another high school graduate of 2020, Emily also experienced a non-conventional ceremony for graduation. Needless to say, she is excited to walk in May with her peers and friends. 

As she looks forward to commencement, she is grateful to Brenda Cischke for pointing her toward Geneva. “I want to thank her so much for investing in me and really listening well to what I want in a college and the values that I hold to be important. Geneva has been a wonderful place. I’ve created so many lifelong relationships that I have prayed for since I was a new Christian. It was amazing how she listened really well and had that personal experience to share, ‘I had those exact same things you’re looking for at Geneva, and you should check it out.’ God knew that was going to happen and led me here and maybe one day I’ll lead others to come here too.” 

Referring a student 

If you know a college-bound high school student, take the opportunity to share your story and refer them to the college. As demonstrated in the stories of these Geneva seniors, a referral can lead to a wonderful, transformative education with a lifelong effect. Take the first step at  



-Caleb McCracken ’16

Feb 7, 2024

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