Fourth Year Reflection: Jenny Shin

Jenny Shin
Jenny Shin

How did you first get connected to the Study Center?

By the Lord’s provision, I befriended an upperclassman on a spring break trip that I went on with Chi Alpha, the campus ministry I’m involved with on Grounds. The week after spring break, she invited me to study with her at the Study Center. I thought she was the coolest human being ever, so I hopped in her car. Since then, I have never returned to Clemons Library.

Describe your involvement at the Study Center over the past four years.

Honestly, hardly a day or two passes without me stepping foot in the Study Center. Sometimes I stop by just to see who’s there, say hello and distract others from doing schoolwork. I’m only half kidding.

The Study Center has been a space for me to encounter the Lord, in countless ways, in the day-to-day life of being a university student. Whether that’s taking study breaks in the kitchen every half hour with friends, shouting to see if Lane Cowin is home as I walk up the stairs so I can sit on her futon and discuss life, planning for Bible studies in the nook, starting my mornings in the prayer room, getting distracted by a random book on display in the Richman room, having discipleship meetings in every corner of the building, taking naps in the stacks of the library, attending and volunteering at every exam snack possible, or forcing group projects to meet at the Study Center. The list goes on and on.

How has the Study Center informed your time at the University?

As a public policy major, I struggled to understand power as a Christian, particularly within institutions. How could there be good in power when we see coercion, oppression, and violence in this world? Lane Cowin graciously pointed me towards resources such as Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power by Andy Crouch. This book, along with Lane’s guidance, has been consequential in my understanding and confidence in the kingdom of God. To understand power as a gift for flourishing, and justice as the restoration of humanity’s capacity to bear the image of God in fullness, has been both freeing and inspiring.

The Study Center has been a picture of this very power in action: it is an institution, a community and a building that stewards the gift of power well, for the flourishing of students at this University. In a culture that competes and demands qualifications, the Lord is using the Study Center to show this university what the kingdom of God looks like by allowing us to bear our Creator’s image as students, and as sons and daughters of a risen King. There is no other building like it on Grounds.

The Study Center’s response to the need for the gospel in Sorority Recruitment has also been particularly helpful to me. As someone who felt unwanted and rejected by the exclusivity of the sorority recruitment process, I am so thankful for how the Study Center declares the truth of God’s unearned inclusiveness, acceptance and love. The Study Center fights the lies that tell us that we are not good enough. I am thankful for opportunities to share these truths at the "Thinking Greek" panel and Rush Hospitality events hosted here. God uses the Study Center for the flourishing of people and as a beacon of hope in an often-destructive environment.

How has the gospel changed you during college? How has the Study Center played a part in that?

I grew up actively involved in youth group, but there was always a disconnect between what I knew about God and what I experienced in my heart. God used the Christian community here at UVA to transform me. It was in college that I understood the gospel for the first time—that sin is real, but I am known, loved and redeemed by God, through Jesus Christ. The phrase, “I gave my heart to God” does not encompass the fullness of the transformation and resurrection work God has done in my life. The gospel changed the trajectory of my life—both eternally and temporally. I now live my life to proclaim God’s truth and bring glory to Him, because Christ is sufficient and worthy.

Before college, I did not know what it was like to find rest; I never had a place where I could be honest with myself or let my guard down, and I never had a place I was excited to return. The Study Center has been an answer to that prayer. In the rooms of the Study Center, I have seen the truth of the gospel and I have understood how the presence of the Lord changes everything. He is true and good, and allows the most broken of sinners to walk anew in community and holiness together.

Jenny will graduate this spring from the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy with a degree in foreign affairs, as well. She will remain in Charlottesville next year to work as an intern with Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship, with long-term goals of becoming a church-planter overseas.