Meet Eight “Inspiring Graduates” From the Class of 2023
In what has become a Commencement tradition, eight Regent University scholars were recognized again this year as inspiring graduates from their school of study. Each of these outstanding men and women have overcome obstacles, thrived in their chosen field, and exhibited great potential as Christian leaders to change the world.
The College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) calls Anna Cummins “a leader and change-maker since joining the Regent University family.” School officials credit “her tenacity” as the reason CAS moved forward with an on-campus bachelor’s degree in Computer Science a few years ago. They also say the program now enjoys a thriving and growing enrollment.
Recruited in 2019 for Regent’s competitive cheer squad, Anna’s in-class excellence and out-of-class engagement also included a leadership role with the university’s chapter of the National Cybersecurity Student Association (NCSA). Membership more than doubled, and fund-raising success increased when she became president during her senior year.
“Some of my best moments,” she says, “came from being a part of the cheerleading team, competing at cyber competitions as a part of NCSA, and growing with my friends along the way.”
As she enters the “real world,” Anna’s post-Regent goal is to grow the kingdom of God within the tech industry. While she’ll miss being a “Regent Royal,” Anna is excited about what lies ahead.
The experiences at Regent have not only taught me what career I should pursue, but gave me the confidence that God has been with me every step of the process and will continue to be there
“I will never forget all of the blessings God has gifted me while being at Regent,” she insists. “The experiences at Regent have not only taught me what career I should pursue, but they gave me the confidence that God has been with me every step of the process and will continue to be there moving forward.”
After 10 years of fighting God’s call on her life to pursue a doctorate, Melissa Davis said the Lord used two things to bring her to Regent. The first was “a profound conviction” about worship, and the second was a desire to better equip a team of Ugandan pastors she met on a mission trip and began discipling in 2017.
“I knew that to write what I wanted to write on worship and to teach the way my Ugandan brothers and sisters needed me to teach, I needed more training,” Melissa admits. “However…I also came with a profound conviction that I was not smart enough, disciplined enough, nor godly enough to complete the task at hand.”
Despite her perceived shortcomings, Melissa knew God had called her to Regent at that specific time for His specific purposes. She rejoices in seeing the Lord perfect His power through her weakness (2 Cor. 13:9).
“Fear drove me to do deep research for every paper, but the Lord used my research habits to develop a capacity for research and writing of which I did not know I was capable,” she shares.
…the School of Divinity’s dean, Dr. Corné Bekker, said something I have carried with me ever since: ‘The purpose of doctoral studies is not to get your Ph.D. Rather, it is to become a Doctor of the Church, someone capable of seeing the ills of the Church so as to bring her healing.’
Sitting in her first Ph.D. residency session, Melissa was convinced she’d made a mistake and wouldn’t be able to follow through: “Then, the School of Divinity’s dean, Dr. Corné Bekker, said something I have carried with me ever since: ‘The purpose of doctoral studies is not to get your Ph.D. Rather, it is to become a Doctor of the Church, someone capable of seeing the ills of the Church so as to bring her healing.’”
Melissa adds that the Lord used the time at Regent to deepen her spiritual gifts of preaching and teaching. While initially suffering from “a near-crippling case of ‘impostor syndrome,’” she overcame being intimidated by her peers and professors to become an “Inspiring Graduate” for the Class of 2023.
When she wasn’t incarcerated, Nya King’s birth mother battled substance abuse. Raised by her grandfather, aunt, and godmother, Nya is the youngest of seven children and grew up in southwest Michigan.
As you might expect, her childhood was difficult. Nya says she didn’t receive a proper education, often went without food, and experienced abuse and bullying. Misdiagnosed with ADHD and as mentally retarded, educators told Nya she could not function in a traditional classroom or attend college.
At 16, she gave birth to her son, Noah. Yet, despite all those challenges, Nya graduated high school on time in 2011 and earned a bachelor of arts in Political Science in 2015.
While completing her undergraduate degree, she participated in Christian organizations, prayer groups, leadership and public-service organizations, and served as a mentor in an organization for at-risk teens. For almost seven years, Nya has worked as a public servant in law enforcement, as a Civilian Specialist for the local sheriff’s office.
From the professors to my classmates, I have truly seen how loving God is
“Service is my calling,” Nya says. “After I graduated in 2015, I took a few years off because I could not decide what I wanted to do next. In 2021, a coworker and I started brainstorming a degree I wanted to get my master’s in and with extensive digging, we found Regent.”
“From the professors to my classmates, I have truly seen how loving God is,” Nya explains. “My professors showed grace to me, and my classmates were encouraging and respectful. In my studies, I truly saw how a follower of Christ could work in the public sector and remain a Christian, simply by keeping a servant spirit and keeping the Christian principles close to the heart.”
By itself, earning your Ph.D. is a significant accomplishment. But receiving your doctorate with one of the highest GPAs of the graduating class while also being a single mom of a teenage son? Now, that’s impressive—AND inspiring.
Alicia Mucha is a communication professional from Connecticut with traditional public relations and strategic communication experience: “Although it was a goal of mine to attain a Ph.D., the mere thought of going back to school again while being a single, full-time, working mom (at times with two jobs) exhausted me. But the desire to pursue this goal never subsided, and I continued to feel a nudging to just take a step in that direction and be open.”
Finally giving in, she applied to the doctoral program at Regent University’s School of Communications and the Arts: “It sounded perfect to me and felt right in my spirit. But I refused to get my hopes up and told myself that my application would be rejected, and that would be the end of my crazy idea.”
But Alicia soon learned that God had a plan. Regent accepted her application, and she embarked on her “Ph.D. journey” in the summer of 2017: “Although there were many challenges along the way, where graduating seemed utterly impossible, I just kept stepping and refused to quit. I knew that the Lord had called me to this program…So I clung to those promises and focused on the path ahead with laser focus.”
…it is never too late for hope,” she insists. “Our Heavenly Father makes all things new.
Alicia’s dissertation, Communicating Healing and Forgiveness to Post-Abortive Women and Abortion Survivors, seeks to help those suffering from the trauma of abortion.
“They are not alone, and it is never too late for hope,” she insists. “Our Heavenly Father makes all things new. Through my education and spiritual enrichment from Regent, I know that I am equipped to communicate healing and forgiveness after abortion.”
For the past nine years, Ashley Mugisha has been serving as a missionary in Uganda. An advocate for children with disabilities and their families, God called Ashley to begin the Ph.D. program in Special Education in 2016.
“Regent was one of the only universities that offered a doctoral program that suited my needs and area of focus,” she says. “Additionally, as a missionary serving in East Africa, I was hoping for at least one professor who understood and cared for the African life and people. By God’s grace, the head of the Special Education program was originally from South Africa and had conducted research in East Africa.”
Ashley suffered severe abuse as a child and often served as a caretaker for family members with serious disabilities. But what the Enemy meant for evil, God has used for good (Gen. 50:20).
“God uses all things for His glory, even our great suffering on earth,” she insists. “Out of these challenges I have been able to mentor and care for families with disabilities across sub-Saharan Africa who have been discriminated against, stigmatized, abused, and completely rejected in society.”
When we learn about others’ suffering and how they’ve overcome, it gives us a reason to keep on serving the Lord until the race is finished.
Ashley also says, “When we learn about others’ suffering and how they’ve overcome it, gives us a reason to keep on serving the Lord until the race is finished. Regent has provided the best education that I have ever received, and it has directly impacted everything that I do out on the mission field.”
The School of Psychology and Counseling (SPC) recognized Jacob Varela as an “Inspiring Graduate” due to his stellar accomplishments as a student leader and researcher. During his time at Regent, Jacob published two peer-reviewed scholarly articles in leading neuropsychology journals. SPC leadership says it’s rare to see a student in the Psy.D. program publish even one.
“I was searching for a university with a high-quality clinical psychology doctoral program,” Jacob explains. “Regent caught my eye with its distinct focus on the integration of Christian faith and psychological science. That is specifically what I wanted in my graduate education, and Regent provided that.”
Calling Regent’s Psy.D. program “highly rigorous and challenging all the way through,” Jacob says he saw his knowledge and skills grow over the course of his studies: “I felt very confident in my skills moving into my internship training. By integrating my faith into key principles of clinical psychology, Regent has equipped me to be a Christian leader to change the world. I have grown in ways that I definitely didn’t expect.”
…I now feel confident that I can enter into my career as a clinical neuropsychologist in a way that is impactful for those around me and glorifies God.
He adds, “Having gone through this training, I now feel confident that I can enter into my career as a clinical neuropsychologist in a way that is impactful for those around me and glorifies God.”
Shortly after commencement on May 6, Abby Hayes was the first of two “Inspiring Graduates” asked to address Regent board of trustee members, donors, deans, family members, and special guests at the annual Chancellor’s Luncheon. The new alumna from the university’s School of Law shared about God calling her to Regent and where He’s leading her in the future.
Abbey began by explaining how, months before applying to Regent Law, she woke up one night in January 2020 and felt the Lord prompting her to read Isaiah 61:1, “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed.”
Later that same year, Abbey received a call from School of Law Assistant Dean Ernie Walton, congratulating her on being accepted to Regent University. “Within the first few minutes of that call, he quoted the same Bible verse. … That changed everything,” Abbey said. “After hearing the verse that was so clearly placed on my heart, I knew this was the school God had in store for me.”
Soon after arriving on campus, Abbey began working with Regent Law’s Center for Global Justice. Her work with a local law firm supports indigent clients who need representation. She also served as an intern for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, a teaching assistant at the School of Law, an adjunct professor, and a coach of the undergraduate moot court team at Regent’s College of Arts & Sciences.
Abbey’s duties at the Center for Global Justice took her twice to Uganda as an intern with that country’s Supreme Court. While there, she met a 19-year-old man who had been in prison for two years awaiting trial on rape charges. But, after combing through his files, Abbey was convinced he was innocent due to a lack of evidence.
Law school taught me how to advocate for others, to the best of my ability, because Christ advocated for me.
“There was never even probable cause to arrest him in the first place,” she explained. “I gave my argument to the prosecutor, and he was silent for about 20 minutes, as he flipped through the young man’s file. He looked up at me and said, ‘You’re right. There is not enough evidence. Go draft a motion to dismiss the charges.’ And, I am happy to say, he was released.”
When asked how Regent has equipped her to be a Christian leader to change the world, Abbey responded, “I have learned how to let my faith guide my practice and truly surrender everything to God. Law school taught me how to advocate for others, to the best of my ability, because Christ advocated for me.”
“Inspiring Graduate” Nathan Rostampour was also invited to speak at the post-Commencement luncheon. Born in Iran and raised in a Muslim family, he came to Christ at age 17, after an aunt led his entire family to faith in Jesus Christ.
Nathan served the Lord for ten years as a house-church pastor for the persecuted, secret church in Iran. But he was forced to flee to Turkey after Iran’s “secret police” arrested his friend, a fellow underground church leader.
“When I was in secret churches in Iran,” he remembered, “I always prayed that God would provide a way for me to become a better leader and train the next generation of secret house church leaders in the persecuted church, and Regent University was the answer to my prayers. I am beyond blessed for my wonderful professors, mentors, and friends at Regent who played vital roles in my educational journey.”
Eventually emigrating to the United States as a Christian refugee in 2013, Nathan began working full-time at the Christian Broadcasting Network as an international television producer and host. He graduated with a master’s degree in Organizational Leadership from Regent’s School of Business and Leadership in 2019.
“After completing my master’s, I prayed and told God that I wanted to learn more,” Nathan explained. “However, I did not have enough financial resources to enroll in a doctoral program at Regent. I prayed and told God, ‘You have brought me to this land to equip me to serve your church, and I am sure you will provide for me.’”
I was a refugee who came to a new land with insufficient resources and was full of fear and questions about my future. God provided for me. His grace was sufficient for me.
In his “Regent Story,” Nathan sees God’s faithfulness and grace: “I was a refugee who came to a new land with insufficient resources and was full of fear and questions about my future. God provided for me. His grace was sufficient for me.”
He closed his luncheon speech by telling attendees: “Regent University changed my life, and through my story, God is changing many lives in the Muslim world.”