Oh The Places You'll Go

“I began at Andrews in 2011; now I’m headed straight to Stanford University.

If someone had told Jonathan Wheeler during his first year at Andrews he would be attending Stanford University for graduate school, a school with an acceptance rate of 4.7 percent in 2016, he probably wouldn’t have believed them. In fact, Jonathan Wheeler now says, "To call this feeling surreal would be a great injustice." 


Jonathan began attending Andrews as a freshman in 2011. Now, just five years later, Jonathan has graduated as an honors student with degrees in engineering, physics and mathematics. On top of that, he has both a mission year in Lebanon and a study tour to Australia under his belt and will now adventure on to Stanford University to pursue his master's degree in electrical engineering.


His passion? Jonathan wants to create Christ-centered technology intended to draw hearts and minds closer to the Creator who has led him to places he couldn’t have imagined probable. Jonathan first felt this interest develop upon discovering the Godpod, an ingenious, solar-powered, audio Bible that requires no batteries and absolutely no maintenance. The Godpod was originally created for underdeveloped countries and places like North Korea and Myanmar, with which they can listen to the Gospel.

“My professors worked closely with me at Andrews and when I went to Lebanon on mission,my classmates Skyped me into the class. You won’t get that kind of a personal education at a state school. If you were to attend a bigger university, you wouldn’t get to talk to your professors every day like you do at Andrews, either. At Andrews, you yourself become the teacher’s assistant and are more in control of your own degree program.” 


It seems like a burdensome journey, however, to graduate with three demanding degrees. For most, one degree sounds stressful. “It was actually rather easy to complete three degrees at once,” Jonathan announced. Saying, “there was a lot of overlap between my degrees, so it felt more like double-majoring, which is pretty common for students at Andrews.” Jonathan also says that from the very beginning, Andrews advisors and professors helped him to “customize” his own degree program that both suited him best and aligned with God’s plan for his life.


Along with majoring in three different degree programs, Jonathan also chose the J.N. Andrews Honors Program as an alternative to the general Andrews course work.


“Before coming to Andrews I thought it would be easy to write down everything that I believed in one go and in a way that would be both self-consistent and self-complete,” he says. “After taking Western Heritage, the freshman honors class, I realized that it was impossible to completely narrow down your entire worldview. What was possible after that class, however, was self-articulation and persuasive writing. Honors really forced me to analyze what I believe in as well as to encounter and really engage in subjects outside of my degree programs that made me that much more well-rounded. Through the honors program, I even got to take four classes of Greek for free, having utilized the honors audit option.”

And what changed the idea of attending Stanford from a distant dream to a tangible, possible option for his future? 


Jonathan credits his research in Australia (a trip that was both a result of his connections and mentors at Andrews and partly paid for by Andrews University).


“The work I did in Australia didn’t make me realize I loved science,” he says. “I already knew that. What it made me realize is that I could spend my entire life contributing to science, but I would still die wondering what impact I made on humanity. That’s why I want to draw people to God through Christ-centered technology like the Godpod."


In areas such as North Korea and Myanmar, the Godpod organization had to be especially clever in getting them into the country. They even added a new track to the beginning of the Myanmar health official's address on public health, so when customs officers asked them what was on the devices, they would take one out of the suitcase and play the first track. Of course, the second track plays, ”In the beginning, God…” In North Korea, they tied them to balloons and let them go over the demilitarized zone because customs agents there don't allow any devices at all. The Godpod is the handheld embodiment of the great commission given to us by Jesus Christ put into action. "That's partially why I want to pursue the creation of this type of technology, " Jonathan remarked. It also reflects Andrews University's core challenges to live wholly, explore intentionally, learn deeply and engage globally. “Andrews challenged me to live out their principles throughout all five years of my undergraduate experience; this is especially the case when it comes to the mentors I chose,” says Jonathan.

“The more you get involved, the more connections you will make. You don’t pay $2,000 for rent at Stanford for the campus apartment you stay in; you’re paying for the mentors around you that are at your disposal. This is the same at Andrews. So get out there and make connections.


Overall, Jonathan tried to stay as involved in the opportunities available to him as possible while studying at Andrews.


“That’s what makes the difference between a fulfilling undergrad experience and a mediocre one,” he says. “No matter where you go, there is no better time to fail than undergrad. Fail fast and fail forward. Get out of your comfort zone. I did not meet my wife from within my safe box while at Andrews, and that was arguably the best part of my entire undergrad education!” He continues, saying, "So branch out, find mentors and people to guide you; they will be your most valuable connections—friends even—  later down the road. This is especially true if they help you stay connected to God like the ones I found at Andrews.”