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Dear PLNU: Kareen Boyadjian

Class of 2024 grad Kareen Boyadjian shares her experiences of support, encouragement, and personal growth in an inspiring letter to PLNU.

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Sage Taber’s Media Highlights Mediterranean Perspectives

Sage Taber’s (22) heart of faith, empathy, and appreciation of people around the globe shines through every project she creates. Coming from a family committed to international Christian ministry, Taber endeavors to highlight multi-cultured people from all walks of life — especially immigrants and difference-makers — through video, photography, and art. 

“[PLNU] was a safe space for me to explore how I wanted to incorporate my faith and values with my professional and academic life,” Taber said.

Headshot of Taber, with text stating, “I’ve always felt this pull to connect my academic and professional goals with grassroots community engagement."

Taber grew up in southern CA, with two parents involved in full-time international ministry. Her older sister attended PLNU before her, and although Taber initially wasn’t sure she wanted to follow in her sister’s footsteps, she quickly realized that she’d fit right in at PLNU during preview day.

“I fell in love with the radiant energy of everyone on campus,” she said. “I committed on the spot and signed the paper [to say] yes.”

Taber graduated from PLNU in 2022, earning her Bachelor of Arts in International Studies with a concentration in the Middle East. In Fall 2023, she began a graduate program at New York University, working towards a master’s degree in Near-Eastern Studies with a full-ride scholarship.

A Global Perspective

Taber believes her interest in international relations came from her parents. 

“My mother is half Persian,” Taber said. “Her family moved back and forth between Iran and the States, and when the Iranian revolution happened, they came fleeing back to the States and started over with absolutely nothing.”

Hofburg Palace in Vienna, Austria.

She explained this is a common story for many immigrants — to flee from unlivable conditions and start over with nothing, in hope of a brighter future.

Her parents met doing international ministry in Turkey. Even though Taber is only one-quarter Persian, she explained that much of her Persian family now lives in the United States, and she grew up very close to all of them.

“There’s this whole international angle in my family before me,” Taber said. “I grew up eating rice, hearing Farsi [the Persian language], and listening to Persian music.”

Taber’s parents moved back to the U.S. before she was born, but have continued their calling of international ministry. When Taber was a teenager, her brother moved to Beirut, Lebanon, to work at a faith-based nonprofit at the peak of the refugee crisis. He was working in videography to highlight the unimaginable challenges they were facing.

“I’ll never forget, I had my senior art portfolio show, and one of my Arab classmates came up to me crying when she saw my work,” Taber said. “She [thanked] me for telling these stories of her home that she hadn’t seen represented.”

“The stories and the interviews he brought home really shook me up and blew my 14-year-old, Orange County brain,” Taber said. “I was so moved—I still have journal entries asking God, ‘why do I have the life I have while these people are facing war, poverty, and persecution?’”

During her last year of high school, Taber created a series of paintings highlighting female activists in the middle east.

“I’ll never forget, I had my senior art portfolio show, and one of my Arab classmates came up to me crying when she saw my work,” Taber said. “She [thanked] me for telling these stories of her home that she hadn’t seen represented.”

This moment helped Taber shift gears toward international affairs. She chose to attend PLNU majoring in international affairs with a concentration on the middle east.

A Safe Place for Learning

During her first year, Taber participated in ALIMA children and youth ministries at PLNU. ALIMA partners with the East African Cultural Center to offer tutoring and a safe after-school space for K–12 students who are immigrants from Africa. She was also involved in Team Barnabas, a club that promotes inclusion and belonging for multicultural students, and Unite, the international student club at PLNU.

“I’ve always felt this pull to connect my academic and professional goals with grassroots community engagement,” Taber said. “Because who am I to be writing essays about refugee integration systems, stateless persons, and international law without engaging with those communities in my own area?”

Taber loved the International Studies program at PLNU, and the way they valued both faithful dialogue and practical learning.

Taber riding a bike.
Taber posing in front of a teal-colored door.

“It was always a safe space to ask questions related to faith, ethics, or spirituality,” she said. “I thought that was really an advantage to our program — it was a really healthy environment, and a safe space for me to explore how I wanted to incorporate my faith and values with my professional and academic life.”

The conversations in the classroom inspired conversations outside as well. Taber and her roommate were inspired to create “The Freedom to Succeed,” a short documentary video about some of the challenges Iranian refugees face. It led to opportunities with videography and multi-media forms of storytelling.

A New Perspective on the Mediterranean

Taber’s sister, Elena, has created a very successful career in creating online lifestyle and travel content for YouTube and social media. In 2022, the sisters took a summer trip that looped around the mediterranean. They visited Spain, Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, Tunisia, and Morocco. Taber helped plan the travel logistics for the whole trip, and dove into history when writing the script and adding the context for those videos. She also helped record and edit the videos, which together have gathered well over one million views.

“I think this ability to connect has grown exponentially because of social media and the internet.”

While on this unforgettable trip, they set out to create a travel video series that would call attention to countries and areas tourists often don’t travel to. They also set out to bring their unique perspective to travel coverage of these places, since female travel vloggers rarely visit countries like Turkey and Morocco.

“There’s such a gap, because young women feel like they can go to Cancun, but they can’t go to these amazing places [in] North African and Middle Eastern countries,” Taber said.

The videos helped highlight at least one outstanding young woman in each country they visited — a rarity in travel videos in those countries. Taber was determined to showcase women who were breaking down social barriers in their local communities, and arranged in-person interviews via instagram.

A couple walking past street vendors.
Women riding a moped.

“I think women throughout all of history around the world have had a unique capacity for connection across cultures and borders,” she said. “I think this ability to connect has grown exponentially because of social media and the internet.”

One video highlighted Denia, a young skater involved in the youth skateboarding scene in Athens, Greece. Through the video, Denia explained how she helped trailblaze the inclusion of women, immigrants and minorities in the popular skateboarding culture there. Taber found a lot of common ground with the young women that they encountered on their trip.

 “We wanted to make videos by, for, and about women,” Taber said. “We came to listen to them and amplify their stories and their perspectives, and that created a world of openness and communication.”

A Future of Freedom

Taber remains thankful for PLNU’s part in her journey, and especially the financial aid she received during her time at PLNU, including the Colt Scholarship in 2020 and the Kirkemo Public Service Scholarship in 2021. She felt that the opportunities she received at PLNU helped her be able to focus on her future.

“Point Loma gave me the freedom to just graduate and think about where in the world I wanted to go next,” Taber said. “That ended up being a launch pad to soar and try anything.”

Taber smiling next to some trees.

Commencement 2024: In Pictures

The Browers at the 2024 PLNU Commencement
Graduation marks a truly special moment at PLNU, and we are deeply thankful to celebrate it alongside our remarkable community. Heartfelt congratulations to the exceptional students of the Class of 2024 for their outstanding achievements! This year was also special as it marked the final commencement ceremony of President Bob Brower who is retiring this year. Both Dr. Brower and his wife Linda were awarded honorary degree by the PLNU Board of Trustees. The Doctorate of Laws degree was awarded to Dr. Bob Brower and the Doctorate of Divinity degree was awarded to Linda Brower.

To see all of the images from this special event click here.

Kevin Christensen: Planning for a Life You Value

Kevin Christensen and his family on the beach in Hawaii.
Kevin Christensen (09) has been organizing his life ever since he could remember. He remembers his mom keeping paper to-do lists all over the house. Now, in both his career and personal life, Christensen is a firm believer in the power of planning, even through the unpredictable.

“I’m a list maker,” Christensen said. “My wife and kids give me a hard time… I have 100–200 lists on my phone.

“I’ve carried that forward into my career — financial planning. Looking into the future, but then also a lot of checklists and workflows, and organization around keeping track of everything. I always look into the future more than dwell on the past. That’s just how I am — just keep moving forward.” 

Christensen works as an LPL Financial Planner and founder of Aligned Financial Planning. His family is originally from Southern California, but Christensen grew up in Northern California before moving to San Diego to attend PLNU in 2005. Now, he and his wife, Alyc (12), and their two kids live in North Park.

Kevin Christensen headshot

Although Christensen has found both personal and professional success from careful planning, he knows that as you look to the future, there are things in life you cannot control. Christensen started his company, Aligned Financial Planning, during April of 2020. With a baby on the way and the world starting to shake, his plans rapidly changed.

“COVID hit and the stock market fell 34%,” Christensen described. “There were days when the stock market was down 8-10% in one day.”

However, he kept moving forward and his company continued to grow. Fast forward to today, his business is still thriving. Yet the difficulties of navigating not being able to meet with clients, the unpredictability of the stock market, as well as the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, were all difficult to plan for. 

“I’m not really sure how I got through it,” Christensen said. “I suppose just taking it one day at a time”

As someone who plans their life out, having the unknown come knocking was a good way for Christensen to be reminded that the unplanned must be expected. As a financial planner, he guides his clients to be as prepared as possible for the time their lives do not unfold in line with the lists they originally planned their life to follow. 

“Our future is not guaranteed,” Christensen explains, “That really reinforces the importance of moderation…You can’t save every penny for [when you are] retired, because you may not have the health to enjoy it or you may not be around at that point.

“But on the flip side, you can’t live frivolously and spend all your money today and not [save] for your future self. So it’s really just a balancing act. How can you live life to the fullest today, while also setting yourself up for a good financial future?”

His method for planning this future while living life to the fullest today is to make sure his money aligns with his values. He explained that it is hard to narrow them down to your top 5, but it is important to consider before trying to create your next steps. The slogan of his company is Your money. Your values. Aligned

Christensen Family at Hotel Del Coronado

“My top values are faith, family, health, friendship, and philanthropy,” Christensen said.

Once you have your values, you can go to the next step.

“How much time do you devote to each of those values? And then, how much money do you spend advancing toward those values?” Christensen asks, “You look at your calendar and you look at your checkbook to make sure there’s alignment and if not, you either need to raise the bar of your time and money [toward this value], or maybe that’s not your most important value after all.”

If they are someone’s real values, why can it be so hard for people to match their values with their finances? Christensen explained that often it can simply be a lack of information. He has seen CEOs make incredible incomes, but spend their money on things that are not important to them. More and more, you have infinite things like travel, entertainment, housing and more that can distract you when you don’t have clear goals.

“There’s so many things. It’s easy to spend money, it’s difficult to save money.” Christensen said. “The most important thing is to integrate your values into your financial plan to create a life worth living.”

Additionally, Christensen cites focusing on uncontrollable financial markets as being an easy stumbling block for good planning. 

“Sometimes it’s focusing on things that we can’t control like the stock market, or politics, or inflation, or any of these things you can get wrapped up in.” Christensen said, “You hear on the news, people become ‘overnight’ millionaires from investing in Bitcoin. But that’s not a consistent, sustainable way to build wealth. So some people just get distracted by these shiny objects.”

Kevin Christensen PLNU graduation with Val and Millie

Christensen learned much of this wisdom during his time at PLNU. Through the Fermanian School of Business — in addition to shaping his values through lifelong friendships, internships, and connecting to his wife — Christensen found a new meaning to his value of philanthropy.  He explained that the tagline in his major was more than the bottom line. 

“You’re doing business to make a profit, of course, but it’s so much more than the bottom line.” Christensen said, “It’s how can you really make a difference in people’s lives and engage your clients and your employees… it’s not just the shareholders, it’s all of the stakeholders. So it’s your employees, your suppliers, your clients, and the community. In addition to, or sometimes above profit.”

Kevin Christensen and fellow business grads of 2009

This communal view of business gives an avenue to see his financial planning business as a way to give back to the community. Christensen referenced philanthropist and former PLNU professor Bob Goff’s approach to use his financial growth as a way to fuel his work in the community, as an inspiration. 

“I love my work, but it’s not just about how we can get the best rate of return in investments,” Christensen explained. “And it’s not just about making a profit. It’s what we do with that money and how we can help other people.”

“It’s how can you really make a difference in people’s lives and engage your clients and your employees”

He explained that volunteering was something he fondly remembered doing with his family while growing up. His family had inspired him to both plan, and give back, and so he is coming full circle now in San Diego. Christensen now works full time as a financial planner and has been involved with the non-profit, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, for over 12 years, currently serving on the board of directors. He has also been a part of a group called Advisors in Philanthropy. 

“[The group gathers] all different types of professional advisors,” Christensen says, “There’s a networking aspect, education aspect, and then how can we help our clients make better decisions around philanthropy and giving money to charity.” 

When it comes to aligning your finances and plans with your values, Christensen knows well the process can be unpredictable. You cannot predict the future, and yet time will not stop moving forward with or without a plan in place. Christensen encourages anyone who feels like they are behind to consider a quote.

“There is an old Chinese proverb that says, The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, but the second best time is today.” Christensen said, “We can’t go back in the past and change anything… but we can start today.” 

Kevin Christensen is a registered representative with, and securities and advisory services offered through LPL Financial, a registered investment advisor. Member FINRA/SIPC.

Jordan Robinson’s Slam Dunk Coverage of the WNBA

Jordan Robinson
Jordan Robinson (16) is joining her passions for basketball and journalism in a way she never would’ve expected growing up. Robsinson is a freelance writer, host and podcaster based in Los Angeles, CA. She covers women’s basketball and pop culture, and their intersections. She is also a women’s college basketball host for The Pac-12 Network, and co-hosts a WNBA podcast called “Queens of the Court” for the WNBA and Audacy. 

It started with a DVD, a montage of plays and shots on the court, where Jordan (Ligons) Robinson (16) would tell you, she was the big fish. 

She was at the peak of her game, top in the city, senior in high school. She would tell you, “ball is life.”

When the senior season was coming to a close, Robinson knew this wouldn’t be the end for her. College was next and she was determined to play in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), DII. She was also set on going to school in San Diego and studying journalism. 

“I looked at San Diego as this dream place,” Robinson said. “My aunt and uncle and grandparents lived in San Diego, so I [realized], ‘This is perfect. I want to be in this area.’”

That’s where the DVD comes in.

“We made the DVD, wrote a cover letter and we were passing it out to schools,” Robinson said. “It was summer. The coach wasn’t there. We just dropped it off at Coach [Bill] Westphal’s mailbox and kept driving. Fingers crossed. I went on with my life.”

Robinson and her dad trekked their way down and back up the coast to home in Sacramento, stopping at other schools like Azusa Pacific University along the way, dropping off the DVD and hoping to land her a spot in the NAIA court. 

Robinson heard back from PLNU, and she scheduled a planned visit. And in that visit, she met Dean Nelson, Ph.D., director of the journalism program. She told him her dream to be a magazine editor, and Dean told her about the magazine editing class.

“That was music to my ears,” Robinson said. “He just told me everything that they were doing with the program.”

“I’m looking out into this ocean view and I’m like, ‘why would I not go here? This is the perfect place for me.’”

This perfect place, little did she know at the time, would help her achieve her exact dream. Though, the dream would change in her journey.

Robinson had found the ocean at PLNU but quickly realized it wasn’t all going to be smooth sailing. This was only the beginning and she was going from a senior year peak on the bluffs to the valley of freshman year. 

“Going to college was an eye-opening experience,” Robinson said. “I was coming from high school where people are chanting your name.” 

“And you got to college and you are a freshman and it’s so not awesome. You learn everything for the first time. I really struggled with that. I’m so glad I had journalism and my friends.”

Being on a new team of talented players meant she had less playing time than she was used to as a star player in high school. This is where Robinson had to decide whether she was going to sink or swim.

“I really had to lean on the fact that I am more than a basketball player,” Robinson said. “I am a captain. I am the biggest cheerleader for my teammates.”

“Just because I’m not filling up the stat sheet, that doesn’t diminish my worth as a person, as a student athlete, as a person who loves basketball. That took a lot.”

Robinson realized this meant she had to invest in more than just the sport. She zeroed into journalism while also showing up for practices and games. She joined the school newspaper, and even served as A&E editor. While at the school newspaper, she was more interested in writing about fashion and pop culture. She also wrote some hard news pieces when PLNU decided the institution would not allow marriages on campus.

But this foundation of basketball never really would leave her, though she would try to skirt around these roots for a while. 

“I realized I’m not going to play after college, and that’s okay, so what else can I bring to this life? Writing and journalism was a part of that.”

I realized I’m not going to play after college, and that’s okay, so what else can I bring to this life?” Robinson said. “Writing and journalism was a part of that.”

“Because basketball wasn’t doing super great, I didn’t want to write about basketball and sports. Fashion was a bit of escapism in that way.”

As she dove deeper into journalism, she recalled one class in particular that remains a vivid memory and surprisingly, it was not related to print journalism 

In a senior year class with professor Stephen Goforth, she was asked to make a podcast.

“I recorded in my car, and I was like I am never doing this again,” Robinson said. “I do not like the sound of my voice. I hated listening to it back in class, but it was a skill. Goforth said just try it. I kept that in the back of my mind.”

Though she didn’t know it then, this multimedia experience would become valuable in her future career, but right out of college Robinson stuck with the magazine dream, landing a magazine editing role early in her career. While editing and writing at the magazine, she realized that this magazine journalism was very different from what she did in school. This entailed more biased reporting than she had become accustomed to.

“Especially coming out of journalism school, I was so bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, like ready to really tackle stories and do what I just learned,” Robinson said. “And [the Magazine] was like, this is our partner, write about them.”

“It crushed my journalism soul, and a little of my ethics were pushed as well.”

She stuck it out for a while but when a fact-checker job opened up at sports and pop culture website The Ringer, she thought it might be time to get back to her sports and hard-hitting journalism roots. Torn with the decision of leaving her stable editing job, she called Dean Nelson.

“I [said], ‘Dean, I think I want to do sports,”’ Robinson said. “‘You tried to tell me to do sports in college. I waved you off.’” 

“‘Now, I think I want to do it.’ He [said], ‘It’s perfect for you. Do it.”

This experience was akin to her freshman year. Robinson was starting over and in an environment that looked much different. It combined her passions, but she would have to learn to work with this new team, a team that was not all women like her college basketball crew.

“Being a woman in the sports journalism space, you’re immediately tested on how much you know,” Robinson said. “As a Black woman, on top of that, the respect doesn’t come automatically, even though I was a college basketball player and 90% of my male colleagues had never even been on a basketball court. I was still challenged.”

Robinson was undeterred. She brought waves of new ideas to the newsroom that didn’t diminish her basketball knowledge, unlike in college when she skirted basketball to focus on fashion writing. In fact, what she wanted to do was the work that celebrated all that she knew through her own lived experiences as a basketball player. Robinson was determined to establish space and coverage for the WNBA. No one else was going to do it. So she did.

“I am the only woman here,” Robinson remembers saying. “I am really the one interested in women’s basketball, and I know none of you can break down the game like I can and specifically have women’s basketball experience.” 

“I was told to fall in line and do the NBA, but I pushed that. You can’t be a sports website and not have women’s basketball, the WNBA.”

“I was told to fall in line and do the NBA, but I pushed that. You can’t be a sports website and not have women’s basketball, the WNBA.”

In the after hours of her fact checking job, she did interviews, researched and wrote stories about the WNBA. She wasn’t allowed to do this work while fact checking. She did this work unpaid. 

Her first feature on Napheesa Collier was the start, and from there she built up. But, apathy from The Ringer persisted. She knew it was time to change up the play. And so during her time at The Ringer, she started branching out, specifically into podcasting.

“I just wanted to learn everything about it because I saw how much money The Ringer was making off of podcasting, and I think that was a lightbulb moment for me to say okay this is where the sports industry is going,” Robinson said. “If I don’t get on this, I’m going to get left behind. That’s what really started that whole movement.” 

Her only experience with podcasting was the one podcast from Goforth’s class, so she joined a podcasting class at a junior college and started being a guest on established segments. 

One of her coworkers at The Ringer, Haley O’Shawnasee, got a job at Blue Wire, and she asked Robinson to help her out with the new podcast she was working on. Robinson joined for a practice recording. Nobody was supposed to see it.

“We talk about the Clippers. I’m just sitting back, relaxed,” Robinson said. “She called me two days later, ‘Okay I [was] just kidding. Everybody saw it, and they want you to be my co-host for the show.’”

“I felt so [in] over my head. She’s like ‘no, it’s fine. They want you to do it.’ That’s how The Spinsters got started.”

The Spinsters was a podcast about emerging events in the world of basketball, with a special focus on women and minorities in the sport. From there, Robinson just kept growing and expanding her coverage of sports, specifically women’s sports.

“Now to cover it full time, starting from that first feature, is really really cool,” Robinson said. “I use my difference, as a woman, as a Black woman, to say nobody can cover a league dominated by Black women better than me. So let me write this. And what were they going to say? No?”

“I use my difference, as a woman, as a Black woman, to say nobody can cover a league dominated by Black women better than me. So let me write this. And what were they going to say? No?”

Her experience has shown, they’ve said yes. She is now a freelancer, covering a variety of sports and athletes. But perhaps one of the most rewarding things in her journey is her coverage of student athletes.

“Knowing and having that experience of being a college athlete, I will always feel connected to them because I [can say], ‘I know what you’re going through,’” Robinson said. “Just being able to talk to them about what their interests are outside of their sport, I wish that people would’ve asked me more about that at that time instead of how many points do [I] score.” 

“I don’t really remember the points I scored. I remember those friendships and those memories that happened way more.”

And these memories weren’t without hardship along the way. While the general public is at home watching football on Thanksgiving or turning on the TV at night to watch a basketball game, Robinson is at work. And often, she’s on all the time. This past year, she was a host on PAC-12 Tailgate. She traveled four days a week for 13 weeks straight. She said there’s a key to this lifestyle that she learned from Olympian Alison Felix. 

“Felix just said in an interview, ‘There’s no such thing as balance; it’s harmony,’” Robinson said. “And I love that. The idea of this balance is that there’s this weight that has to be even. In some seasons, it’s not even, and that’s just the fact.”

While the career she’s in won’t be slowing down anytime soon, she said the joy has been getting to find the thread connecting all aspects of her life.

“The harmony is that I get to talk about basketball on TV, come home and talk about basketball with the love of my life, go play basketball and then talk about it again,” Robinson said. “That’s how everything is in harmony with each other.”

Although Robinson doesn’t ball on the court for national audiences like she might have thought she would as a kid, she’s found her own way of making the game part of her life. Ball is still life.

“Growing up in Sacramento as a WNBA fan, as a lover of the Monarchs, and now to cover it full time, this is a full circle moment,” Robinson said. “I only knew the Monarchs as this mystical goal. Ticha Penicheiro is my absolute favorite player. To have her number in my phone still freaks me out.”

“I didn’t know what she was like or why she started to play basketball as a kid. That fangirl in me is now how I report. I want to make sure little girls know she has a PB&J before her games, just like me. That [coverage] is what happens on the men’s side. Sometimes your fandom is connected to how much you know about those players. That’s what I want on the women’s side.”

Coming Back Stronger: Otto Kemp’s Baseball Journey 

Otto Kemp baseball headshot
Otto Kemp (22) played in 109 minor league baseball games with the Philadelphia Phillies organization in 2023. By the end of his second season, there were games where he had three hits and diving catches, and others where he had three strikeouts and didn’t get on base. 

During his college and high school career, there were seasons where he watched from the dugout, sitting beside a pair of crutches, and others where he led his team in the field and at the plate all the way to the national championship. 

Kemp’s path to playing professional baseball wasn’t linear. Knee surgeries, a blood clot, a torn labrum and the coronavirus pandemic stood between him and his dream. But the former PLNU star got through each hurdle by not thinking too far ahead and never letting the belief he had in himself fall away. 

Otto Kemp signs his deal with the Phillies.

“I’m a one-day-at-a-time guy,” Kemp said. “I’ve always been like that. You can only control what that day gives you, and that’s been my mindset for as long as I can remember.” 

Kemp remembers being in elementary school, sitting on a bench at Troy High School in Fullerton and watching his older brother, Sam, play baseball every spring. The more games Otto went to, the more interested in the game he became. 

“I knew I wanted to go to that same high school and do the same thing,” Kemp said. 

By the time he finished his first season of little league baseball, Kemp knew he had talent.

At first he never played with kids his age, always getting moved up to play with boys a year or two older. Eventually, his parents held him back in the second grade so he could socialize with kids his age, which he remembers disliking immensely. 

Playing with older kids was challenging, but the experience gave him a chance to observe how older kids thought and taught him a lot about patience. 

“I always gravitate toward more mature people,” Kemp said. “I think that was kind of the stem of it.” 

By the time Kemp was a junior in high school, he was already one of the best players on his team. During that season, he earned All-League honors, despite tearing a ligament in his knee late in the spring. At the time, he was being recruited by Division I baseball programs. 

Kemp and his family smile at the PLNU baseball field

The injury was a setback, but during the offseason he regularly went through physical therapy, kept his skills sharp and was excited to show schools the following season that he could bounce back and play well enough to earn scholarship offers. 

But then, during his first day back on the field for his senior season, he tore the same ligament, again, leaving him on the sideline for the entire spring. Kemp sat to the side for months and watched while his best friends played and enjoyed their senior seasons. At school, Kemp shuffled up and down the hallways on crutches and watched while his friends committed to collegiate baseball programs. 

Meanwhile, the Division I schools that had reached out to Kemp in the past returned less of his messages. 

“It was really, really hard,” Kemp said. “I had no offers to play anywhere, and I knew I was good enough.” 

By the time he was getting ready to graduate high school, Kemp hadn’t played an entire year of baseball since his sophomore season. In the end, there were only two schools left that took the time to talk to him, and one of them was PLNU. 

Otto Kemp takes a swing at the baseball.

Kemp drove 100 miles south to San Diego with his family to tour the university’s campus. He checked out the school’s athletic facilities and was amazed by Carroll B. Land Stadium and the ocean view from the batter’s box. From there, he made his way to the baseball coaches’ office. 

While still reliant on crutches, Kemp spoke with Sea Lion coaches about both life and baseball. Also, despite not having completed a full season in three years, the coaches expressed that they were still interested in him.

The coaches revealed that they had already seen Kemp play when he was a sophomore in high school. The Sea Lion coaches went to see his teammate Ryan Park, who went on to play at PLNU, and remembered Kemp making talented plays at third base

They never forgot about him. During Kemp’s visit, PLNU coaches told him that he would have a spot on the roster if he came to the school. 

“That’s what I wanted,” Kemp said. “I wanted someone to want me to play for them. That was what sold me.” 

Kemp committed to the school soon after, healed from his latest knee surgery and then got on campus to start classes in the fall. 

It was the first time he was away from home. Getting adapted to a new environment was stressful, but with two healthy knees, he worked through his anxiety by focusing on the sport he loved. 

“I really, really enjoyed putting a lot of my time and energy into baseball. I felt like I had gotten let out of the cage.” 

“I really, really enjoyed putting a lot of my time and energy into baseball,” Kemp said. “I felt like I had gotten let out of the cage.” 

Kemp’s commitment secured him a starting position as a freshman and propelled him to the top of the team in slugging percentage after just 13 games.

In the days after that 13th game, the Sea Lions had a team lift. Kemp and the rest of his teammates worked their lower bodies with squats and other exercises, but by the end of the workout, Kemp noticed that his shoulder was starting to swell. 

Kemp monitored it over the next few days and watched as the swelling got worse. After a week and an appointment with a specialist, it became clear that he had a blood clot. 

He immediately got surgery and was put on blood thinners to keep the clot from reoccurring, but the thinners he was required to take kept him out for the rest of the season and pushed him to take a medical redshirt year to preserve eligibility. 

This was the beginning of a few starts and stops for Kemp during his college career. 

He came back healthy and rested the following year and earned PacWest Freshman of the Week honors during the regular season, but during a game late in the year, Kemp took a diving slide into second base, dislocating his shoulder and tearing his labrum. Then, a few weeks later, the coronavirus pandemic shut down baseball seasons for every school across the country, including PLNU.

At this point, Kemp was academically a sophomore in college and hadn’t played a full season of baseball since he was a sophomore in high school. 

The constant sense of instability got to him at points, but when it did, he made sure to think about what type of player he is at his best and the trust that PLNU’s coaches put into him.  

“I always knew that I had potential. I just knew that I didn’t have the time to show it,” Kemp said about his mindset during the down times. “I hung my hat on that. I’m going to control what I can and the rest is going to be left up to God.” 

“I always knew that I had potential. I just knew that I didn’t have the time to show it. I hung my hat on that. I’m going to control what I can and the rest is going to be left up to God.” 

His faith paid off. 

Kemp was healthy for the final two seasons of his college career. During his final season, Kemp hit 17 home runs, posted 62 RBIs, reached base in all 61 games and led the Sea Lions to the national championship for the first time in school history. 

After his big season in 2022, and graduating with a B.S. in Finance, Kemp decided to enter his name into the MLB Draft for that July. He didn’t end up getting drafted, but a few days later, a scout with the Philadelphia Phillies reached out and offered Kemp a chance to play with the organization’s Rookie League team. 

Kemp didn’t know what he was getting into, but he jumped at the opportunity. Since then, he has started making his way through the Phillies’ pro ladder and made some impressive plays at third base. 

He has moved up and down the ladder in the last two years, but with how much he has already been through, Kemp has learned to enjoy each day and moment on the field when it comes. 

“If you set your mind toward something, go for it and go all out,” Kemp said. “Because you’re going to live life with a lot of regrets after it’s all said and done if you don’t do everything you can to do it. 

“Chase it and chase it with all of your heart, all of your life. You have to persevere through a lot for it. Just go with the flow and always try to see the good in things.”

Spring 2024: In Pictures

The Greek in the background, pink and yellow flowers in the foreground
Springtime at Point Loma signals growth and renewal. As the academic year winds down, students reflect on achievements or gear up for the final push. The campus bursts with color, offering a backdrop for study, introspection, and connections.

Check out some of the top spring 2024 images from staff photographer, Marcus Emerson, and photography intern, Anessa Chirgwin.

Deep Understanding

Underwater kelp view with title
Towering over the sandy floor, they follow the flow of the ocean, yet stand firm in their place as essential pillars of the ecosystem.

Across the soccer field, past Young Hall’s volleyball court, down the cliffs and into the white-capped waters, in the depths surfed by many PLNU students exist “the redwoods of the ocean,” as OCEANA’s California campaign director and senior scientist Geoff Shester described them.

San Diego is known for its surf and beach culture, but what few know is the exact immensity of San Diego’s marine biodiversity. Off the coast of Point Loma, there’s a six-mile stretch of San Diego kelp forest.

Walter Cho, Ph.D., a marine biologist and professor of biology at PLNU, has studied the ocean for all of his career, specifically the deep sea. Cho shared a bit about the significance of the kelp forest in San Diego.

“Kelp forests are a unique ecosystem with high levels of biodiversity and high levels of productivity,” Cho said. “A healthy kelp forest will help support a really healthy community as well. The kelp forest in Southern California in general has just been described as the best in the entire world. It’s really a unique ecosystem that we have.”

“The kelp forest in Southern California in general has just been described as the best in the entire world. It’s really a unique ecosystem that we have.”

Neighboring the kelp forest, San Diego also has a chiseled network of sea canyons off of La Jolla that attract a variety of sea creatures including multiple species of sharks, dolphins, fish, and more.

“These deep sea canyons basically create really hard substrate,” Cho said. “Animals that live on the seafloor like to live generally broadly in soft sediment – like in sand – or in hard rock to attach to something.”

“These canyons provide that kind of stepping stone where you have all these canyons with exposed rock, where lots of animals can live, but then they can get further out in the deep ocean where there might be seamounds or sea mountains that also have that hard substrate. So, you’re seeing this increasing connectivity that occurs in coastal systems as well as open ocean systems.”

Andrew Nosal, Ph.D., a movement ecologist and associate professor of biology at PLNU, studies the causes and consequences of animal movement. He’s studied both sharks and stingrays in San Diego.

Dr. Andrew Nosal and his class explore biodiversity in the Sunset Cliffs tide pools near PLNU.

“There are over 400 species of shark on the planet today, and we have well over a dozen that live off San Diego,” Nosal said. “Some migrate, or else are abundant during the summer, such as leopard sharks, tope sharks, and white sharks, and others do not, such as horn sharks and swell sharks.”

“All of these species can be found off Sunset Cliffs, but are not known to aggregate (form groups) there as they do farther north off, say, La Jolla.”

The interconnectedness of different organisms and the lengths in which they extend from shallow to deep, scientists like Cho have discovered, extend beyond what was previously believed.

“Especially for deep sea systems that are close to coastal systems, there’s increasing evidence that there’s a lot of communication between coastal populations and even what we would have considered deep sea populations as well,” Cho said. “A lot of what used to have been thought of as endemic to just the deep sea or just the coastal community, the more we explore, we see this animal occurs farther in the deep sea as well, or this deep sea animal actually occurs closer to shore.”

“A lot of it is just limited because it’s really expensive to explore the deep sea, so the more we explore, we’re seeing that these populations of animals may not be so isolated. There might be a lot of connectivity between deeper ocean animals and coastal populations as well.”

Dr. Walter Cho and his class studying the distribution of animals at the San Diego River estuary near Dog Beach in Ocean Beach.

Our human interaction with the ocean has also expanded over the years, but not necessarily with positive effects.

“Scientists are discovering plastics at all depths and all parts of the ocean,” Shester said. “It’s not just on beaches. It’s not just at the surface.”

According to the World Economic Forum, “between 75 and 199 million tons of plastic are currently in our oceans.”

Cho explained it’s hard to say what the exact extent of our actions have been on the ocean, but that’s because we don’t know what the ocean looked like to begin with.

A squat lobster and octopus find shelter under a sponge. Photo c/o Oceana.

“We often talk about something called the shifting baseline syndrome, which is this idea that we can look at a system right now and we can say, ‘Well, this system is very different from what it was 20 years ago. It’s highly degraded, but let’s say we conserve it and protect it and bring it back up to what it was 20 years ago,’” Cho said.

“But, 20 years ago there were people living in San Diego, going to the beach as well, so you’re comparing it to another system that’s already been impacted. What we consider ‘normal’ shifts as the generations change.”

“Some may argue, ‘We don’t even know what a pristine system looks like because we’ve already profoundly impacted the systems around us.’ Trying to figure out your reference system is really hard.”

“Some may argue, ‘We don’t even know what a pristine system looks like because we’ve already profoundly impacted the systems around us.’ Trying to figure out your reference system is really hard.”

Looking at the ocean today, in addition to plastics, human connection to marine life has had even more direct impacts through unsustainable fishing practices, like the use of set gillnets, which are banned in state waters due to their high bycatch rates of whales, porpoises, and other marine mammals. Nothing can be done to stop them outside of the California state’s water line, unless the state legislature steps in.

“Set gillnets can still be used right outside of the state water’s line, outside of the three miles, and can be used near many of those offshore islands, mounts, and banks,” Shester said. “Everywhere that they have been banned, you’ve seen dramatic recoveries in sensitive species. Soup fin sharks, white sea bass, giant sea bass that were depleted, when they banned the gillnets, in the spots they were banned, they bounced back. Right outside of the three mile line, they’re still being used.”

Drs. Walter Cho and Andrew Nosal study the mysteries of the sea, including those right off the coast of San Diego.

“Set gillnets can still be used right outside

of the state water’s line, outside of the

three miles, and can be used near many

of those offshore islands, mounts and banks.”

Shester said there used to be 800 permits or so, now they’re down to about 90 permits and roughly about 35 are actively being used.

But Shester said as we consider our impact on the ocean and how we should take action, it’s important to remember our “why.”

“The first step, before you get into the threats of plastics, gillnets, or fisheries, is [understanding] what’s actually at stake,” Shester said. “A lot of people get down and out about the environmental problems; there’s still so much out there to protect and such an amazing marine environment in Southern California just due to the oceanography.”

Rather than being overwhelmed by the enormity of the call to fix our issues, Melissa Morris, the Southern California field representative from OCEANA, said we should reframe the issues to consider how we can collectively change.

“It’s really about paying attention to your behavior and not only changing your purchasing but just really encouraging companies to switch to something more compostable or biodegradable,” Morris said.

OCEANA is an international advocacy organization focused solely on ocean conservation. Within this past year, they’ve worked on a variety of local and state initiatives to better protect the marine environment. But the struggle continues to be making changes that can be enforced in such vast bodies of water.

Cho explained it comes down to whether we are making these issues part of the conversation with our elected leaders who can address them head on.

“The fastest way you can address climate change is through policy. It really is,” Cho said. “Individual people making decisions are important, but you really need an overall almost governmental decision or policy to be made to enact it and enforce it to guide the population on how to make decisions that will better the environment.”

“Is climate change, is the environment, an important issue for the candidate you’re thinking about voting for?”

“Let’s make sure we protect it before we lose something — before we even have discovered how valuable the treasure is.”

Above the kelp canopy, sevengill sharks, giant sea bass, schooling blacksmiths, and even yellowtail can all be found swimming in San Diego’s waters. Bathed in the iridescent kaleidoscope of sunlight that filters through the briny water, over 20 species of nudibranchs, or sea slugs, drift in the area alongside loads of other small creatures that rely on the ecosystem that is Sunset Cliff’s waters. Beyond that, students from all walks of life swim at Kelloggs Beach or surf at Garbage Beach. This place is much more than an environment but an ecosystem of people and animals who call it home.

“We’re just scratching the surface,” Shester said. “You’re just barely discovering the surface of an ancient civilization, and there’s so much more to learn about it. But at least at this point, let’s make sure we protect it before we lose something — before we even have discovered how valuable the treasure is.”

To get engaged with marine life conservation efforts, check out OCEANA’s website. Morris also recommended reaching out to your elected officials and asking them how they are intentionally protecting our natural environments.

Temporary Shelters: Long-term Solutions

Amy and Brady King with their architectural plan for Pallet
Amy (02) and Brady King (02) are living out the words of 1 John 3:18 with their work. As founders of Pallet, a public benefit corporation, they are helping to address a significant need: unsheltered homelessness. At the same time, Pallet seeks to employ people who have been impacted by the criminal justice system, homelessness, or addiction, giving them a new opportunity to grow and thrive. Amy is also the founder and board president of Weld, a nonprofit that helps system-impacted people with employment, housing, and resources.

“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”

1 John 3:18
Amy King Headshot

Amy describes herself as “wildly passionate about social justice and social enterprise,” and she attributes her passion’s beginning to her time at PLNU studying with Jim Johnson, Ed.D. As a psychology major, she learned to care deeply about marginalized people and worked with Johnson to help children on the autism spectrum. While at Point Loma, Amy had the opportunity to be published as an undergraduate researcher, made lifelong friends, and met Brady.

Brady was involved with mission trips growing up and at Point Loma before he developed a passion for helping his local community. Brady was also involved in leading worship and playing club volleyball. He earned his degree in managerial and organizational communications.

The path to where the Kings are now was difficult at times. Amy and Brady married in 2003. After briefly working in Los Angeles, the Kings moved to Seattle. Brady went into the construction business with Amy’s father and brother. Together they had several family-founded companies. Amy worked in mental health and healthcare administration at several hospitals, including Seattle Children’s and Harborview Medical.

The Kings family photo

“I learned about the business of medicine and social services and started to really understand more about sustainability and service provision,” she said.

Sadly, during the middle of the recession, the family lost their construction businesses. Brady and Amy moved to Portland with their oldest daughter, Harleigh, who was around 4 at the time. While they were there, their younger daughter, Piper, was born. Brady got a job working with a company that manufactured tools. Amy worked for a private clinic. Throughout all of this time, they were learning different skill sets related to housing, manufacturing, and healthcare.

“We were working in two different worlds, but now they are smashed together!” Amy said.

In 2014, Amy and Brady founded Square Peg, a new construction company, which they just recently wound down. Although it was intimidating to take that risk again, they felt like it was where God was calling them. Like many general contractors, Square Peg built permanent housing products. What made it unique was that they chose to hire people other companies might overlook. In fact, more than 80% of Square Peg’s employees had recently exited the criminal justice system, addiction recovery programs, or a time living in homelessness. Brady served as principal and Amy as managing partner.

Two years later, Pallet was born. Amy and Brady are co-founders of Pallet with Amy also serving as CEO and Brady as the research and development lead. A social enterprise, Pallet is a manufacturing company that designs and produces rapid deployment shelters that can go up in less than an hour. They are used to address unsheltered homelessness as well as in disaster response. In addition to their speed and ease of set-up, Pallet’s products are unique in that they are not congregate units. Individuals and families of up to four people are each able to sleep in their own separate, climate-controlled shelter. The shelters are put up in “villages” where hygiene facilities, food, water, and access to support services are readily available. The idea is for these to be temporary housing communities, providing safety and services in transition to more permanent housing for residents. Pallet has put up more than 4,000 units in over 120 shelter communities around the world.

“Pallet is a manufacturing company that designs and produces rapid deployment shelters that can go up in less than an hour.”

Brady King selfie

The idea for the shelters came from Brady, who began to think about possibilities after Hurricane Katrina. When they were ready to realize Brady’s vision, Amy’s father, a mechanical engineer, helped with the product design – in fact, he was Pallet’s head of engineering for five years.

More than 80% of Pallet’s workforce has been impacted by homelessness, substance abuse, or the criminal justice system. A certified living wage employer, Pallet employs around 80 people, giving them an opportunity for not only income but also support, training, and community. At the same time, because Pallet’s employees have lived experience with homelessness and other issues, they are able to bring their experience and insights to bear on the company’s work, products, and processes.

The additional needs of their employees are what led the Kings to start Weld, a nonprofit that provides wraparound services, like housing, employment, and connection to community resources. Although Amy still serves as board president, she says she has been able to hand all of the day-to-day work at Weld to people with lived experience. Weld has just under 20 full-time employees as well as hundreds of others through Weld Works contract staffing.

Workers for Pallet building shelters

“Weld was recently awarded $9 million by the state of Washington and the federal government to create the first- ever comprehensive reentry resource center in the state of Washington,” Amy shared.

There is also a lot on the horizon for Pallet.

“We are growing very fast,” Amy said. “Of course, Pallet’s growth is bittersweet because it means displacement is on the rise and our services are more needed. But one of the things I love most about Pallet is that it is a social enterprise. We have the narrative and demeanor of a nonprofit but the sustainability and standards of a for-profit.”

To date, Pallet has mostly served the unsheltered homeless population. “Now, we are actively working with the federal government to provide community resources, employment, and shelter to people displaced by natural disasters as well as asylum seekers and international refugee communities,” Amy said. “We will definitely have opportunities to expand internationally over the next two to five years and create jobs in those communities as well.”

Also just launched are Pallet’s new upgraded shelter products, which were reengineered using feedback from people who have lived in the current models.

“The new product design builds on the successful foundation of Pallet’s previous interim shelter line, informed by feedback from residents of the over 120 Pallet shelter communities across the country and realized by a team of in-house engineers,” reads the press release on the new products. “The new line includes a 70 sq. ft Sleeper model and a 120 sq. ft EnSuite model, which is the first Pallet sleeping cabin to include in-unit hygiene facilities for populations who would benefit from this accessibility.”

Interior model of new Pallet shelters

Pallet is also in the research and development phase of looking into more permanent housing products that could eventually be made available to those historically excluded from homeownership by racism, criminal justice system history, prior evictions, or other obstacles.

“We are very interested in the housing as social justice space,” Amy said. “We want to further expand our workforce model around the country to allow more opportunities for more people and, at the same time, train the workforce we need to build housing. We are planning a new apprenticeship program for people who struggle with traditional educational environments, offering on-job training while they are working and getting paid.”

Although working with a population in recovery from traumatic life events can often be challenging, Amy and Brady are so grateful for the opportunity. For those they have lost to suicide, recidivism, or other heartbreaking situations, they have seen so many more overcome their past to build lives of meaning and purpose.

“For me, the biggest, most rewarding part is the workforce development side,” Amy said. “I love working with our people. Everything we do is to provide living wage jobs in our community. It is so rewarding to see hundreds of people in our local community as they go from ‘I don’t know what to do next’ to building careers, getting married, buying cars, and houses … Being present for that change is the best part.”

Brady agrees. “When we had our first Christmas party, we realized that our employees’ children that they had not met or seen for years now had fathers and mothers back in their lives, and some of them were getting their first Christmas presents because we employed [their parents]. They have clothes; they can eat; they have a place to live.

Pallet shelters exterior

The ripple effect is gigantic. And these people are so dedicated to helping one another. They continually give to each other.”

In addition to being inspired by their employees, the Kings draw strength from their faith.

“Early on when it was really hard and stressful – being an entrepreneur is really hard and draining – I wanted to dig in and understand what this calling was all about,” Amy shared. She took three days to fast and pray and ask God for direction. “At the end of three days, I was starving of course, and there was no magic epiphany. Then that night, I had a dream, one of the most vivid of my life.” In the dream she was standing with Brady and people in leadership in their companies, and they were all linking arms and kneeling.

Behind them was a sea of people who all had chains around their ankles that had been broken. “I thought maybe this was God trying to tell me we are on the right path. This was seven or eight years ago. Now I can see the faces of thousands of people and their children and children’s children [who have been impacted by our work]. It may seem small to us at times, but this work has a generational impact.”

Their belief in their calling helps the Kings through the hard times and the incredible amount of work it takes to run their businesses and advocate for others. With Square Peg recently wrapped up, Brady has more time to invest in Pallet as well as at home with Harleigh and Piper (he finds the time to coach both their volleyball teams as well).

“We need to keep going,” Brady said. “We are not done yet.”

The Rise of the Loman Empire

PLNU women's soccer team celebrates winning national championship
Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither was the Loman Empire.

After reaching at least the second round of the NCAA Tournament for four-straight seasons, including playing in one regional championship game, PLNU women’s soccer broke through in 2023 to win Point Loma’s first-ever NCAA national championship in any sport.

PLNU team in control of the ball while running on the field.
PLNU’s game against Concordia University Irvine in the NCAA West Regional.

The team was able to draw from those previous postseason experiences to help push the Sea Lions over the top and make history.

“There’s been so much learning since we’ve been here, seeing years impact years and one year impact the next one,” said Head Coach Kristi Kiely, who just finished up her sixth year in charge.

Notably in 2022, Point Loma lost in the NCAA second round for the second-consecutive year to Western Washington, who went on to win the national title that season.

“We are process-oriented and believe in growth, so last year was part of that process,” Kiely said. “Last year was very, very frustrating. Other teams were scoring goals with one or two looks at goal. We were tying or losing, or games were tight, and that’s a part of the process.

“All that learning, all those moments of disappointment. Last year in particular I remember being at Western and feeling like that year we were going to do it. Then we lose 1-0 again, and I remember telling them, ‘Remember how this feels right now, and I want you to make sure you don’t feel it again next year.’

“And here we are not feeling it.”

However, winning a national title, let alone making the postseason, didn’t seem particularly likely after four players suffered season-ending injuries during the spring, and the team started PacWest play 2-2.

Those two conference losses were as many as the team had in the previous five seasons combined.

Photo of Naomi Ellis, and her quote, which says: “When we started out on not the greatest foot, we just completely turned it around after the last loss of the season. We were forced to play to our absolute highest potential. We were playing with the utmost desperation, but we banded together instead of breaking
apart. It was really defining. That’s when we knew this was something different from any season prior.”
Naomi Ellis, outside back
(defender), graphic design
major with a concentration in
marketing, Elite 90 Award
winner for having the
highest cumulative GPA
(4.0) of any player at the
NCAA Championships

“In that moment, they just made a choice that it has to be better, or we won’t go to the postseason, that our season would end now,” Kiely said.

That was just the latest choice in a string of choices that Kiely said helped the team accomplish what it did.

“There were many moments to choose something else and this particular group never did,” Kiely said. “They chose this vision, and that means we’re going to have high standards. We’re going to hold each other accountable to those, and we’re going to care about each other in deep and meaningful ways. That’s what we’re choosing.

“There are a lot of choices you make in college athletics and a lot of sacrifice. Along the way they made a lot of choices. None bigger than the Covid moments and Africa.”

For eight seniors on the team, they began their PLNU careers in 2020 in the middle of a global pandemic, choosing to stay on The Point amidst tremendous uncertainty.

“They started their college careers in a dorm room by themselves during Covid with only 400 people on campus,” Kiely said. “Many of them were thinking, ‘Should I quit? Is this really what college sport is? The world is really in a different spot right now. That means for four months I have to be in a dorm by myself in this strange world of Covid.’ Honestly, it feels like it started back then. All those moments of choosing.”

Another key choice was the group’s decision to go to Africa this past May, serving alongside nonprofit organization Sports Outreach for nearly two weeks in Uganda and Kenya.

“To choose to spend your time and money with people you don’t know doing whatever is asked of you is wonderfully selfless,” Kiely said. “Then you jet off on many planes to another part of the world that you’ve never been to. They had the courage and willingness to do that.”

The bonding that occurred during that Africa trip helped the group rally together, even when results weren’t going PLNU’s way.

“This group just enjoyed being around each other, and Africa played a role in that,” Kiely said. “Even those who didn’t go knew exactly what was going on when we got back. They were invested and watched every video. When stories were told, they were able to participate. That storytelling, that respect for each other’s experiences and what they’d experienced together, all of it just helps. It helps with the familiarity.

Photo of Julia Pinnell, and her quote, which says:
“There are so many different things
we do together when we are traveling
versus when we are home. We make a
point of being together, playing mafia,
having team dinners. We connect off the field and hang out in those different ways.”
Julia Pinnell, goalie, applied health sciences major,
NCAA All-Tournament Team

“My grandpa was a college coach, and he always used to say, ‘You see a person best when they’re cold, tired, and hungry.’ Nothing gets you more cold, tired, and hungry than travel. Being around people when you’re tired of them and still being able to look kids in the face and play soccer with them or swing a hammer, whatever you’re being asked to do, that does something to you individually and collectively.”

The camaraderie of the group was evident in its response to its 2-2 start to PacWest play, as the Sea Lions closed out the trip to Hawaii with an emphatic 5-1 victory over Hawaii Pacific followed by an even more impressive 3-0 win over No. 5 Hawaii Hilo.

Those two wins began a six-match winning streak to close out the regular season, which was enough to earn the Sea Lions a fourth PacWest championship in five seasons.

“When a couple conference games went our way, on the last one, I woke up to texts from my players which is shocking because I’m usually the first,” Kiely said. “They were never out of it, and I don’t know if doubt is the best word, but there was a lot of uncertainty of can we even make the tournament?

“I think we lived in that uncertainty for a couple weeks and then a couple matches went our way, but nothing changed in our training or matches. They were still locked-in; they were just more and more locked the more the results went our way.

“We had dreams at the beginning, moments of uncertainty in the middle, and a lot of belief at the end.”

That belief carried over into the postseason, which Point Loma hosted for the first time as the No. 1 seed in the NCAA West Regional.

This group of seniors was finally able to get over the hump of the second round after beating PacWest foe Concordia, who’d won the last three matchups in the series.

Kiely said: “When we beat Concordia in the postseason, I turned to a captain and said, ‘You know we can do this right?’ And she said, ‘I know we can; we just have to get out of the West.’”

That 2-0 win earned the team the right to play the regional final and ultimately the national quarterfinals in Colorado, where they had played just a couple months prior.

Bethany Arabe, posing with a soccer ball, and her quote, which says: “We couldn’t have done it without the
group that came before us. Alumni
would text us and wish us luck and
the best. I would respond, ‘We are
doing it for you guys. We couldn’t
have done it without you.’”
Bethany Arabe, forward, biochemistry
and Spanish double major, NCAA All-
Tournament Team

A primary motivation for that non-conference trip to Colorado was the possibility of playing there again in the NCAA Tournament, which Kiely outlined to the team in a PowerPoint presentation during training camp.

“In that preseason slide was a picture of the Rockies, and in the postseason slide was a picture of the Rockies,” Kiely said. “We didn’t know if we were going to end up in Texas or Colorado, but part of the divine nature is I just wanted to do something different than the Pacific Northwest. I wanted to face a different opponent.

“DII is so regional that I wanted somebody else to expose something different for us to grow in a different way and that happened.”

After beating Seattle Pacific in the regional championship, 2-0, PLNU advanced to once again face off with UCCS, the team that gave the Sea Lions their first loss of the season.

“It’s divine that that’s who we ended up playing,” Kiely said of playing both Concordia and UCCS in the postseason. “Sometimes you need that extra motivation in a particular moment in a match, and you get to draw from those experiences.”

But that wasn’t the last divine moment for the Sea Lions, as after a commanding 3-0 victory over Florida Tech advanced Point Loma to the national championship, the defining moment of that final game was decided on a corner kick routine, one in which the team executed to perfection earlier in the season.

In the team’s impressive win over Hawaii Hilo, starting center back Jensen Shrout was nursing an injury, meaning All-PacWest midfielder Mara Sovde moved to the back line and freshman Grace Nelson entered the lineup. Nelson was then responsible for taking the corner kicks, one of which the team scored on.

So when Shrout, an All-Conference player, exited the national championship game through injury, Nelson stepped in once again and delivered a pinpoint corner kick for All-American Emma Thrapp to score what proved to be the winning goal.

“You practice all of these things that you never know when they’re going to show up or when you’re going to have to reach into the toolbox and grab out those experiences,” Kiely said. “It’s incredible that what we practiced in Hilo was going to show up, not by our own choosing, but that it showed up in the national tournament final.

“So much so that I could go to a captain and say, ‘We’re good; we’ve done this before’ and her response was, ‘I know coach; you don’t have to tell me.’ That’s remarkable to be able to draw from that, knowing we were successful before and we’re going to do it again. And then they did.”

PLNU soccer team running accross the field celebrating after their win.
The PLNU Women’s Soccer team celebrates their victory in the NCAA Division II Championship game.
Emma Thrapp kicking the ball.
All-American Emma Thrapp (defender) scored the winning goal in the national championship game with the help of freshman Grace Nelson.

Dr. Brower and Bethany Arabe posing with the NCAA trophy.
Dr. Brower with Bethany Arabe

The win meant Point Loma tied a program record with an 11-game winning streak, capping off a streak of five straight shutouts in the postseason, as goalkeeper Julia Pinnell didn’t concede a goal in her last 915 minutes and 35 seconds played.

“Julia was sharp when she needed to be at the end and that helps,” Kiely said. “Our backline was tremendous, but some of that is the ball just has to bounce your way. It was a bit divine.”

Achieving the ultimate goal in Division II women’s soccer was just another experience the team can continue to learn from.

“Experience after experience they get to draw from and it doesn’t just stop in the championship game,” Kiely said. “They get to do it for life. Life gets harder in many ways, and you have to pull from these moments.

“Whatever it is that we learn from this sport, we get to apply in life. Now they get to do that. A lot of talk about process, growth, experience and choices and drawing from those. That was wrapped up into what we did.”

And with only one player graduating from last year’s team and every senior coming back for their final season of eligibility, that process is far from over.

PLNU Women's soccer team, friends, and family in a crowd posing with their congratulatory signs.
Friends and family welcomed the team home after their big win.

PLNU Faculty Spotlight: Elda McGinty Peralta

Elda McGinty headshot
Elda McGinty Peralta still remembers walking into the sanctuary at her friend’s church at the age of 9 and hearing the worship band practicing.

“I was just overcome,” she said. “I felt God’s presence, and I knew I wanted to be a part of it.”

Peralta’s family moved to San Diego when she was in high school. She graduated from PLNU in 2006 with her B.A. in music with a concentration in music education, but she didn’t expect to end up back at her alma mater teaching at the college level.

“I’m originally from Tijuana, and I was still attending church there,” she said. “My thought was to go back and teach and be a worship leader.”

Peralta has, in fact, served as a worship leader throughout her career and in multiple locations. However, she has also spent a lot of time teaching and is currently a part-time voice professor in PLNU’s Department of Music.

When she came to Point Loma as an undergraduate, Peralta didn’t have much experience singing classical music — in fact, she had previously avoided attending a conservatory in Mexico because she wasn’t interested in classical training. However, God had other plans.

“I had not had much exposure to that genre,” she said. “It was very hard my first semester, but God granted me favor, and I was encouraged by my voice teacher to do a competition in my second semester as a freshman. I did really well, and it was a snowball effect from there.”

“I had the privilege of helping translate repertoire that had not been heard in public for 300 years… As a Mexican singer, it is a great honor for me to be part of bringing to light this cultural treasure that had been forgotten.”

Starting her senior year, Peralta was in the San Diego Opera Chorus for three seasons. After graduating, Peralta served as a middle school choir director before she felt God calling her to apply to graduate school. She received a full scholarship to Northwestern University for her master’s in vocal performance. While she was in graduate school, she married fellow alum Joel McGinty (05).

One of the highlights of Peralta’s career came while she was in grad school and had the opportunity to perform recently rediscovered galant music from the time of the New Spain.

“During my graduate years, [I worked] as an assistant to Dr. Drew Edward Davies, a musicologist specializing in 17th- and 18th-century music in Latin America,” she said. “I had the privilege of helping translate repertoire that had not been heard in public for 300 years. Today, with the help of Dr. Davies and the Chicago Arts Orchestra, among others, we have been able to revive this repertoire in various cities throughout the United States, and in the cathedrals where the music was originally composed, like the Durango Cathedral and, most recently, Mexico City’s Metropolitan Cathedral in November of 2017. As a Mexican singer, it is a great honor for me to be part of bringing to light this cultural treasure that had been forgotten.”

After earning her master’s, Peralta stayed in Chicago. Joel worked in film, and she sang for the Chicago Symphony Chorus and Lyric Opera House as well as freelancing for other orchestras. She also served as the assistant to the director of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship’s national arts ministry, taught voice and piano lessons, and worked at a gym. Eventually, Peralta accepted a full-time job at a Presbyterian church in Evanston as a worship director. She continued singing with the Chicago Symphony Chorus and coaching singers as well.

In 2018, the couple felt God calling them back to San Diego. Peralta returned to PLNU as an adjunct professor and became a part-time faculty member in August 2022. She also serves as an adjunct professor at Chula Vista Christian University, teaches privately, and leads worship at her church. For the past couple of years, she has been a soloist and the vocal director for a show called Night of Christmas produced by Awaken Church at San Diego’s Rady Shell.

Even as she maintains additional roles, being back at Point Loma brings Peralta full circle.

“I have loved my job here,” she said. “I am honored to teach alongside faculty who taught me when I was a student here.”

As a voice teacher, Peralta says the most difficult part of her work “is motivating students to try something new they’ve never done before.” She frequently prays with her students during lessons as a way to encourage them and to ask the Holy Spirit to help them overcome their weaknesses or fears. This most challenging part of her job is what leads to the most rewarding part.

“We have such a diversity of students,” she said. “They come from all kinds of backgrounds and with all kinds of interests — commercial music, worship, classical. My favorite part is when I watch a student realize they can do something they thought they couldn’t do. When they discover, ‘there is freedom in my voice,’ there is a spiritual parallel.’ When we believe what God says about us, His power is made perfect in our weakness.” 

Family photo of Peralta with her husband and their two kids.
Peralta with her husband, Joel, and their two kids, Ezra and Katya.

For Peralta, having singing as her profession is a tremendous blessing. When she isn’t working, Peralta enjoys spending time with her family. Her parents, siblings, and in-laws all live near her. Joel and Elda also have two children: Ezra, age 7, and Katya, age 4.

Grand Opening: PLNU and the San Diego Padres Unveil New Biomechanics Lab

Baseball player in PLNU Biomechanics lab
On Feb. 5, 2024, executives of the San Diego Padres organization joined PLNU and community members to celebrate the grand opening of a new state-of-the-art Biomechanics Lab at PLNU’s Balboa Regional Center. 

The lab features 28 cameras with motion-capture technology, force platforms, and ball and bat tracking equipment and sensors. The technology comes from leading-edge companies such as Theia Markerless, Qualisys, Trackman, Edgertronic, and AMTI. The unique new space will allow kinesiology faculty and graduate students to evaluate players from throughout the Padres organization as well as PLNU athletes and others. The situation is a win for everyone involved.

Leaders from PLNU and the Padres in front of the new biomechanics lab cutting the ceremonial ribbon.
Leaders from PLNU and the Padres cut the ceremonial ribbon.

“We intend to use the lab for player development,” said Josh Stein, Padres assistant general manager. He went on to explain that modern player development involves the coordinated efforts of coaches and measuring technology. The data from the lab can be used to improve or maintain players’ health as well as to enhance their performance.

Padres pitching coach Ruben Niebla was in attendance at the grand opening. “The lab is important to us as an organization because of where baseball is going with data collection and technology,” he said.

Niebla mentioned that around 30 players from the Padres organization have already been analyzed during the off-season. During the season, players can be brought in if they have performance dips or are returning from injury. He also mentioned that the Padres have already hired several PLNU biomechanics alumni, and the joint lab should strengthen that pipeline.

PLNU graduate student Tori Lucht, who is pursuing her Master of Science in athletic training (MSAT), said, “As an MSAT student, this biomechanics lab will provide me access to a state-of-the-art education in the physics of human movement. Biomechanics will be my concentration of study within the MSAT program, and with this new lab, I will be able to get an in-depth study of this topic and further my interest in human movement.”

Lucht and her fellow graduate students are not only benefiting from the new lab but also from the expertise of PLNU faculty, including Dr. Arnel Aguinaldo, associate professor of kinesiology. Aguinaldo was instrumental in bringing PLNU into partnership with the Padres on this project.

Dr. Arnel Aguinaldo, associate professor of kinesiology in front of the new biomechanics lab, giving a speech.
Dr. Arnel Aguinaldo, associate professor of kinesiology

“Arnel is a leader internationally in biomechanics and kinesiology,” said Padres CEO Eric Gruepner during his opening remarks. Not only is Aguinaldo internationally known for his work understanding the biomechanics and physics of baseball athletes, but he is also an outstanding educator who won a teaching award this year.

Padres players Yu Darvish, Yuki Matsui, and Daniel Camarena were on hand at the grand opening. Camarena joined PLNU baseball team member Austyn Coleman in demonstrating the equipment.

Coleman was first up to demo the technology. In addition to playing for the Sea Lions, Coleman is also a biomechanics graduate student at PLNU. He previously played baseball for Cal State San Bernardino but still has a year of NCAA eligibility due to the pandemic year. Already the winningest pitcher in CSUSB history, Coleman’s breaking ball has achieved an even higher level of success with the information he and his coaches have received from the biomechanics lab at PLNU. The key was the technology’s ability to analyze how Coleman’s grip affects the break of his pitches — and then to make the data visible to him in a way he could apply. According to PLNU baseball head coach Justin James, once Coleman applied what he learned to his grip, he gained an additional six to nine inches of break on his pitches.

“The real magic of this lab is that it is a world-class space to meet the Padres’ player performance needs while also being a learning lab to train our 750+ students in the College of Health Sciences.”

As Camarena took over demonstrating, Niebla shared that a big part of his and his staff’s role is to distill the data they receive into such “bullet points” for the pitchers to work on. The result is that a multidisciplinary team of strengths and conditioning experts, athletic trainers, biomechanists, and coaches individualize feedback and training plans for each player.

When asked how different all of this is from when he started as a pitching coach, Niebla laughed. “So different,” he said. “We used to just say, ‘That looks good.’”

Now, Niebla can offer his players so much more information to protect their health and enhance their performance.

Padres pitcher Daniel Camarena pitching a ball.
Padres pitcher Daniel Camarena gives a pitching demonstration during the grand opening.

 Dr. Jeff Sullivan, dean of the College of Health Sciences at PLNU, said, “This lab is a dream come true. We have two incredible partners who came together a year ago to make it happen. The real magic of this lab is that it is a world-class space to meet the Padres’ player performance needs while also being a learning lab to train our 750+ students in the College of Health Sciences. All of our students will train in this lab, and our goal is to send them out to impact the well-being of this community.”

The new biomechanics lab is now an important part of helping the College of Health Sciences achieve that goal.