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We recently sat down with former student Katy Calabrese, who recently graduated with her Diploma in Ministry Leadership (DML) and now serves as one of our academic advisors at Ascent College. As a busy soccer mom to twin pre-teen boys, business owner, community volunteer, and women’s ministry leader, Katy is no stranger to the challenges of balancing schoolwork alongside a complex life. Hear more about why the Diploma program at Ascent College was a perfect fit for her in our interview notes below. 

Katy Calabrese: Diploma Program

What brought you to Ascent College?

I’m a lifelong learner with an insatiable curiosity, and dreamed of returning to school for years. Life was, well, life, for so long that I had thoroughly convinced myself that going back to school was impossible, both financially and practically. Thankfully, God was not satisfied to let me wallow in disappointment and coordinated several unexpected divine appointments that opened the door to Ascent College. What had felt impossible for so long suddenly sat before me, very possible. 

Did you know what you wanted to study? 

Yes and no. I had a deep thirst for more Biblical knowledge. My professional life veered into unexpected territory, where I consistently consulted with faith-based business owners. (I had, again, been certain that building a business as a strategic growth specialist for Christian entrepreneurs was impossible and far too niche to be profitable. And again, God was not satisfied to let me live out my lie.) I felt a professional and, more importantly, a spiritual responsibility to ensure I was delivering sound Biblical insights alongside my business acumen, so while my path at Ascent College was initially non-specific and undefined from a program standpoint, I was targeting Bible courses. 

Were you nervous about going back to school?

Absolutely. 1000% terrified. The last time I was in college was over 20 years ago, when online school wasn’t a thing. I was scared I wouldn’t get traction with the technology, especially appropriate online research methods and academic writing. I did not have even the remotest clue what a Turabian citation was and felt like a fish out of water. I was still overwhelmed by fear about my finances and my busy schedule. I asked myself plenty of times, what are you doing?! Are you insane?! Thankfully, I had an incredible community of people cheering me on (translation: often dragging me by my hair to keep going), but I’d be lying if I said I just breezed in here, and everything was a piece of cake. 

Why did you choose the Diploma program? 

I already had my bachelor’s degree in business administration from my first go-around with higher education in my youth and didn’t see any logic in receiving another. Yet I was also entering the Biblical knowledge arena for the first time and was not ready to leap into the deep water of a Master’s program. The Diploma program was a perfect middle-of-the-road solution. I was able to test the waters of online education, ease myself back into higher learning, and feel a bit more in control of my finances, knowing that the program had a decent timeline (it would take me around a year to finish, depending on my pace). The Diploma program felt like a controlled experiment that wouldn’t break the bank if I fell flat on my face.  

Why not try one of our certificate programs?

Actually, I did! I couldn’t resist the Women’s Collective Cohort. As a female professional and women’s ministry leader, the opportunity to engage with other strong women while we nurtured our God-given voices thrilled me to my core. I could add the certificate program alongside my Diploma path, and some of the courses even subbed in for the DML requirements, so I still ended pretty favorably financially. The WCC was life-changing for me on so many levels. Far too many for me to recount here. But I’ll end with this: I still count those professors as some of my most top-tier mentors and, in many cases, now trusted friends, and I’m still in contact with the women in my cohort. We continue to cheer each other on! 

Katy Calabrese: Diploma Program

Do you plan to continue your education?

I’m not sure! I’m prayerfully waiting for God to map the next steps, and right now, at this particular moment, I don’t feel a nudge to pursue my Master’s. I am still an insatiably curious, life-long learner, so I continue auditing classes at Ascent College to equip myself as a ministry leader. I can say this, however: if God says, “Go!” I’ll go, and boldly. My time at Ascent College prepared me for the next level, and I’m no longer scared. I know I can do this. Anyone who has spent any time here at Ascent knows you also have the great blessing of faculty, staff, and students continually encouraging you to keep going, even after your academic journey here comes to a close, so I will feel well-loved and supported should God lead me down that path.

What would you tell someone nervous to attend Ascent College? 

The best part of my journey thus far has been the opportunity to come on board as an academic advisor here at Ascent College. I get to talk to students daily, many of whom are nervous as they dip their toes into new academic waters. My encouragement and belief in what they can and will accomplish here is not lip service; I lived it! I know what it feels like to juggle work, family, and ministry alongside school. I know what it feels like to scramble to get your bearings with new technology and to wonder if everyone else in the room is smarter than you. I’ve cried over Turabian citations and Word document formatting. Been there, done that. I get it. And I know it can be done. You won’t be doing it alone, and God didn’t bring you this far to leave you now. The team here at Ascent College  – leadership, faculty, and staff – passionately believes in God’s call on the lives of all our students. It’s an honor to walk alongside them and watch God move in and through their lives for their good and His glory. You’re among friends here. You can do this! 

The Diploma program at Ascent College (DML) includes the following courses (33 credits total): 

  • GEN102 Orientation and Library Resources
  • ENG101 Grammar & Composition
  • ENG105 Academic Writing & Critical Research
  • BIB100 Bible Review I
  • BIB105 Old Testament Survey
  • BIB110 New Testament Survey
  • BIB150 Hermeneutics I
  • BIB215 Luke & Acts
  • MIN103 Spiritual Formation I
  • MIN112 Relational Outreach & Personal Evangelism
  • MIN245 Principles of Christian Leadership Development
  • THE212 Theology I: Spirit-Empowered Theology
  • MIS220 The Biblical and Theological Basis for Missions

The Women’s Collective Cohort certificate program at Ascent College includes the following courses (12 credits total): 

  • GEN102 Orientation and Library Resources
  • MIN242 Collective Journey: Leadership Health for Next-Gen Female Leaders
  • MIN243 Communicating for Transformation
  • MIN244 Biblical Theology of Women in Leadership: Why Not Women? 
  • MIN342 How Remarkable Women Lead: A Breakthrough Model for Work and Life