Kedrick Nettleton, Staff Writer

This year, we’re shining a spotlight on the amazing OKWU professors who dedicate their lives to helping students achieve their callings.

Today, we’re talking with Kelly Chisum, Instructor of Design in the School of Arts and Sciences. She’s a native to the Bartlesville area and brings a wealth of practical experience to the classroom in the fields of communication and design. Since graduating with her bachelor’s in English and Art from Hillsdale College, Chisum has spent time in a variety of design roles, eventually going on to open her own business, Wonder and Joy Design Studio. She continues to work with her clients and is currently pursuing an MFA degree in Media Design.

How did you end up here as a professor at OKWU? 

“A friend of mine was teaching a couple of design classes here and asked me to help out. I had never thought about being a professor, but it turned out that I loved teaching design even more than creating it. I’m very thankful to be able to teach here full-time now!”


What’s your favorite thing about the job? 

“I love the interactions with the students. That moment when a student’s eyes light up because they’ve gone from struggling with a concept to finally understanding it makes all the hard work worth it.”


Favorite class to teach? 

“I loved teaching Identity Strategy and Design last semester. It was the one I was most nervous about teaching because it is such a broad and ever-changing topic, but it turned out to be my favorite. I had a fantastic group of students. They worked hard, and I was very proud of the branding projects they created at the end of the semester.”


Favorite thing to do in your free time? 

“I love to read and paint. When I’m not working or spending time with family and friends, you can probably find me curled up on the couch with a book or painting in my home art studio.”


Favorite spot on OKWU’s campus? 

“We have a really beautiful campus. Walking helps me think, so when I’m stuck on a lesson plan or struggling to figure out how to explain a design concept, I’ll go for a walk around campus to enjoy the beauty of nature and the architecture.” 


What motivates you in your design work? 

“Many of the organizations I work with are nonprofits and small businesses whose mission I strongly support. I’m not at all equipped to treat the sick or to counsel someone facing addiction, but I can design a website that brings increased donations to support those who do. I find it incredibly fulfilling, and such an example of God’s grace, that we each have our part to play in doing His work. Mine happens to be through art and design. I am deeply grateful that I can use the gifts that God has given me to help people.”


What’s the biggest thing you hope your students take away from one of your classes?  

“I hope that my students see that they can use their gifts and talents to further the Kingdom, help people, and create a life for themselves that they enjoy living. It can be challenging for artistically-inclined students to find their place, and their giftings are often undervalued, both by the larger culture and sometimes by the church as well. I hope that they see that they have a place in the body of Christ to use their giftings to their full potential.”


What’s the best book you’ve read recently? 

“This is a tough question for me to answer, because I love to read! If I had to pick just one, it would probably be Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry. I reread it last year, and I love how he writes about the daily beauty of her ordinary life.”


If there weren’t a global pandemic and you could take a trip to any place on the globe, where would you go? 

“Before we knew that there would be a global pandemic, my family was thinking about taking a walking vacation in Lichtenstein over the summer. They just opened up a hiking trail that runs through the Alps across the entire country. Hiking through gorgeous mountains and exploring Medieval castles sounded like the perfect trip for us. 

But if I were to return to someplace I’ve been before, I would definitely choose Turkey. I spent a summer there when I was in college, and I was amazed by the combination of religious and cultural history and natural beauty. I have always wanted to go back.”


What would you say to a student thinking about committing to an OKWU education? 

“I would tell them, as someone new to the OKWU community, that I have found it to be a very welcoming place. All of the faculty and staff that I have interacted with have demonstrated kindness and shown that they genuinely care about other people. I’ve seen the same in the student body. If someone is looking for a place where they can grow academically and spiritually and also experience a loving, welcoming community, OKWU is the place for them.”

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