Photo: McKenzie, preparing to film in Mongolia
The “Portrait of an Alum” blog series gives a glimpse of life after graduation, with a particular emphasis on our students’ readiness for the transition to college and how their affections and outlook have been shaped through their experiences, teachers and Christian community at Veritas.
2011 was a big year for Veritas. Opening our doors in 2000 with just 25 students, the first graduating class – the Class of 2011 – were the pioneers of this new school, a school exploring un-chartered territory in Richmond, seeking to pair excellent scholarship and Christian discipleship in a new way. One of those first graduates, McKenzie Francis, sat down with Director of Communications Sara Kennedy over the Thanksgiving holiday. Here is a summary of their conversation.
“I Expected to have Good Relationships”
Echoing the sentiment heard over and over from our alumni, McKenzie gratefully remembers entering life at Regent University expecting to have strong relationships with her professors, an expectation that was then realized as she approached them much like she’d been taught at Veritas – believing that they wanted to know her, would help her grow and truly wanted her to succeed.
On wise guidance from her 11th grade humanities teacher, McKenzie entered the Cinema – Television Department at Regent with a desire to pursue screenwriting. To date, her program has gone well beyond screenwriting, with core competencies developed in many aspects of production, including recruitment of technical teams, working with sets and set design, photo and videography, props, lighting and much more. She is particularly drawn to the teamwork required by this field, welcoming opportunities to build relationships that will last well beyond graduation.
Telling the Story of God’s Work in the World
Now in her final year at Regent, McKenzie is most compelled by the power of documentary film-making to tell the story of God’s work in the world. As part of her senior portfolio, she will be highlighting the ground-breaking work of a pastor in Virginia Beach who shares the love of Christ through Spoken Word, an art form that combines performance, poetry and story-telling.
Even as early as her Freshmen year in college, McKenzie was on the lookout for opportunities to see God at work. Her family, her church and her time at Veritas taught her to know Christ and His word, but she was hungry to see His love expressed in new cultures and contexts. In the Lord’s kindness, McKenzie was given opportunities to spend significant time out of her comfort zone – first at a semester-long missions training program in Kansas City, then for a semester in southern Russia, followed by a month in Israel.
The following years brought opportunities to serve for a summer at a wilderness ranch in California and to film a documentary for twelve days in Mongolia. In each context, McKenzie saw the gospel beautifully expressed through God’s people in wildly different cultures, languages and people groups. She met people who had experienced God’s love through profoundly difficult circumstances – and whose love and joy was more powerful than anything she’d known before.
She loves telling their stories through film.
Trusting the Lord
As her senior year comes to a close this spring, McKenzie is expecting great things ahead. To continue to develop – and to share – her videography skills, she launched a wedding video business this year, and will continue to work on several documentaries. She is building relationships with film-makers in our wonderful city and plans to work with a small team of collaborative artists to travel, capture and then share the stories of unreached people groups. Her heart’s desire is to use these films to encourage well-informed mission endeavors that reach to the ends of the earth.
When asked how her time at Veritas helped to prepare her for life at university and beyond, McKenzie pointed to three areas that were particularly instructive:
Senior Thesis – Regularly cited by alumni as the culminating experience of their academic work, successful completion of this project made McKenzie “feel as if [she] could do anything!” What a confidence booster right before graduation!
Engaged Faculty – McKenzie agrees with her fellow alum – Veritas faculty members truly know, love and support their students. These talented men and women help students explore their interests, challenge them to grow and hold high expectations for their continued learning after graduation. With this background, Veritas alumni build and value relationships with their university professors as well.
Amazing Literature – Whether Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Hamlet or some other extraordinary work, McKenzie deeply benefited from the character studies explored in class, sharing that “they helped me examine my own life in important ways.” Humanities class also prepared her to look for the stories around her, particularly stories that point to God’s redeeming work in the world.
We are excited about the many rich and stretching adventures ahead for McKenzie. May the Lord grant her the desire of her heart – to share His redeeming love, expressed through many cultures and languages – in partnership with brothers and sisters in Christ – through the medium of film.