Susan PresleyMarch 6, 2018
Rev. Susan Presley grew up in Michigan and has lived in Texas, Missouri, Kentucky, and Illinois. She is currently serving as the pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Mendota, IL. After leaving Truman State University, Susan earned her M.Div. from Louisville Seminary, and is now pursuing a Doctorate of Ministry. Her areas of study include the role of gender-based groups in modern-day churches, as well as the study of the history of mass shootings in the United States. Susan’s passions include local charitable concerns, ecumenical endeavors, and having deep theological discussions with her cat, Pippa. Yes, she still does stand-up comedy on occasion.
What year did you graduate and what was your concentration?
What extra-/co-curricular activities did you do?
I competed with the Forensics Union (speech and debate teams). I was a member of the local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, through which I became a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists. I co-hosted a radio show on KTRM. Off-campus, I worked for various local political causes and I performed stand-up comedy in town as well.
Did you go to grad school? If so, where? Was it immediately after you left Truman or did you wait? Why?
I did. Since I knew I wanted to go into the ministry, I immediately left Truman, went to seminary, and got my Master’s of Divinity degree at Louisville Seminary in 2014. Since then, I’ve worked full time as a pastor. Fast forward three years later, and I have now started working on a Doctorate of Ministry also at Louisville Seminary. I should theoretically complete that in 2020.
What was your first job after graduation?
In order to make a little cash while in grad school, I did some freelance journalism while getting my Master’s degree.
What work do you do/What are you doing now?
I am now the Pastor at the First Presbyterian Church of Mendota, IL.
How has your Liberal Arts/COMM education helped you?
My Liberal Arts/COMM education has helped me in so many ways! Chief among them, though, would be the critical thinking skills that are taught across the entire spectrum of a Liberal Arts/COMM degree. During my time at Truman, I learned to think differently and to analyze text and data instead of relying on anecdotal data when working out an issue.
Which class did you dislike at the time you took it, but now you’re grateful you took it?
I can not stress this enough: Communication Theory. I loathed that class at the time, but the theories and application I learned helped me through both grad school and my career.
What was your greatest accomplishment at Truman?
I won a stand-up comedy contest on a college campus at the age of 44. There was a golden rubber chicken as the prize. Yes, I still have that chicken.
But seriously, my greatest accomplishment was when I was published in the American Journal of Nursing (a national nursing journal) while still a Truman student. This helped me greatly in my journalism work.
Why is Truman a good place for a student to study?
The professor-to-student ratio is excellent. Truman students are largely taught by professors with PhDs, not grad students. Also, there are few adjuncts teaching on campus.
The small town atmosphere gives you a level of focus and gets you to interact with others you might not at a larger institution. Also, a small town atmosphere includes a very low cost of living.
The JINS classes. These are classes that get you to view a topic from multiple disciplines. I took The Art and Science of Humor. We looked at comedy/humor from sociological, physiological, psychological, rhetorical, and even mathematical perspectives.
What would you say a COMM student should absolutely do while at Truman?
Join the forensics team, at least for one year. The speech and debate team changed everything for me, from the way I think to the way I speak in public. Those are pretty important factors in my field.
What advice would you give someone who wants to go into the same line of work as you?
Take courses about religions that aren’t your own. Learning how others believe and worship is incredibly helpful in the real world. It destigmatizes people who are different than you, and gives us more patience and appreciation for other traditions.
What do you miss most about campus/Kirksville?
Oh, too many things. Pagliai’s Pizza. Pickler Memorial Library. Thousand Hills State Park. The lack of wait at the Department of Motor Vehicles. The lack of traffic. The summer concerts on the square. So many things to mention.
What tag line would you create for the COMM department at Truman?
“You can’t learn another discipline without this one.” How’s that?
If you could come back to Truman and teach a class for a semester, what would be its title and what would it be about?
“People Not Like You Don’t Suck” – This would be a course in how, in a culture where everyone insists their voice must be heard, very few of us are actually listening. It would be about how we can put down our megaphones with which we demand our rights, and start to listen to others and see how we can help them in their quests.
What did we not ask that you think is important for people to know?
You’ll hear all sorts of points of view at Truman – from conservative to liberal, from educated to downright uninformed. Listen to all; they’ll help you grow.