Mitch Priestley: Leadership & Ministry

Those gut-wrenching high school questions like “How crazy will the dorms be?” or “Can I hack it as a college student?” or “What will I do forever?” were history for Mitch Priestley. Years earlier, he had jumped headlong into school and even nailed down 42 college credits. But the young entrepreneur bowed out well shy of a bachelor’s degree because workplace and other real-life responsibilities started compounding faster than he anticipated.

“Stay in school!” took second seat to “Be a faithful businessman, husband and father.”

His longing to learn still lingered, though. Over and again during his years in business, Mitch was reminded that a zero in the bachelor’s degree field equals one heavy shackle for career progress. He felt stuck. More importantly, he longed to truly know the Word of God and live with confidence according to it.

Getting back on track

Mitch was visiting Multnomah with his teenage son when found his eyes glued to a pamphlet about the Degree Completion Program. After that, he was engaged in pointed conversation with Professor Holley Clough, the program’s director, grilling her with an onslaught of questions. “She was so helpful,” he says. She helped him catch a fresh new vision. And then his life changed forever.

“Holly showed me how I could transfer life experience into college credits,” he says, “and after taking two bridge courses and a few CLEP tests, I had 30 more credits under my belt, enough to get started in the leadership and ministry program. All I learned during years of working and building my computer training business really mattered. I was able to restart an education without stopping my life with my job and wife and three teenage boys.”

Connecting before class

Classes met one night per week. He befriended the men and women in his cohort quickly; they even set up a meal-making rotation schedule so they could share supper together before class each week.

“Crème brûlée is my favorite,” Mitch says. “I used to bring that in for my cohort, and even though we didn’t live in the dorms together, we got to know each other well. The book learning was on our own time, and new knowledge was created by working together in the classroom to process all we had been studying.”   

Learning how to lead

Mitch lights up when he talks about DCP course work, quick to point out his thankfulness for not having to return to a life of cramming for quizzes and penciling in exam scantrons.

“We’re receiving the same content as the traditional college, but these courses are writing intensive, which I see as an advantage,” he says. “It requires us to process the information on our own and with each other, figuring out how what we’re learning actually applies to our real lives and jobs. It is equally as rigorous as a traditional program, but far more beneficial for many people who are further along in life.”

Learning how to lead through the lenses of Moses and Nehemiah or Jesus and Paul rather than a pop-culture CEO proved not only more challenging, but also exponentially more rewarding. “My degree was in leadership and ministry,” he says, “and the emphasis on ethics and biblical leadership make the program totally unique in regards to other professional training.

“I think the best part is that this doesn’t close any doors. It doesn’t hold you back – just the opposite. It is a real-world education that gives you a full bachelor’s degree in precisely half of the class hours of a traditional program. And you learn to think with other people living real life, working real jobs.”

Starting a new chapter

Before Mitch graduated, he was already officiating memorial services at a local church. It marked the start of a new chapter in his life.

“I remember meeting a grieving family whose mother had died,” he says. “Through conversations with them, I found out that crème brûlée had been her favorite dessert. So I cooked a batch for both my DCP classmates and for the family. I had been using my broiler to caramelize the tops, but to thank me for leading their memorial service, the family bought me a real torch to use. I still glaze the crème brûlées with it every time I make them.”