It’s often the case that the hidden figures of history turn out to be pillars on which we stand. This reality was brought to the forefront in recent years through movies like “Hidden Figures” where many learned for the first time that the first successful American orbit around the moon in 1969 was indebted to the mathematics work of Mary Jackson an African American woman. With that said, the Kingdom Diversity Initiative wants to continue in this spirit by bringing attention to often forgotten minority male and female voices and contributions through a series of post entitled ‘Hidden Figures’. This series will highlight figures from church history as well as celebrate the individuals on our campus that reflect the ideals of Kingdom Diversity and our commitment to “equipping students from every corner of the kingdom to serve in every context of the kingdom”
Hidden Figure: Missie Branch, Assistant Dean of Students to Women & Student Events Coordinator
Tells us about yourself and you how came to know Christ? I became a Christian at five years old. I remember being in church and hearing the invitation and wanting to do I had seen so many others do. My first discipleship came by my mom and her 5 siblings as they were all first generation Christians, and they dove all in head first with Jesus! I grew up in church and was a “good girl” but I can look back and see how very little of the decisions that I made was for the glory of the Lord. As a teenager, I was introduced to the concept of Bible college by a good friend of mine. I had honestly never heard of it before. It was then that I realized that there were young adults who actually studied the bible. I was blown away and interested in being in that crowd. I met my husband while in high school and as a bible college student himself, he began to introduce me to the bible in a way that I had never seen or understood. That was pivotal in my development of a true personal relationship with Christ.
How did you end up in your current position at Southeastern? The Lord. I was asked to take a temporary position in what was known then as Women’s Life filling in as a receptionist while she was on maternity leave. I love interacting with women so I spent all of my time in that position doing just that. Near the end of my time there, the director of another office asked me if I was interested in interviewing for another position on campus. Eventually, I became the Student Events coordinator. While doing that job, the dean of students, Dr. Liederbach, recognized my heart for the women on this campus and my passion to serve them and he offered me this position. I am now serving as the Asst. Dean of Student to women for both college and the seminary women and the student events coordinator for Student Activities and Discipleship.
Describe the role your job plays to contribute to the mission and vision of Southeastern? The mission statement for the Women Around SE office is to cultivate teachable, theological and missional women who are empowered to seek out and accomplish God’s call on their lives, to faithfully make disciples and to fulfill the great commission. My job is to do just that by creating equipping women with content, offering training and discipleship opportunities, community building events, and providing practical application ideas. I often say that my job is to make sure that the knowledge that we learn in the classroom will transform our hearts as we enter the world.
As a minority on campus what are some unique challenges you face in order to accomplish your job goals? Being both a women and an African American on this campus makes me constantly aware of how I “should behave”. As a woman in leadership, I want to make sure that I am not over stepping the men that I work with. As a Christian and a then a minority, I am always striving to make sure that I am not making anyone around me uncomfortable while at the same time constantly adjusting my own expectations depending on the people or person that I am around at any given moment. I would not say that any of this impedes my job, but it does promote the feeling that I should not be completely free to be my most authentic self.
What do you hope your presence here on campus can contribute to the overall Southeastern Community? I want to see the lives of the women in this and our broader community changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ. I want to make an impact for the kingdom that is global. How appropriate to be working in such a globally impactful institution! I would also like to begin to shatter stereotypes that people may have about women and African Americans. I love being on a team that has such a vision for sending out men and women that are taking the gospel to every possible place and profession.
What does kingdom diversity mean to you? Kingdom Diversity is the picture of how we as believers will spend our eternity. As the mother of minorities, females, and a child with disabilities I am especially sensitive to how inclusion of all people is necessary to accurately represent God’s plan. I am grateful the Kingdom Diversity Initiative here on our campus because it gives arms and legs to the heart and vision to have all people from all nations represented here at SEBTS and this impacts the training of all men and women who GO to the nations.