Season 1 - Episode 6: Seaver Students Hope Mueller and Olivia Robinson
In this podcast, University Chaplain, Sara Barton talks to Olivia Robinson (Seaver College, 2020) and Hope Mueller (Seaver College, 2019) about their spiritual journeys. Olivia reflects on her recent Pepperdine TEDx talk and her hopes for love as a strategy for reconciliation. Hope talks about what it was like to be the first female Christopher Parkening classical guitar student and how her Christian upbringing was stretched and affirmed while at Pepperdine.
Sara Barton: Hello. My name is Sara Barton, and I'm the university chaplain at Pepperdine
University. Welcome to Pepperdine's Spiritual Life podcast, a podcast about how people
in our community, along with our friends and guests, are finding and joining God's
good work in the world. Jesus said, "Seek, and you shall find." I will be talking
to people who are doing just that. Let's get started. Today, my guests are Seaver
College students Hope Mueller and Olivia Robinson. Olivia is an Integrated Marketing
Communication major, and Rhetoric and Leadership minor. She is from Palmdale, California.
Olivia is currently the co-vice president of Pepperdine's Black Student Association,
and she has organized community conversations around topics like modern-day racism
and its appearance, and Jesus in the MeToo era.
Hope is a graduating senior from Denver, Colorado. Her major is music, with an emphasis in classical guitar, here at Pepperdine. She has performed at many high-profile events, including a gala at Beverly Hills Hotel, and Pepperdine's TEDx. The guitar program at Pepperdine is ranked number one in the country, and Hope holds the distinction of being the first female to attend and graduate from that program. Welcome to you both.
Olivia Robinson: Thank you.
Hope Mueller: Thank you.
Sara Barton: Often, as I have just illustrated, when we introduce someone, we focus on that person's major, or on their academic accomplishments, or work accomplishments. Today, I want to ask you for a few more details. I would like to hear your biographical details, when it comes to your spiritual life. Who are you, in a spiritual sense? Either one of you can go first. Go for it.
Hope Mueller: Well, I would say that my spiritual journey is still growing, still very much expanding. Even though my walk with God has been almost a lifetime, it seems like, growing up in the church, but also having a strong commitment to my faith early on, I feel like there's constantly more to discover, and more to experience with God. I would say where I'm at now, I'm still very much learning about the Bible. Even though I've read it several times through, there's so many different things to see within it, and to discover, especially based on different places of life. I feel like now that I'm older, I wouldn't say I've grown away from a child-like faith, but I feel like my faith is more impacted by things that I'm starting to see in the world. That's really impacting how I read the Bible, and receive it internally, but also how I reflect what I've learned, and what I think my faith calls me to do.
Sara Barton: I love it that you focus on the spiritual life as a journey. I think that the Bible clearly illustrates the spiritual life, and the life of faith as a journey. I love it, that that's how you described it.
Olivia Robinson: Well, Chaplain Barton, I would have to echo Olivia here. It's always a journey. If there's anything that college has taught me, is that I didn't know it all. I think it's so easy, as young adults getting fresh out of high school, we think we've got it all figured out. I grew up in a very Christian home. Definitely thought I knew everything there was to know about what a faith journey should look like. As I'm venturing into a new chapter in my life, I definitely recognize the expansion of my faith in what God has for us when we're adults. As far as a spiritual life bio goes, I grew up with a Christian background, was homeschooled growing up. Definitely college was a shock, but with that, it was a blessing, because so often, when you grow up in not a bubble, but one arena, and you get put in a different one, your horizons expand that much. That's what Pepperdine has done for me, is just given me such a huge gratitude, a huge appreciation for such vast diversity in our spiritual lives, and how much growth there is still to come.
Sara Barton: Sounds like journey, then, connects all when we talk about spiritual life. On this blog, that's something that we do want to emphasize. Our guests, who have come from all different walks of life, and people who come talk about their spiritual lives. I love it that we recognize this is a journey. We meet so many different people along the way. Thank you for sharing that. I'm sure we'll talk a lot more about your spiritual lives, as we continue. I just want to go to you, Hope, with this question. You are, as I said in your bio, the first and only female student in Pepperdine's highly-competitive classical guitar program, overseen by preeminent virtuoso Christopher Parkening. I'm intrigued by what it's been like to achieve this distinction. Just fill us in a little bit on what did it take to get where you are? Then later, I want to ask you spiritually about some of that. Just what did it take to get into this program? What has it been like to be the one woman, among many men?
Hope Mueller: Well, Sara, it has been quite the journey. As you say, this is the theme of where, at least, I am at, and I'm sure is the same for Olivia. Like I said, I was homeschooled growing up. My dad has been called, even by Pepperdine's own editors, a music enthusiast. He loves music. My whole family, the Muellers, we used to liken ourselves to the von Trapps from The Sound of Music. We all love music. My dad comes from a very musical family. Fond memories of extended family sing-a-longs with my grandparents, et cetera. Very musical family. However, my father wanted to pursue music when he was younger, before graduating high school, and it didn't get to happen for him. One of his passions, when having children of his own, was that he would just let them pursue music in whatever energy they wanted to. It was required, as part of our curriculum, as a homeschooled student, to take two years of piano from dad. I'm not going to lie, that was a challenge.
Sara Barton: Was he a harsh disciplinarian?
Hope Mueller: My dad is great. He definitely instilled a passion for music. Something I learned a lot, in those early years ... I was just five when I started, so something I learned a lot was that music takes passion, and music takes work. Something even at an early age, I saw my older sister learning piano, and I wanted to be involved. I begged and begged my parents to let me start with dad, piano. They said, "Not 'til you can read." I worked really hard to be able to read. Not sure where I'm at with that now, but ...
Sara Barton: Well, you're graduating, so that says something. Liberal arts degree.
Hope Mueller: Hopefully, there's some kind of reading that's happening. I begged them,
"Let me start piano lessons." I did. It was definitely exciting, because what we got
to do, is after two years of piano with dad, they said, "Any instrument in the world
that you want to do, we'll buy you an instrument, and we'll pay for lessons for an
extended period of time, just as long as you put in the work for it." As I previously
eluded to before, my parents, one day, I was around seven, sat the whole family down,
and we watched The Sound of Music. In watching The Sound of Music, I absolutely fell
in love with Maria von Trapp, and just thought it would be the most cool thing in
the world to play guitar, and teach people to sing, and teach people music. At the
time, we had a nanny, a mother's helper, really, and she would always help us with
our studies, our music, and all that stuff.
I just thought, "This is the coolest thing ever." I absolutely was like, "Mom and dad, I'm playing guitar. That's what's going to happen. I'm going to be Maria von Trapp, I'm going to be in Austria, it's going to be great." Seven or eight, I got a little half-size guitar for my birthday, and we started lessons. It was a long journey finding teachers, and that kind of thing. We finally settled on one teacher that, when I played for her, I had taken some lessons before, she said, "This eight-year-old has this gift for guitar." She didn't take kids, but she said, "I'm taking Hope. I want to train Hope." My parents were always about practice, and putting in the work. My teacher instilled that in me. It takes work to be good at what you do. I honestly had fun with guitar, really until just before high school. I was in an orchestra, I was playing percussion, I was doing conducting. I was playing guitar on the side of the orchestra, little solos here and there.
One thing that remained underneath the whole thing, was that I was really pursuing classical guitar, because my teacher said, "Hey, if you can play classical, you can play anything." I just said, "Okay." She gave me the Christopher Parkening Method, Book One. She said-
Sara Barton: Wow. That was one of your early introductions to someone you know really well now.
Hope Mueller: Yeah. She said, "If you can play anything out of this book, you can
play anything." Fast-forwarding in to high school, I'm still learning out of the Christopher
Parkening Method books, just learning so much. I had ventured off into jazz a little
bit. Then, my parents, for our 16th birthdays, ever single one of my siblings ...
I'm one of five. Every single one of my siblings, we get to go on a birthday trip
with mom and dad at 16. My parents, before my 16th birthday, said, "Hey, who's your
favorite guitarist in the world?" I said, "I love Christopher Parkening." My parents
went on the internet to find a concert by Christopher Parkening, and that year, he
had stopped touring. He was not playing anymore concerts, he has announced his retirement.
My parents were like, "What are we going to do?" Randomly, they find out that he teaches
at Pepperdine University. They emailed this random email that's on the internet, and
it was to his secretary. His secretary arranged a meeting with Professor Parkening,
when I was 16.
Anyways, ended up being this big birthday surprise, that I got to go and meet Christopher Parkening, and play for Christopher Parkening. My dad wrote this long email talking about my passion for music, and for God, and that kind of thing. Professor Parkening was like, "Yes, I'd love to meet her." We did. That was the journey. When I came here, at 16, they had said ... Well, I remember being intimidated, because every single student here was, like, six-foot three. So huge, the people that play guitar. You meet Professor Parkening, he's huge. I'm this five-foot-two, I give myself, girl, just ...
Sara Barton: Looking at this tall men who are-
Hope Mueller: Coming to check it out. I was so intimidated. Anyway, I got to attend
one of the classes, and Professor Parkening said, "Why don't you play a piece for
us?" I was so intimidated. Anyway, I ended up finding out that there had never been
a female here before. They said, "You know what though? We're number one in the nation.
You may think you work hard now, but this is basically Division I basketball, but
for music. We are DI. You have to work like you're a DI athlete." I said, "I don't
even know what that means, but okay, sure." That was the journey. It took a long time.
I even auditioned my freshman year to come here, and only got accepted as a minor.
It was crushing, so I went to University of Denver, really learned a lot there. There's
really some incredible teachers there. Learned a lot, and also was still studying
with a Parkening student that lives in Denver. He was also really influential in my
I remember specifically, when I was so crushed, two things. I was on the phone with Professor Parkening, I'm asking him, "What do I need to do? Do you pay the money to come in your freshman year?" He said, "You could, but I really suggest you take the year and grow yourself. Grow yourself in college, grow yourself in guitar." He said audition in another year. That's what I did. I worked so hard, I can't even tell you, Sarah. I worked harder than I ever have in my whole life. Just late nights, I was working, doing classes. Going to school was a new thing for me, so getting up and going to school, and not getting to do pajama school was, like, no.
Sara Barton: It's not homeschool anymore.
Hope Mueller: No, it was not homeschool anymore. It was definitely not high school
anymore. It was just this whirlwind of a freshman year of college. I auditioned again,
and just really had established this relationship with the Pepperdine guitar department.
Having been back and forth, I knew all the guys there, they knew me. We were family
when I came for my audition. Every single one of them, it was like a frontal hug.
It wasn't just a side hug, it was just like, "What is up?" I just felt like, "Holy
cow, if I can just nail this audition, I want to be here. This is where I belong."
It was incredible. I was auditioning actually in a master class, so in front of 200
people. This was my audition. I'll never forget the day. I walk out onstage, and I
bow. I learned all this stuff, and I was so nervous. I put my head down, and put my
fingers on the strings, and put my head down to start my ... It was a really hard
piece, and started it, and just start playing. Parkening stops me midway. It's a master
class, so it's a teacher moment. He was showing me something.
I remember, we're getting done, he's got this big old grin on his face, and he sticks out his hand, and he said, "You've passed your exam with flying colors." I'll never forget it. Then, the next day, he had said that we accepted you, and he'd given me a scholarship. It was a dream come true. It was literally, I didn't know. I was just so ecstatic to be accepted here and come.
Sara Barton: From the way you described things, I can only imagine how proud your parents must've been, at that point, after all their encouragement for you, and direction in your life.
Hope Mueller: Yeah. It was a great time.
Sara Barton: Thank you for sharing that journey. What a journey you've had. I always love to hear our students' stories. Olivia, I want to hear your story, too. I think the most recent thing, I have seen you show so much leadership, and lead so many things. The most recent has been doing a TED talk, during TEDx Pepperdine. Share with us your journey. What has it been like for you to arrive at a place where, as a Pepperdine student, you're ready for this moment, to give a talk? Share with us how did you decide what to talk about? I'm sure you had quite a few topics you could've covered. Tell us a little bit about how you came to that moment.
Olivia Robinson: Well, I think with being able to give a TED talk, the experience of being able to have the content, but also have the delivery, started years, and years, and years before the TED talk. Growing up in church, there is constantly Easter speeches and Christmas speeches, but there's this strong cultivation by my father to always speak. Starting at a young age, before you can speak publicly, you should be able to write well publicly.
Sara Barton: Wow. That's a nice overlap with your stories.
Olivia Robinson: Any school break, any spring break weekend, whatever it was, my dad made sure that before I could go and play, or before I could watch television, I had to write. That was something that was constantly being built within me. Whether it was poetry, or essays, or descriptions, historical analysis, starting in the first grade, that was what I was doing constantly. He would almost make sure I had opportunities to share this. It wouldn't always be as grand as being able to speak at church, during an Easter speech, but sometimes, he would call one of his friends and be like, "Read what you just wrote." It would be like, "Okay, that's weird."
Sara Barton: What affirmation, that he's so proud of you.
Olivia Robinson: Well, I think also, it was building a comfortability with speaking.
Just because, I think, with writing, I had a lot to say, but there's something really
special about being able to speak from your heart what's written, but also what has
only been written in your mind, and does not exist yet in a physical form. Being able
to translate heart-to-heart is extremely important to my father, but I think also,
just to me now. That's a value that I hold really close to myself. I think, getting
to Pepperdine, and all these years later, after practicing and things like that, I
didn't want to just give a speech to talk. Or, to go speak just to be heard, because
that would be a wasted opportunity, in my eyes. I wanted to say something that would
have an impact beyond just the TED talk. Whether it was on the TED stage, or any other
stage, if there was seed sown in someone that could manifest somewhere else in their
life, or within their community, I wanted to sow that seed.
Finding out about the TED talk, I don't go on Facebook as often as I used to, but one day, I happened to be looking at the official Pepperdine Facebook page, and there's something about a TED talk coming up. I was like, "Wow, this is really interesting. I would love to be a part of this." I also thought, "I have friends who would be fantastic at speaking this." I emailed the link to other people. Then, I started thinking about it more seriously, as something that I wanted to say and be a part of. I didn't exactly know what to say, because with a stage as big as TEDx, you don't want to waste it on something that's Mickey Mouse, and of no substance. The first idea I had was not the first idea I went with. I have a close relationship with my comm professors, being that that's the division I'm in most of the time. I found my COM 180 professor from, I think, the first summer of being at Pepperdine. I brought to her this idea, and she so kindly said, "Are you sure?" Just those three words, I knew it was a no on that idea.
Thinking more, and trying to find something that would be beneficial. In that, in trying to process that, you're still a student at the same time, but you're still a student at Pepperdine. Pepperdine was going through a lot around-
You're still a student at Pepperdine, and Pepperdine was going through a lot around the time that the applications were due.
Sara Barton: Yeah, this has been a hard year.
Olivia Robinson: Yeah. It's been a very hard year. I remember thinking, "Oh, maybe they'll push the TEDx applications back." I was waiting for that to happen, still coming up with my ideas, but the application deadline never changed. I just remember on the day it was due, it might've been an hour or two before it was due, and I was like, "God, when are you going to show up? It's about time." I had constantly been reading and realizing that there is something more to just speak about than something that interested me. While I do feel like what I ended up speaking about interested me, it was for more people than just what I would be interested in.
Sara Barton: Yeah.
Olivia Robinson: I remember, I had been reading the letter From the Birmingham jail. I had been reading Dr. King's philosophy on non-violence and other things like that. Something just dropped in my spirit about speaking about love as a confrontation strategy, given that it's a message that's been spoken for centuries now, but there's something about being able to apply a common core value to a certain place and time. For such a time as this, I think something needed to be said about-
Sara Barton: About love.
Olivia Robinson: Being able to love, and love when you're being confronted.
Sara Barton: Wow.
Olivia Robinson: I just started writing and typing, and trying to say something that would be from the heart and speak what I really felt about love, but also being convicted and writing very strong words, but also realizing, I still need to make this application something that people would say, "Oh, wow, we want to hear more," instead of, "Oh my goodness, she's crazy."
Sara Barton: "She's going to talk about love. What's she going to say?"
Olivia Robinson: Yeah. I didn't want it to be something cliché, because I think oftentimes
when you think of love, you think of the lovey-dovey happy romance film, and that's
not at all what I wanted to discuss. Being able to word things in a way that was discussing
two pretty much dichotomies it seems like nowadays, love and conflict, and molding
that into something that would speak into different areas of people's lives, whether
that was their personal life in between them and relationships in their families or
within their communities, or societal groups, and there's a significant line between
us versus them.
In that process, I ended up writing a few paragraphs to fit into the Google form. I prayed over it and submitted it, didn't know what was going to happen, but a few weeks later, I got an email requesting an interview. I was like, "Oh, this is the next step." I went through the interview process and it went really well. I remember being at home, and it was during the holidays so my family was visiting. This was the first Christmas I had been with both of my parents at the same time in Texas for a long time, because that's where they live now. Being able to separate quickly from the family and wanting to be there, but also getting into that business mindset of, "This is the moment that I've been waiting for, to be able to say, this is what I have to say, and this is what I would like to share," and realizing that this is the threshold for me to able to cross over and have the stage.
I think there was a realization of, my desire wasn't necessarily for the stage, but for the opportunity to have this exchange. Not for a platform for myself, but more like a table for conversation. I felt like this was just going to be a much bigger table than I had had before.
With that, going through the interview and having it be the best interview of my life, which, with interviews it's always this stressful thing, but-
Sara Barton: It is.
Olivia Robinson: There's this peace that I really can't explain, that I had during that interview. I felt really confident and in control. It was this amazing process. After that, I found out I would be one of the students giving a TED talk.
Sara Barton: That's awesome.
Olivia Robinson: Had the idea, had the guidelines, had to come up with the rest of the content. That took quite a while, but I remember-
Sara Barton: You memorized it.
Olivia Robinson: I memorized it.
Sara Barton: Which is difficult, but you did it without notes. Some people can use notes, and that's okay, but-
Hope Mueller: Wow.
Sara Barton: That's putting yourself up there and out there in a certain way.
Olivia Robinson: Yeah. I felt really great about that too, because I was just like, "Wow, finding out there's going to be no teleprompter, also realizing that the podium wasn't up there," I'm like, "This is it. It has to be memorized. It has to be that Easter speech from two years old, and not having Mom up there with you holding your hand. It's me and my memory and my audience."
Sara Barton: Wow.
Olivia Robinson: That was a great moment. I remember really wishing that my dad could be there at that moment, because it was about time to start being ready to be on stage, having gone through this entire preparation process with my fellow student speakers, and the fantastic TED staff, but also realizing that a significant reason why I was there at that moment was because of cultivation that had come through my parents and my family. I remember my dad was in town, but he was in traffic. I remember getting to the stage, couldn't really see many people, but I could tell who it was that I was seeing, in regards to figures. The moment I opened my mouth, my dad walked in.
Sara Barton: Perfect timing.
Olivia Robinson: It just felt like this full circle moment. I gave that speech and felt like that was just a God moment for me, to be able to share this thing that I'd been working at, not just this speech in particular, but sharing and communicating with people. That's something that I've loved my entire life, and I've always wanted to communicate with more people, and realizing that that was my moment. That was my starting point, also, my starting point.
Sara Barton: That was a big moment for you. I was part of a standing ovation for you, as you know. That was fun. We couldn't be in the room, so we gave a standing ovation in the conference room where we were watching.
Olivia Robinson: Thank you.
Sara Barton: It was well-deserved. I'd like to do something now that we've really heard a thank you for such good introductions to you all. I've got questions, but I'm curious, do you have a question for one another? Olivia, do you have a question for Hope, or Hope, a question for Olivia?
Olivia Robinson: I have a question for Hope.
Hope Mueller: What's up?
Olivia Robinson: I think one of the really interesting things about Pepperdine is, you see in the majority of classes and throughout the university, it is really a 60-40 split between women being more present and men being less present, in regards to numbers on campus.
Hope Mueller: Yeah.
Olivia Robinson: You being the only woman ever within this program to finish and have this opportunity, what is your specific experience like within that circle? Because it seems as though, that this isn't really something you see at Pepperdine, where you have the opposite, being that women aren't as represented.
Hope Mueller: Yeah.
Olivia Robinson: What has been your experience, and how would you describe that?
Hope Mueller: Yeah. That's a complicated question. In a lot of ways, like I previously said, before I came to Pepperdine, I felt like this guitar department was somewhat family, and really fun-
Olivia Robinson: It's small, by the way.
Hope Mueller: Yeah. We're only seven people.
Olivia Robinson: Yeah, seven.
Hope Mueller: Excluding Professor Parkening, so maybe our classes, our performance
class, studio class, it's only about eight people, maybe nine, 10, no more than 10
ever. Yeah, coming to Pepperdine, I was just coming to hang out with some of my guy
friends, but you're right in that, yeah, honestly, I came in as a sophomore, so there's
only a year or so before those people that I'd cultivated relationships with were
gone. They were graduated. One of them is a professor now here, so it was just crazy.
Yeah, I guess in that, my experience with being the only female is, I always just felt like, we were there to learn from a master, and it didn't really matter what your gender was, or even really where your backgrounds are from. All of us are just so different, and in music, you operate in your strengths. You have to operate in your strengths. No, am I the biggest person? Am I a guy? Am I strong? I'm strong, but not as strong as some of these guys. I always operated in my strengths.
Something Professor Parkening always said is, "Hope, you have a really, really good tone, a really good sound. You're really, really sensitive to the music." I just always operated, that's how I even started my time here, is just, I was operating in those strengths. If I wanted to give a comment in class, I'm not going to comment on how fast they play. I can't play that fast, but I'm going to talk about something that maybe I have a strength in. Then as I've been here, I'm now senior, I can talk about some of the things that maybe the freshmen don't necessarily know as much, or I had longer experience with. I guess with guy-girl, I always just felt respected. Professor Parkening is extremely respectful.
It was so funny, for so many years, he had had guys, so he just always said, "Gentlemen," or "Guys, let's go." He's so sweet. Even in my first year, he was like, "Gentlemen and lady, let's get started," or something, just very sensitive to, "Hey, we recognize that this is a big milestone in the guitar department."
It's a really good feeling to feel like you're not only accepted and welcomed, but also really, really respected. I never felt like the guys were like, "Oh, we're better than you," or, "We're stronger than you or better." I just felt like we all operate in our strengths. Yeah.
Olivia Robinson: Thanks. Do you have a question?
Hope Mueller: Yeah. Growing up, you mentioned that you always wanted to speak, but coming to Pepperdine, you're integrated marketing communications, were you thinking of taking a career in public speaking? I would love to know a little bit more about what your goals were before TEDx, before this opportunity came up. I know this was something that just randomly happened, that suddenly TEDx is at Pepperdine. What were you thinking? What were your goals before TEDx?
Olivia Robinson: That's an interesting question, because I've always wanted to be able to converse with people, but have never really thought about it as a permanent career, even though it's something that I plan for it to be part of my career, and eventually I would absolutely love to have a talk show like Oprah.
Hope Mueller: Yeah.
Olivia Robinson: I think it's been interesting trying to navigate how public speaking really works and finding an area for my gifts, but also an area that would provide monetarily for my family in the future. One of my goals, before and still, is to go into entertainment marketing. My overall goal, bottom line, is to someday be the CEO of BET, Black Entertainment Television, but-
Sara Barton: Just keep those goals small. No, I'm just joking with you. That's bold. I'm happy. Thank you for sharing that, because that's a bold goal and I love it.
Olivia Robinson: Thank you. I think getting there is going to take a lot of time and practice, but also, hoping that this gift, this voice, will help me get into the spaces that will make that possible. One of my desires is to keep everything organic, so to not necessarily seek opportunity to speak, but when it falls, to always be prepared and always be ready. Even though this is something that, if I could just speak with people every single day and make that my job, I would love that, but I think that's one of the things I'm still exploring and trying to see where that would fit. That's been one of the really difficult things too, because realizing that, even when it comes to marketing, it's like, I chose it because its skills pay the bills. I didn't necessarily choose entertainment marketing because that's my number one passion, even though it is something I love. Trying to find a space where my goals within entertainment, but my gifts within speaking, and seeing how those can mesh together and also be something that is practical, is something I'm really still searching for. The goals are there. The map is still being drawn.
Hope Mueller: Got you.
Sara Barton: One thing you know about Pepperdine is that, we seek to encourage you,
support you, not only in your academics and your vocational aspirations, but in your
spiritual lives. I'm curious, how does the spiritual support you've received, and
that's been a part of your education at Pepperdine, how do you see yourself taking
some of that with you into these careers you've described, into your future? Just
give us a little insight into what it's been like. You can be honest. I'm the chaplain
here, and I know we don't do everything perfectly, but we do seek to help support
you in academics and in your faith. How will that come together for you, do you think,
after you leave?
Olivia Robinson: I think one of the things that's been really exemplary here has been seeing how you can allow your spiritual life to cross over into different areas. One of the things I wonder about in the future is, how that will play out in a work environment, because not every place you'll be graced enough to work at will be as inviting as Pepperdine in welcoming your spirituality in the workplace.
Sara Barton: [crosstalk 00:36:48] Entertainment industry might be challenging.
Hope Mueller: You don't have to go to convocation every week.
Olivia Robinson: Exactly, right. I think one of the things that's definitely been evident here has been, being able to find individuals who you share something with, and being able to cultivate the small communities. Even though we do have an overall Christian campus, finding those niches where you are able to communicate on a spiritual level with someone one-on-one is really impactful. I think that goes in two different parts. Being able to communicate with people who have a different spiritual outlook or background from you, I think that's probably been one of the spaces with the most learning that I've experienced, and I hope to keep experiencing.
Sara Barton: Yeah. I think because Pepperdine doesn't have a signed statement of faith or some doctrinal test, we do have a lot of diversity when it comes to spiritual and religious outlooks.
Olivia Robinson: Exactly.
Sara Barton: I'm happy to hear you say that that's been a positive.
Olivia Robinson: Yeah. I think that goes even within people who are of different Christian backgrounds, but also people who are outside of the Christian faith, but still have faith. I think that's been really interesting but impactful on my worldview. I think what's also important is being able to find people with similar outlooks and expressions of faith, because there's something about being able to lean on someone and have them just get it and understand, but also someone to hold you accountable to your pillars of faith and your pillars of what you believe is what you need to be doing to have a righteous walk with God. I think being able to take that away from my Pepperdine experience and apply it in different areas I'll go in my life is something that I'm really happy to have gained as a tool here.
Sara Barton: Yeah. What about you, Hope?
Hope Mueller: Yeah. I would say, well, if there was one piece of advice before I went to college that I got that still sticks with me to this day, is that, when I used to say, "I'm headed to college," and talking to my pastor or people that were spiritually influential in my life growing up, they'd kind of asked me these hard questions like, "How are you going to stay grounded in your faith?" My 18-year-old answer was, "Oh, Pepperdine's a Christian university. Don't even worry about it." One piece of advice that's stuck with me for my whole college time was, it wasn't even my own pastor, it was actually my cousin's pastor. I was just at a random graduation party.
Hope Mueller: He said, "Listen, every campus, everywhere you go, there are influences
and there are people that will affect you for good or for bad. What you have the unique
opportunity to do in college is, now that you're kind of outside of your parents'
home and outside of your childhood foundation, you have this opportunity to do a grab
bag. Grab this influence, and then you grab this influence and that influence. Your
unique opportunity in college is to find out who Hope is as a spiritual person, anyone,
Olivia, et cetera, but you build on that foundation."
Something that shaped my college experience was, at my first year at University of Denver, my first class of my college career, she opened the class and said, "Now, I really want you to know that college is all about getting rid of everything that you've ever learned and creating a new foundation for yourself." I struggled with that. Is college really about uprooting your foundation? I actually ended up disagreeing with the professor a little bit, in that college, and especially at Pepperdine, it was this unique opportunity to, as Olivia said, connect with people that are different than you, maybe come from a different background, but it's not an uprooting.
It's not a changing of necessarily everything that you are. It's more of an expansion of your faith journey. For me personally at Pepperdine, I was able to connect with mentors, older and younger, that really pushed me and grew me as a person and in different horizons. "Have you ever thought about this?" "Wow, I've never even been exposed to that. Very interesting." That's satisfying to me. That's a satisfying college experience. Don't have to be completely uprooted. You can stay grounded, but ...
Sara Barton: Explore and grow.
Hope Mueller: Experience new things. Exactly.
Sara Barton: Hope, I know we're going to ask you to play just a little bit, so while you're getting ready to play, I'm going to ask Olivia a question.
Hope Mueller: Awesome.
Sara Barton: You get ready, and then we'll be ready in just a moment to hear that.
Moment to hear that. So Olivia, while you've been here, the Me Too movement inspired by activist Toronto Burke has been a prominent conversation. What do you think about that? I think it intersects with your studies. I'm sure it's come up often in your work, in your classwork and how do you think people of faith should engage or not engage in that conversation?
Olivia Robinson: One of the things I would definitely start off with is that I don't
think we're talking about it enough. We talk about when we do speak about it, we speak
about the event with the Me Too movement becoming this much larger thing. We speak
about the women's march. We speak about particular people such as Toronto Burke, such
as Harvey Weinstein, but we need to work more on centralizing that. I think with a
topic as sensitive as Me Too it's reasonable to distance yourself. It's understandable
why people distance themselves.
But I think with the university in particular, when we have these conversations here, I would really like to see more people saying, "This is what's going on here," And not necessarily giving their story, but talking about what they see every single day here.
I think people have been getting more comfortable with that, especially as time has gone on and we've had a little bit of distance from Me Too, but we've also had so many other things happen around that that I think what I'm seeing now and what I'm hearing from a lot of people has been this new power to discuss certain things. I think that's so impactful. I think that's so, I don't know, relieving. I think people need to relieve a lot of what's going on, but also realizing that there is a significant population of women here who feel like they are going to be ostracized or cast down for sharing their stories and a same with a significant portion of men who are present on this campus, which is heartbreaking to think about.
It goes far beyond Pepperdine. I mean the social stigmas that we're all raised with and the different archetypes that we have ingrained in our minds of how people should look or how people should be if they've experienced some sort of sexual assault, harassment or gender based violence. But honestly you can pass by someone every single day and never know.
I really wish that we can have more of these conversations and not necessarily have a forum or an event, even though those are necessary at times, and those are really powerful in getting the conversation started. I'm really hoping that people can come to a place where they're comfortable speaking with their friends, they're comfortable speaking with their mentors and support system. I hope we become better at being that support system.
Sara Barton: How would you say that that is informed by your faith in some way or your spiritual [crosstalk 00:45:27]?
Olivia Robinson: I think when you see how Jesus communicates and deals with people who have been cast down, who have been harmed, considering that when you see women in the Bible in certain stories where Jesus is also involved, Jesus and the women oftentimes so much so relate to one another because they're both on the outskirts of their communities. I think in realizing how two different minoritized peoples and groups can communicate with each other and nurture each other is so relevant, but also it's the, what is the word I'm looking for, the definition of how we should be communicating with people.
Olivia Robinson: I think one of the things that we often fail to realize is that we, as kind of referred to earlier, we see a starch us versus them when really the phrasing Me Too involves that this is something you've experienced, I've experienced, we've experienced, and whether if it has been firsthand or experiencing someone else's pain due to our degree of empathy, I think that's just something that Christ does with other people throughout his ministry within the Bible, but through us. I think that's something that the way I want to interact with and view people is in a way that Jesus did, is in a way where you allow them to speak. You allow them to be protected, allow people to say what has been happened, but also saying that what has happened does not necessarily define you, does not at all define you.
Sara Barton: I think back to your Ted talk, this is love.
Olivia Robinson: This is love, absolutely.
Sara Barton: This is lovely. Well, I really love hearing you. I've enjoyed hearing
you share that. I feel like that could be your next head talk because you said it
really, really well just off the top of your head.
You've exhibited, I think even just in answering that question, your skill level to really talk about difficult things. I'm picturing you back as that little girl practicing these things up until now. So thank you.
Now I'd love to just hear a little bit of what Hope has been practicing and can do. Just we're going to try out here, we'll see how it sounds on the recording in this studio with them, you just playing a little something for us. I'd love to just hear yo, Hope, say, this is what you brought for us today and share a little bit about it.
Hope Mueller: Well I view music as a universal language and something I think I'm just constantly struck by is we have cultural barriers, we have gender barriers, we have all kinds of barriers, but something with music. God intended this to be a language that reaches all.
Sara Barton: Unites.
Hope Mueller: Nations and tongues. I do music as a spiritual experience for myself,
but I also spend a lot of time in prayer that it would affect other people. We play
a lot of classical music, Mozart, Bach, et cetera, and so obviously there are lots
of pieces that I love and that I play as a spiritual experience for myself. It goes
without saying though, that when you're playing a hymn or something that was written
with beautiful God honoring lyrics, it's a new, it's a experience.
I've had the opportunity to learn a couple of them. One of them from the video that I watched when I was a little kid of Christopher [inaudible 00:49:33] Lord Jesus. And the second was an arrangement done by a professor, a previous professor, adjunct professor here, Jonathan Roth. That one is Be Thou My Vision. I've prepared Be Thou My Vision for you today because I just feel like it's so fitting, even what with what we've been talking about with journeys and that kind of thing because yes, we can have all these opinions and we can have all of these ideas about how the world should be, but without Christ at the center and the biblical principles and his vision for us what is life? So yes, with graduating and everything, this has been kind of my anthem. So this is Be Thou My Vision. (music)
Sara Barton: Hope, thank you for sharing your gift with us. I love the song that you chose. It fits so well with our conversation today and I really appreciate you sharing it with us. It's a gift.
Hope Mueller: You're very welcome.
Sara Barton: Thanks for all those many, many years of practice that brought you to this moment so you can present that so beautifully.
Hope Mueller: You're so very welcome.
Sara Barton: But the last thing I want to do, we do on our podcast is I am going to
read a short scripture. We have emphasized on this podcast that we believe God still
works and speaks and is active when God's people are together in community. I'm going
to read a short passage and I'm just going to ask you what from this passage intersects
with your spiritual journey. Just what stands out to you? What image or line or sentiment
or meaningful word connects with you?
Here's how it goes from Isaiah 58. "Yet day after day, they seek me and delight to know my ways as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness and did not forsake the ordinance of their God. They ask of me righteous judgments. They delight to draw near to God. Why do we fast but you do not see? Why humble ourselves but you do not notice? Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day and oppress all your workers. Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist. Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high. Is such the fast that I choose a day to humble oneself? Is it to bow down the head like a bull rush into a lion sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?"
Now here we go. Just taking a passage right out of Isaiah and wondering is there anything that informs our spiritual lives today? So what do you think? Is there anything in there for you?
Olivia Robinson: I think one of the things that really sticks out is within the first
part when it says as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness. I think that
sticks out whether you are a full nation, like the United States, whether you're a
smaller community, like Pepperdine. I think nation speaks to an area that is your
group. I think the way you see Isaiah phrase it right here is you realize he's saying
that this is a nation that does not practice righteousness.
I think one of the things to definitely take away from this is realizing how a facade of fasting and a facade of spirituality and a cloak of a relationship with God isn't necessarily the same as a relationship with God because you know the difference between what would and would not be acceptable to the Lord.
I think one of the things that we like to do within different areas is we like to look as if we are walking with God, whether or not that lines up with how we should actually be pursuing that relationship. And we know the difference. There are gray areas, but oftentimes we know the difference between how we want to be perceived and realizing that we want to be perceived a certain way because we know we are not actually that way. And then we end up treating our relationship with God as if it were a jacket that I'll put on when I'm in public and when it's a little bit cold, but where I'm comfortable enough to not be wearing that jacket, I'll take it off and I won't be showing that relationship. I won't be showing that spirituality.
I think this is such a very plainly stated, make how you out act on the outside, not necessarily on the outside of your body, but the outside where you are interacting with people. Make that be a true reflection of how your relationship with the Lord. Because what would be the point of practicing all these things if there's no true relationship there? I think that's something that can apply to every single individual community big or small.
Sara Barton: Amen, thank you. What do you think, Hope? What stood out to you?
Hope Mueller: Wow, that's great insight from Olivia. I saw it a little differently,
however. What really stood out to me was just how this really embodies what the or
it really speaks to how, what the human race really, really desires. We want the accolades
and the applause and the good job and the I saw that you were fasting, well done.
So often it's so easy in our daily lives to strive for those accolades and veer off of what God really called us to do. Something I'm learning is I'm really best suited to serve God when I'm not being noticed.
Just a personal note on this, before my shows, I have this TobyMac Song I love to listen to. It's called Steal My Show. The whole attitude of that song is just I don't want it to be about me. I don't want to be the person people are coming to see. That's kind of what the thing is, is that this verse really spoke to me was just saying glory for God is really at the height of our endeavors as humans. It's not about getting noticed what we're doing.
Yes, day after day we're going to seek him and we're going to delight to know his ways, but it's not for accolades and it's not for people to notice. And, "Oh, I've kept a calendar and I've done it for 21 days straight now and to get all my 22nd." It's not that. It's like doing something for your parents because you love them, not because they asked you to or not because you have to because your their son or daughters, because you love them. And because that's what sons or daughters do and sons or daughters love their parents. We love God because we are sons and daughters of God and so we just want him to see our show.
Sara Barton: Well, I really enjoy having this little exercise as a way to end our
podcast and today especially because you're my first student guests. I love it that
you have shared your lives, you've shared your spiritual journeys. You know, a university
exists because of our students. We have a lot of people with our professors. We have
a lot of people who raise the money. We have a lot of people who lead, but we exist
so that you will have the experiences you're having and you will take bits of this
into your future. So thank you for being a part of this big community, for representing
You'll leave here, Hope, you in just a few weeks. Olivia, next year and you'll be a part of the Pepperdine community and represent us for so long. And so thank you. We learn from our students while they learn from us, and you've illustrated that today.
Hope Mueller: Sara, can I just even jump in here and just say personally, I'm so thankful. I know that it does take students but this passage that we were just talking about it takes going, doing things without notice. There's a lot of people here at Pepperdine doing a lot of things without getting noticed, work really, really hard. We wouldn't be here without those kinds of servants in the background. I personally reflecting on my Pepperdine experience am just so grateful to God for what he's done here through his vessels at Pepperdine. It's really a unique, beautiful experience.
Sara Barton: Thank you, and we will be proud of both of you as you continue in your good work, and we cannot wait to see what it is. So thanks to everyone for joining the podcast and listening in today. Pepperdine community, we love you and we are happy we got to spend this time.