Interview with Katelyn Spieker

Kira Adelman ‘19

Within The Collaboratory, there are multiple sections. One sect is specifically dedicated to teaching the children in the Downey Elementary School’s after school program (a local school within the city of Harrisburg), teaching them how to execute various science themed activities. Typically, the people who get involved in this branch of the Collaboratory are education majors, because the group allows them to enhance their teaching skills. I had the privilege to interview one of the Messiah Students who was involved in this branch of Collaboratory in the fall semester. Katelyn Spieker (a sophomore studying Elementary Education) gave the scoop on what this Collab branch is all about!

I began the interview by asking Katelyn what her favorite part of her Collab group was and why. She explained to me, that her Collab group is unique compared to the other Collab groups, because she gets to physically leave campus and visit the Elementary school one day a week. She likes that she can form positive relationships with the children every week, while visiting Downey Elementary School.

Not only does she love the positive relationships she’s able to form, but her Collab branch is relevant to her major. As mentioned, Katelyn is an Elementary Education major and during her Collab experience in the fall, she learned a lot about lesson planning. She learned how to both plan and teach lessons to the students at Downey Elementary school. She explained she learned a lot from the Education professor, who leads the Collab group too!

Since their lessons are devoted to science, I asked Katelyn about some of the cool experiments she has done with the kids in her Collab group. She explained to me her favorite experiments were those that involved pill bugs. Overall though, she enjoyed all of the experiments and loved when the kids would become interested in what the group was trying to teach.

I ended the interview by asking Katelyn what she would like others to know about her Collab branch. She explained that the group is always looking to add new members and get insight and input to better help the students. Also, the group wants to form a lasting relationship with Downey Elementary School and impact the lives of the students there. After my interview with Katelyn, I realized how truly incredible this Collab branch really is. If this is a group you would be interested with investing your time in, you should email for more information.




Thank You, Dr. Vader!

Elle Perrin, ‘18

Dr. David Vader, Director Emeritus of the Collaboratory, spent 20 years at the helm of the organization.  Vader stepped down as Director at the end of the spring semester and resumed a full-time teaching workload this fall.  His vision of God’s kingdom coming to Earth has shaped the lives of students, supporters, and Collaboratory partners all around the world.

Vader joined the Messiah College faculty in the 1990s. He says, “I had everything I needed to be happy according to the American dream. I had a good job and was making good money alongside the support of a great family and church community. But I began asking myself the stewardship question, ‘What was I doing to serve the kingdom?’ And that’s when God brought me to Messiah, where I found kindred spirits to work with.”

Vader and others began dreaming of the Collaboratory in the 1990’s. The group’s vision was two-fold: to create an atmosphere for students to apply knowledge they were learning in the classroom and to Collaborate to serve others. An exploratory trip was made to West Africa in 1996 to gauge the possibility of working in the region. The trip laid the foundation for the Collaboratory’s partnership with Serving in Missions (SIM), the first of many clients.

Initially, students and faculty from the engineering department came together with a shared desire for service and stewardship. “Students can make a difference in the kingdom through using their academic gifts and applying their team building skills in a very practical way,” Vader explains.

The Collaboratory expanded beyond the engineering department and now has about 60 professionals and more than 200 students involved, representing about 15 majors. We partner with about 30 clients in numerous countries.

There have been many successes, as well as hardships, in Collaboratory history. Vader states, “The biggest challenge is that nothing like the Collaboratory had ever been done before, which is also a highlight. There was a huge learning curve for me and the institution, but it changed Messiah College positively in so many ways. There has been so much compassion and support from other departments and organizations in the College.” Interdisciplinary membership and support is critical to the organization’s success.

In addition to professional development, the organization promotes spiritual growth.  Vader says, “I have grown a great appreciation for how we can help our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ that are suffering in a practical way and partnering with other Christians from other places to raise awareness.”

Vader made a significant impact on the Collaboratory by deeply caring about the work he does, the students he works with and the people he serves. He continues working with the organization as the manager of two projects. Although his role has changed, he remains committed to the Collaboratory’s vision.

The Collaboratory in Ghana

Maddie Conley ’20

One of the main purposes of the Collaboratory is service work. John Hannon, a junior and Civil Engineering major, loves the Collab’s mission and what it stands for. “Collab is one of the reasons I wanted to come to Messiah,” explain\ed Hannon. Since he wants to be a missionary in the future, this organization was the perfect fit for him.

Hannon was ready to go on his first trip with the Collab to Burkina Faso when suddenly, plans were changed. Recent terrorist attacks canceled the trip. John was upset and confused, “I was looking around like, what’s the next step God, I thought this was supposed to be about trust,” he said.

But soon after, God opened another door. The Africa WASH and Disability Study (AWDS) team reached out to Hannon with an invitation to join its trip to Ghana, Africa this past summer. “I prayed about it for a while and it seemed like the next step,” Hannon said. 

The team started their two-week long trip in Ghana’s capital, Accra. They then flew to Kumasi for the Trainer of Trainers workshop. Hannon and the team met up with welders from all over Ghana to show them assistive devices that the AWDS team designed. Hannon and the team discussed the importance of including and showing kindness to people with disabilities and how the men could benefit from making and selling these devices to the people.

Next the team held a faith leader’s workshop in Tamale, Ghana. Both Christian and Muslim leaders from the community attended to learn about being inclusive to people with disabilities. Hannon explained the importance of the people putting aside their differences to solve the issue at hand.

When they weren’t holding the workshops, the team was meeting with World Vision, meeting people with disabilities, and visiting villages and markets. Hannon also spent a lot of time talking to Ghanaians. Hannon observed that, “Africa is way more relational than the States.” By the end of the trip, Hannon had made an African friend that offered to buy him a ticket to come back. That really impacted Hannon, because this man had little money and was willing to step out in faith and sacrifice a great deal for him.

Hannon loved the trip because of its purpose. “We weren’t going in there saying how great America is and then building the Ghanians something; we were trying to have them be the ones to make an impact on the community,” said Hannon. He appreciated that the trip wasn’t about what the team could give the Ghanians, but about what they could teach them.

The trip certainly had an impact on Hannon as well. “I’ve been preparing for this; I want to be a missionary. I enjoyed it and I definitely want to go back,” he said.


Meet Our New Engineering Projects Manager, Dereck Plante

By Hannah Beairsto ’20

Dereck Plante came to Messiah this May, though it’s far from the first bullet on his resume. He graduated from Eastern Nazarene College in 1997, has a Masters in Electrical Engineering and has a certificate in Biblical Studies. He has served in both Cambodia and Romania,  experiences a bit outside of his field as an engineer, but very much in line with the passion for ministry that led him to the Collaboratory. Before God led him to Messiah, he took his Masters to the field of electronics in organizations such as Lucent Technologies, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (the institution that found the Titanic!), and Naval Air Station Patuxent River.

One of his favorite things about the Collaboratory is that it involves students working on projects that solve real-world problems across the globe, because he is “passionate about missions, and sharing love of Christ with others.”

He, his wife Lea, and their two children, fourteen-year-old Ruth and nine-year old Alan, enjoy outdoor activities such as traveling and hiking. His family has been involved with YWAM (Youth With a Mission), a non-denominational missions organization, for almost two years.

One of his favorite Bible verses comes from the Old Testament: Micah 6:8, “….and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (NASB)”

Derek says this verse is meaningful to him “ we usually say something like, love the Lord your God with heart soul mind and strength, but this shows the outward expression is how we act that out. To walk humbly with your God, to me, is kind of a way to that we shouldn’t be arrogant or prideful about our knowledge or relationship with God but be humble as we journey through our faith, which helps us to love others in the way God wants us to, because we’re not being arrogant.”

In conclusion, Dereck says “I am thankful that my passion in engineering, missions and education have come together.”

Getting to Know Doug Flemmens, Our New Director

By Kira Adelman ’19

I had the privilege to sit down with our new Director, Doug Flemmens. Doug came to Messiah this fall as his daughter started out her first year here. He has a mechanical engineering degree from Penn State and a masters of science in manufacturing systems engineering degree from Lehigh University. When I asked Doug what he loves most about Collab, he said, “I love that Collab gives you the opportunity to have both a practical and professional educational experience. I also love that Collab does really good things for people who need help all over the world.” He cannot wait to work side by side with the students to help people all over the world; he feels strongly that we are, as Christians, called to make the world a better place.
It shocked me to discover his favorite Bible verse is actually the initial prompting that led him to apply for a job at Messiah. He lost his job about a year ago; through his hardship he was praying that God would lead him to the right career choice. God led him to Ephesians 2:10, “for we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” He didn’t quite know why at the time, but it was that verse he had on his mind when going through his job transition. During this time period, he came to an Accepted Students Day with his daughter after she was accepted to Messiah. In the opening ceremony, they began with Ephesians 2:10! He knew at that very moment that God had something special planned for him. Then, he applied and received the position working for Collab. Since he began working here, Ephesians 2:10 continues to pop up everywhere. He explained that Collab sent the 2016 Panama site team off with this same verse. The verse holds significant meaning for Doug and it is a huge part of why he is at Messiah! If you have time, you should talk to Doug in greater depth about this story. His transition to Messiah is an amazing spiritual journey.
Lastly, I asked Doug, “If he could give one piece of advice to students and faculty what would it be and why?” He responded, “Always be watching for what God wants you to do.” In Doug’s case, God was guiding him to the right job with Ephesians 2:10, but it can be as simple as encouraging someone during part of your day. God speaks to us in all sorts of ways and it’s our job to listen to Him with obedience. Doug closed our interview with gratitude, “I am really thankful and blessed to be here. Thanks for all the kindness Messiah College has showed me.” His dedication to the organization will help shape it’s future and identity. I cannot wait to see the amazing influence he will have on Collab!