Trey Nation ’08
Current city and job:
Pittsburgh, PA | PhD Candidate in Assyriology, Harvard University
What first interested you in your career? How did you discern your calling?
I've done different things since graduating, from working with Food for the Hungry in Cambodia to seminary and doctoral studies. While my job and the nature of my work has evolved, what has never changed is the understanding that whatever gifts God has given me are to be used for His kingdom. I'm a huge nerd, so burying myself in books and then telling others about what I found there (by writing or in the classroom) is all great. Sometimes it takes a while to figure out what those gifts are, and that's okay!
I went to seminary with a clear sense that God had given me gifts to teach, and to serve the church through those gifts. I always knew that would mean doctoral studies, and my love for the Old Testament (and conviction that too many Christians find the world of the Old Testament alien and strange) informed my decision to study the broader world of the Ancient Near East. Understanding the context of the Old Testament only adds to our ability to understand God's word and perceive all of its beauty, and I want to give that to others.
What has your career path looked like since graduating from Covenant?
Immediately after graduation I spent a year at ECHO, a training and research farm in south Florida focused on subsistence, tropical agriculture. Afterwards I worked as a consultant for Food for the Hungry in Cambodia, helping the team there sharpen some of the economic tools they were using to help impoverished farmers on the border with Thailand. It was incredible work, but I also was becoming more and more convinced that God was calling me to teaching and study, so when my term finished in Cambodia I went to seminary. I spent four years at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary doing an M.Div. and a M.A in Old Testament. During seminary my wife and I both worked in campus outreach to Chinese international students at several of the universities in Cambridge, MA. In 2016 I began my PhD program in Assyriology at Harvard. The program takes about eight years on average (which is entirely too long!), and I am set to defend and graduate next spring.
Looking back now, how did Covenant prepare you for your career and for life?
Without a doubt, I learned to write and think clearly at Covenant, skills which remain relevant in any field, but certainly in academia. My degree in community development might seem tangential to what I do now, but in fact I'm constantly amazed at how much what I learned from Fikkert, Corbett, and Mask continues to inform my work. In particular, classes on culture and cultural differences, methods for anthropological study, and even my economics courses (my dissertation is on the religion of Assyrian merchants!) keep bearing fruit for my current work.
If there's one thing Covenant College does excellently, it is teaching its students to understand what it means for Christ to be preeminent in all things. It's too easy for Christians to think that kingdom work is what people in ministry do. But everyone, from the fields to the boardroom, has been called to work to the glory of God and for the good of his people. My professors at Covenant were instrumental in shaping both my mind and heart. I feel like it was at Covenant that I really learned to think like a Christian, and to understand the way Christ's call on me should inform my life and work in the world.
In what ways did Covenant impact your faith and how does your faith inform your career?
Covenant taught me that walking with Christ must be done in community. The encouragement and challenge of fellow Christians is indispensable. Covenant also taught me to love Scripture and delight in learning more about it and our God. Honestly my wife and I have had a lot of difficult years while I've been a graduate student. Aside from some personal hardships, we went through an incredibly difficult church failure and several unanticipated moves. God has been so merciful to us through it all. Several of the friends I made at Covenant are still some of my most trusted friends and faithful prayer partners who have carried us through so much.
Regarding how faith informs my career, I believe that “faith” is not something that is outside of the rest of my life, imposing more or less influence on it. Faith is not one component of my identity that must be connected to all the other things that define who I am and what I do. If we belong to Jesus, then we are not free agents anymore. My marriage and parenting, my studies, my friendships, and even my leisure should be part of my service to the King.
What advice would you give students who are considering Covenant, specifically those considering a career in your field?
Covenant College is a uniquely wonderful place. There are many ways to get an education or learn a set of skills, but your time at Covenant will be equally formative of who you are and will be as a person. You should desire for your years of college to be about more than job training! That also means that you will be shaped as much by the community as the classroom, and the community of students and professors at Covenant is honestly unparalleled.
Frankly less people should go into academia and do PhDs, there are few jobs and it is an insane amount of work for almost no pay. That said, I am incredibly grateful to be doing it. And on average students overestimate how hard it is to get into top programs. You can do it!
Why did you choose Covenant?
My youth pastor, who was a huge influence on my spiritual walk in high school, had gone to Covenant and recommended it. I had already been on campus for summer camps during high school and knew how beautiful it was. When I visited Covenant my senior year of high school and met some of the professors and current students, I knew Covenant was where I wanted to be.
Covenant College will always feel like Rivendell to me, a place of creativity, beauty, and scholarship, which gave me what was needed for the journey ahead.
What are some fond memories or a favorite story from your time at Covenant?
When I lived on Second Central, on the Day of Prayer we would get up before the sun and pray for an hour in the Carter tower while watching the sun come up. It was always a powerful time, followed by singing hymns in the stairwell and then absolutely demolishing an absurdly-sized pancake breakfast at Cracker Barrel.
Undergraduate Departments, Majors, Minors, Certificates, Concentrations, and Programs
- Arts Administration
- Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability
- Journalism and Society
- Medical Ethics Consultation
- Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)
- Art, 2-D Concentration
- Art, 3-D Concentration
- Art, Art History Concentration
- Art, Graphic Design Concentration
- Art, Photography Concentration
- Art minor
- Art History minor
- Biblical & Theological Studies
- Biblical & Theological Studies, Missions Concentration
- Biblical & Theological Studies minor
- Biblical Languages minor
- History of Christianity minor
- Missions minor
- Youth Ministry minor
- Biology, Biomedical Concentration
- Biology, Environmental Concentration
- Biology, General
- Biology, Health Professions Concentration
- Biology minor
- Business, Accounting Concentration
- Business, Finance Concentration
- Business, Marketing Concentration
- Sport Management
- Business minor
- Sport Management minor
- Chemistry, Biochemistry Concentration
- Chemistry, General
- Biochemistry minor
- Chemistry minor
- Computer Science
- Computer Science minor
- Community Development
- Community Development minor
- Economics minor
- Education Studies
- Elementary Education (P-5)
- Secondary Education Certifications through MAT program
- Education minor
- Natural Science, Pre-Engineering Studies Concentration
- English, Writing Concentration
- English minor
- Writing minor
- Coaching minor
- History, Art History Concentration
- Political Science
- International Studies
- History minor
- Political Science minor
- Interdisciplinary Studies with Concentrations
- Mathematics minor
- Music, Church Music Concentration
- Music, Creative Studies Concentration
- Music, General Music Concentration
- Music, Instrumental Performance Concentration
- Music, Music Education (Pre-MAT) Concentration
- Music, Organ Performance Concentration
- Music, Piano Pedagogy Concentration
- Music, Piano Performance Concentration
- Music, Vocal Performance Concentration
- Music minor
- Philosophy minor
- Physics minor
- Pre-Law Studies
- Pre-Medical Studies
- Pre-Nursing Studies
- Pre-Physical Therapy Studies
- Psychology minor
- Sociology, Family Studies & Social Work Concentration
- Sociology minor
- Theatre minor
- French minor
- Spanish minor