Janina Graves grew up in a small town where her friendships with students of all backgrounds in a rural public school radically shaped her understanding of community. Much of her life was shaped by the stories of her parents’ and grandparents’ vocations from social work in the Bronx to family medicine in the Appalachian mountains and Oklahoma prairies to rural mission in the Philippines to local church ministry in southwest Oklahoma. Though her family lineage is quite prophetic to who Janina is discovering herself to be, she resisted these connections in young adulthood when expressions of faith (and doubt) between generations seemed dramatically different.
She graduated from Oklahoma State University with an Honors degree in Spanish Language & Literature with an International Studies emphasis. Following graduation, Janina began working at the Wesley Foundation at OSU campus ministry serving as Coordinator of International Student Ministries; however, since 2012, Janina has served as the Associate Director and overall Coordinator of Student Ministries and Programs.
Though she now coordinates all student interns and leaders, she also continues to directly lead programs, including an International Choir (a weekly gathering representing over 20 countries) and Exposed (a monthly worship service specifically for young women). She has also co-led cross-cultural exchanges and mission trips to Puebla, Mexico, Cochabamba, Bolivia and Guatemala City, Guatemala. She is thrilled to be in charge of a $100,000 Lilly Endowment Inc. grant the OSU Wesley Foundation received for the creation and facilitation of an annual women’s conference and follow-up programs to affirm the role of women in unimpeded leadership in all vocations. She’s also grateful for the ongoing success of the OSU Wesley’s $9.5 million dollar capital Imagine Campaign for a new three-story facility at their current location – at the crossroads of the campus and Stillwater community.
Janina is excited about the future of the OSU Wesley Foundation and is an active advocate for young adult and campus ministry, as she believes that this population is in the midst of some of the most crucial developmental years in a person’s life.
In July 2015, Janina lived out her faith and sense of adventure by traveling solo through Colombia. She believes wandering and travel (regardless of the physical distance) are spiritual disciplines of faith that she hopes to practice the rest of her life. In recent years, Janina’s interest and education in contemplative spirituality and expressive arts have grown. She hopes to finish certifications soon through Interplay and the International Expressive Arts Therapy Association.
In her spare time, Janina loves to dawdle… to piddle… to basically “waste time” — eh hem… invest time in creativity and conversation. She loves to dance, particularly Caribbean and West African-inspired Latin dancing and frequently has solo dance parties on long drives. She’s a lover of all things Dr. Brene Brown and Krista Tippett who have modeled for her the type of compassionate, critical thinking that she hopes to apply in her own life. She’s recently discovered that she’s a “hummingbird,” someone who is a cross-pollinator of ideas and communities (Thank you, Elizabeth Gilbert, for this term), rather than someone who has a one-track passion (she readily admits that she’s a bit jealous of those who have this kind of focus).
As Janina reflects on her personal and professional life, a quote from visual artist Malcah Zeldis comes to mind, “Art is a birth, and you can’t go to a teacher and find out how to be born… you have to struggle… until that image, the one that comes out of your need to create, emerges.” Janina believes her ministry is living artfully and relationally, living out Jesus’ instructions to “Love God and Love People.”
Her personal and professional developments can be followed at linkedin.com/in/janinagraves
The Wesley Foundation at OSU ministry can be followed at wesleyosu.com and social media platforms with the handle @WesleyOSU (i.e. facebook.com/wesleyosu)
My life story and leadership narrative is one rife with unforeseen relationships, started by unorthodox conversations with people whose portraits, profiles and portfolios I could not have dreamed up even with the best of writing exercises and inspired imaginations. People whose presence in my life has left me no choice but to look to the Creator who keeps meeting me right where I am. In Hebrews, they referred to it as “entertaining angels,” but that’s started to confuse me because, really, I always feel like I’m the one being entertained, and let me assure you, I’m no angel.
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