An Unexpected Calling: John Volez of Westwinds Church

Photo via John Volez's Twitter account.
Photo via John Volez’s Twitter account.

Once a month, the communications department of Spring Arbor University (SAU) hosts a convention for its majors around key communication topics, often referred to as “Com Con.” The keynote speaker for the October Com Con was John Volez, pastor at Westwinds Church. Volez and his wife have been married 27 years and have three kids. He and his family moved here from California. He has always enjoyed public speaking and playing music in front of a crowd, but becoming a pastor was something he had not considered.

“I didn’t really know I was going to lead something until people started asking me ‘Have you considered this? You should pursue this.’ I started listening to them and thought it was something I could do,” said Volez.

Volez has had many musical and speaking engagements in the Jackson area. He is also an author, and has published several books with Abington Press the last couple of years. His most recent book, called “Quirky Leadership: Permission Granted,” was published last year. In his words, it is a “non-leader leadership book.”

“Really, what I want to do is empower people to lead in the place that they’re planted and lead in the way God has made them with their personality and quirks, as opposed to aspiring to be some kind of leader that they’ll never really be,” said Volez.

Volez leads a festival in Jackson called Folklore and an event with public schools called iCreate. iCreate hosts poetry writing contests within local schools. The teachers pick the winning poems, which are then given to Volez and other musicians and songwriters who turn them into songs.

“We get all the schools together and play the songs at the Michigan Theatre. We give away over $10,000 in guitars, guitar lessons, and art scholarships,” said Volez.

His biggest goal for Westwinds for the next ten years is for the church to have a face in the community and, most importantly, for Jesus to have a face in the community.

“I want everybody in the town to know who Westwinds is, what Westwinds is doing, and really by proxy, know what Jesus is doing and how he’s changing lives,” said Volez.

A young girl's poetry is honored in iCreate Poetry program, a celebration Volez helped found.
A young girl’s poetry is honored in iCreate Poetry program, a celebration Volez helped found. Photo via

Stoked For Dracula

John Broda, Logan Hurtado, and Tessa Horon

Spring Arbor University’s (SAU) “Dracula” production was not the typical fangs
and blood rendition some might have been expecting, according to director Trevor

The small cast, regarded as “delightful” by Tracy, auditioned in early
September and had a short amount of time to prepare for the shows that took place on October 23,
24, and 25.

While this was SAU’s third show around Dracula, Tracy said this interpretation was
different because it was strongly based on Bram Stoker’s novel and journal entries.
He described the performance as enticing. Representing several forms of sin,
Dracula’s pride and appeal conveyed an attitude similar to that of the devil.
“Dracula is the embodiment of the biblical perspective of the nature of evil,” said
executive producer Dr. Paul Patton.

Rachel Gerrild as Mina

Sophomore Zach Barber played the role of Dracula. Barber said the role was the darkest he had ever attempted, so the challenge was exciting.

Sophomore Rachel Gerrild took on the lead of the sweet and innocent Mina Harker. Gerrild said the role stretched her as an actress because she had to portray a deep amount of terror.

“The story shows how evil can be appealing, but in the end, it will use whatever it can to
destroy,” said Gerrild

Written specifically for this show, the score departed from the traditionally gothic
version. It focused on the biblical symbols seen through the righteous doctor,
Abraham Van Helsing. Tracy said he took the underlying theme of redemption very
seriously when directing the cast.

Tracy graduated from SAU two years ago with a bachelor’s degree in theater. This
was his third time directing an SAU show. His favorite part of directing “Dracula”
was the challenge to remain convincing even in the melodrama. He also found it
appropriate for “Dracula” to be shown on the weekend before Halloween because of
its chilling plot.

“The suspense will kill you; it will send you home un-eased,” said Tracy.

Zach Barber as Dracula
Zach Barber as Dracula







By Sarah Dean

SAU Budget Cuts: What We Know

Photo via
Photo via


Spring Arbor University (SAU) has laid off 21 full-time staff members in the wake of a five percent budget cut due to decreased enrollment.

In addition to the 21 full-time positions, several open positions will also not be refilled and some current positions have had hours reduced.

Ellis said over the last five years there was a 10 percent decline in credit hours produced and a six percent reduction in SAU’s net tuition revenue.

In a letter to the student body, Student Government Association (SGA) president, Benjamin Frederick, said there has been an 11 percent drop in revenue over the past three years.

He attributed this drop largely to “SAU global which drives 65 percent of the University budget.”

SAU Global encompasses a variety of online and remote classes. At its creation a statement was released by the university saying, “SAU Global will play a significant role in our service to traditional and nontraditional students seeking face-to-face, online and hybrid educational pathways to their personal and career goals.”


A lot of questions have been raised in the wake of the cutbacks and we at “The Pulse” would like to address as many as we can with what we know.

1) Why are we having cutbacks right after building things like the globe statue and new tennis courts?

When people donate to the university there are multiple ways to allocate funds. Creations such as the globe and the new tennis courts came from donations specified for these constructions; essentially the donor said, “I’m giving the school X amount of dollars to build tennis courts.” In such instances it is illegal to use those funds for other purpose.

2) Are those laid off getting severance pay?

Yes, those laid off are being provided with severance pay in accordance with state law and SAU policy.

3) What was considered in deciding who to lay off?

When we at “The Pulse” asked Damon Seacott, SAU Chief of Staff, how the decisions of who to lay off were made he said, “Decisions of cuts were made strategically by the administration.  We considered:  How can we continue to serve our students at the highest level?”