November 27, 2023

Alana Rodney's Testimony

This article was adapted from Alana Rodney's testimony delivered at An Evening of Amazing Grace on November 9, 2023. Alana's testimony was heard by 350 community members, students, faculty, and more. It was a moving story of God's Grace at the University of Minnesota. To learn more about our vision of a "college of Grace", read also Dr. Bryan Bademan's remarks that he delivered during the evening.

Good evening! My name is Alana Rodney, and I am a dual degree Genetic counseling and PhD student here at the U of M studying the genetic causes of Alzheimer's disease. I am also in the second-year of the Fellows Program — called The Good Life.

I was born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in a loving Christian household. My two grandmothers in particular had a huge influence on me, seeing their faith in God, and kindness and patience through hard times greatly strengthened my faith growing up. 

It was in high school that I first fell in love with genetics. I was fascinated at how 4 molecules can encode the information for our entire being. My favorite fact about genetics is that if there is an error in your DNA, there are molecules that go in and actually fix the mistakes. God’s design and his grace for our mistakes goes down even to the molecular level. 

After high school, I went to the University of Missouri, and was recruited into a research program with STEM majors of color, and began to realize God was calling me to a career as a scientist.

I also strayed from my faith. Peer pressure, new experiences, and the loss of the structure of home left me responsible for my own schedule, my own faith, and my own decisions. Left to my own devices, I made some bad decisions. I wish I had had Anselm House then!

At the end of a very average college career and with no post-graduation plans, a faculty member I had only met once recommended me to a fully funded masters degree program in cancer genetics at Missouri. Even in my weakness, when I wasn’t pursuing him, God provided.

It was in this program that my interest and passion for  bioinformatics and Genetic Counseling really blossomed — but then the COVID pandemic hit.It was during the silence and loneliness of the pandemic that God began calling me back to himself. I recommitted my life to him, joined a local church and small group and resolved to pursue God in every part of life.

Two years ago, God opened the door to pursue a PhD at the University of Minnesota. I was shocked coming from the South - where people are bold about their Christian faith. People here, let’s just say, are more reserved.

On my first PhD program retreat, though, a professor boldly shared he was a Christian and that if anyone was interested to talk to him after class. I stayed. We had an eye-opening conversation about the challenges of Christian faith here. He recommended Anselm House’s Fellows Program.

I signed up immediately and it has been amazing. On Fellows nights we pray, share a meal together, read Scripture, articles, and discuss deep Christian issues and support one another in our Christian journey here at the U.

My other favorite thing is Monday lunch at Melrose Station. I have class from 9am – 4:30pm, so I bring my lunch and spend an hour in fellowship with others from the Anselm House community. After that hour, I am refilled and ready to take on the rest of my classes for the day! 

Through Anselm House my knowledge about who God is has grown exponentially, and the things I have learned have helped me lead others. I attend Fellowship Missionary Baptist in North Minneapolis, and have helped lead and grow our teen ministry from 3 kids to 25, and our college program is growing as well. I love helping students navigate these challenging and vulnerable years, and empowering them with the word of God to be successful in the real world.

As for me, my long-term professional vocation is becoming clear. In addition to mentoring other scientists of color through many of the same challenges I faced, I hope to apply my expertise in bioinformatics and genetics to help people struggling with things like cancer and Alzheimers - especially in the Black community, who are often marginalized and overlooked in the health care system. I want to serve and help people — people like my grandmothers in Louisiana, God bless their souls — receive the best care possible. 

Without God’s Amazing grace, I would not be here, and Anselm House has given me a place to continue to grow in my calling to serve Christ and love my neighbors. I am forever thankful for the path God has led me on, and I pray the work I will continue to do will all be to his glory. Thank you.

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