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Journalism student's unique background leads to advocacy at Whitworth

Josiah Van Wingerden, a senior communications major, was raised in Colorado Springs, Colo., with his 22 siblings (yes, you read that right).

"The rumors are true – I do have 22 siblings," Van Wingerden says. "My family was connected with several adoption agencies because my parents felt called to adopt. My father grew up in a big family, with 15 siblings of his own, so I guess he knew what he was getting into. Our house was so full of energy, but we always had plenty of space and it was really hard to be bored."

Josiah Van Wingerden poses outside a building on campus. He crosses his arms and smiles.

Of the 23 children in Van Wingerden's family, 12 are biological and 11 are adopted (several are from Haiti and Brazil). Van Wingerden was adopted from Pusan, South Korea.

"I am certainly not the 'typical' Whitworth student," he says. "For instance, I am part of a minority race, use a wheelchair to get around, and am adopted. In these ways, I am the non-normative student, but that is precisely why I am glad I'm here. I want to be an educator and advocator so that I can validate each person's experience here at Whitworth. This is what inspired me to become a student-leader."

At Whitworth, Van Wingerden is a resident assistant in Duvall Hall. He is also a teaching assistant, a position he hopes will help equip him for graduate school. He has been involved with radio and the forensics team, and he is the multimedia specialist for The Whitworthian, the student newspaper on campus, which enhances his study of journalism.

"I chose to study journalism because media have the power to educate and inform billions of people simultaneously," Van Wingerden says. "With that comes the responsibility to do so accurately, with truth and justice in mind. It is a fascinating relationship."

During Jan Term 2017, Van Wingerden studied in New York City and Washington, D.C., on a faculty-led communication studies program.

"It was an incredible experience to witness the inauguration of the 45th president of the United States," he says. "As an aspiring media professional, it truly does not get much bigger than that."

Van Wingerden wrote and published articles about the inauguration in two local newspapers, The Inlander and The Spokesman-Review.

In addition to the educational experiences Whitworth provides, Van Wingerden has experienced opportunities to develop his faith and personal philosophies.

"At Whitworth, my faith has grown into my own, and I am able to own it as part of my identity more than ever before," he says. "I am a follower of Jesus Christ, who saved me and calls me to love him and to love others. To fulfill that calling, one of the qualities that drew me to this school was because it is a Christian institution that allows students who are Christians to own their faith, express it, and grow in it. However, I love how students do not have to be Christians to attend here." After graduating, Van Wingerden plans to intern with Kingdom Story Ministries, a Christian non-profit based in Tacoma, Wash. Long term, he would like to write as a columnist for a magazine or research health-related subjects while teaching at the university level.