Aaron Cho, MA-Theology in Theological Integration '24
Degree Program: MA-Theology in Theological Integration & MFT Dual-Degree Student
Introducing Aaron Cho
Growing up in Texas, church was always a big part of my family’s life. I ended up attending The King’s College, a small Christian liberal arts school, and then taught fourth grade during the middle of the pandemic. Though I had some interest in being a therapist in high school, I didn’t pursue anything psychology related. In the midst of teaching, I felt my interest in counseling re-emerge, especially as I struggled with feeling equipped to support my kids and their families through emotional strife, learning difficulties, and other hardships. When I knew that I couldn’t sustain a career in teaching long-term, Marriage and Family Therapy stood out as a career path that aligned with my way of thinking about family systems and still felt connected to what I loved about interacting more personally with my students.
How Did You Come to SPU?
I appreciated the way the religion and Bible courses in my undergraduate studies helped me to re-envision and re-conceptualize how rich and complex the biblical narrative is, while simultaneously deepening my appreciation of the genius and intellect of biblical authorship. While I appreciated this in my undergraduate education, I honestly thought that I wanted a change from Christian education for my graduate program, but I looked into SPU because of an aunt who teaches in the Industrial-Organizational Psychology department. As I thought more about my own story and struggles and spoke with counseling professionals, I realized that it just made sense to receive therapeutic training in a Christian framework. Having been in church my whole life though, I knew I wanted more rigorous training and an open and reflective space to separate out and process how faith, religion, cultural values, and experience had gotten entangled in my life. Seeing and knowing the prevalence of spiritual trauma among friends, it felt necessary to unpack and deconstruct some of my own beliefs so that I could hold a safe and genuine space for others as a therapist. I considered other schools and seminaries, but the dual degree program at Seattle Pacific University had the most robust way for me to explore this intersection of faith and therapy both personally and professionally. Through pursuing an MA in Theology and an MS in Marriage and Family Therapy, I hope to serve marginalized communities as a theologically grounded and spiritually attuned therapist.
What has Made SPS Meaningful to You?
The students and faculty I have been able to interact with both in my Marriage and Family Therapy cohort and in the Seminary have given me an experience full of warmth, and I am so grateful to be pursuing my degree at SPU. I remember Dean Brian Lugioyo talking about his hope for us to be spiritually formed from our experience, and I have been thankful that both programs have been affirming and edifying not just intellectually but on deeply personal and spiritual levels. I was honestly surprised at how much space I have been given to freely explore questions of personal interest, and even part way through, I can say that I am finding new wholeness and freedom.
I also so appreciate the flexibility the Low-Residency model has given me to transition from a year of teaching into graduate school. I was able to dive into rich content from Texas, apply for the dual degree with marriage and family therapy, and have more time to figure out moving to Seattle, while still getting to begin connecting with other seminarians through classes and my Wesleyan Class Meeting. It is truly a privilege that I am able to do both of these programs together and see the relevance of how Christian history can be empowering in how I challenge biases and years of harm in the church. In the same way, reflecting on my family history allows me to find patterns of resilience amidst trauma and hardship. The ORCA (openness, respect, curiosity, and accountability to power) stance and view of people as spiritual-biopsychosocial beings in the Marriage and Family Therapy program synergizes so beautifully in the ways texts and discussions with peers and professors in the seminary have challenged me to reimagine how voices from marginalized communities, like disability, liberation, queer, and indigenous theologies redefine ordinary living and the human experience.