Alumni Spotlight: Neeya Toleman, Class of 2014

Neeya Toleman currently works in Little Rock as an engineer at Southwest Power Pool helping plan and regulate the electric grid from the Dakotas down to the Texas Panhandle. She graduated from CDA in 2014 and continued her educational pursuits at John Brown University.
How did CDA help form your worldview?
Mrs. Hicks’ 7th grade life science class showed me the wonder and intricate detail of creation, which completely opened my eyes and challenged my perception of the world. I really began to understand the intersection of faith and science.

Overall, CDA classes taught me to consider the Christian and classical perspective and helped me to develop critical thinking skills. I learned to ask pointed questions, a skill that still serves me well. I never leave an undefined term, which is definitely a reflex from being corrected for using the term “people” without additional description. I find myself asking “what is the ethos, logos, and pathos” or “what are the ESPN (economic, social, political, environmental) arguments” without being prompted because it has been ingrained in me.

How have you impacted culture around you for the glory of God?
In college, I served as a Resident Assistant which was incredibly challenging and rewarding. Through that job I had the privilege of “doing life” with my residents, praying with and for them, as well as striving to “walk worthy” as a mentor and Christian example.

Now that I have been fully forced into “adulting” and paying bills, my Christian witness manifests itself as a desire to live with integrity, humility, and kindness in the workplace. I very much believe that “actions speak louder than words” and the way that I conduct myself leads to further conversations about my beliefs. I truly strive to “walk the talk.”

I believe it is also vital to be involved in a local church, a practice which my parents instilled in me at a young age. While at John Brown University (JBU), I tutored students and worked in the church nursery and college ministry. I currently serve in the church nursery and with Awana, a global non-profit ministry.

What advice from your CDA experience would you give to help future CDA graduates?
Be willing to try different clubs and organizations in college because you may stumble in to one that you would have never guessed that you’d like. Or, if you do not see one you want, start it! Founding JBU’s Society of Women Engineers (SWE) section was great for my résumé. It provided leadership experience and ensured that I was involved in something that I was passionate about supporting. One of my favorite memories from college was starting the “Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day” program through SWE. Over three years we took the idea from conception to implementation, and eventually tripled our original impact with over 100 girls attending the event during my senior year.

Be intentional about forming relationships because it will never again come as easily as meeting in a college dorm. I met many of my best friends during Welcome Week or in my first semester of classes. Volunteer to drive people home during breaks, give lifts to Walmart; be willing to make space in your life for others.

Study abroad! My summer in Northern Ireland was an absolute blast and definitely a highlight. If you do it early (after freshman or sophomore year), there is still time to complete an internship after junior year.

Finally, have gratitude and appreciation for the exceptional education and parental support that you are receiving now. I was well-prepared for my honors core classes and essay tests (thanks Dr. Heitschmidt). You will better understand how your parents have sacrificed and blessed you when quickly become everyone’s go-to peer editor because CDA prepared you to read, analyze, synthesize, and write well.
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