Grace McClure Topete graduated from CDA in 2014 and attended the University of Texas at Dallas to receive a BS in Cognitive Science. She also received her Master of Education degree at Southern Methodist University. She currently works at UT Dallas, teaches AP biology for Richardson ISD, and is writing a book.
Give a brief summary of what you’ve been doing since graduating from CDA.
I was a McDermott Scholar at UT Dallas where I did research in cognitive science, specifically the neurological mechanisms of child science learning. After graduating and getting married, I started the Master of Education program at SMU.
I work at UT Dallas on a project called Polycraft World, one of the world’s most comprehensive Minecraft modifications. It teaches advanced polymer chemistry to students of all ages. In addition, I teach AP biology at a high school in Richardson, and I’m writing a book on women’s health.
How has your education at CDA shaped the person you are today?
At CDA, I heard the message about the importance of science for Christians. Drs. Bill & Janice Arion instilled the idea that science is the modern revelation of God. Science is the way God speaks to us about His world, how it works, and how He made it. I view science as something that is not against faith, but as something that works into a robust faith. Also, I remember our logic school debates where we argued both sides of an issue. Learning a variety of views gave me the ability to have compassion for people who think differently. I do my best to be understanding, and that has played a huge role in my character. All of this was critically important when I went to college. I was so ready for college to be anti-Christian, but I found that my peers were willing to talk about big ideas. They wanted to ask questions, but they also wanted to explain their point of view. I learned to listen in humility about how their faith and beliefs were formed.
How have you leaned on your faith to help you make difficult decisions?
My faith has informed many of my decisions in relationships. Modern American culture has embraced a narrative that says you need to make choices that are healthy for you and choose your relationships based on what’s right for you, and you alone. Protecting your mental health is important, but I consider more than what’s going to make me feel good. Instead, I ask myself what step in this relationship is right, and what is best for the other person. God tells us a lot about how to love your neighbor, and I like to remember that when I make decisions about relationships.
How have you exercised servant-leadership in your life since graduating?
Being willing to volunteer for opportunities God puts in front of me is how I have learned to be a servant-leader. I operate by the philosophy of looking for opportunities to raise my hand. People often think leadership is about telling other people what to do or being in charge and setting the vision. Really, leadership is just being the first person to take a step forward and leading by example even if you don’t know everything or feel equipped. There is a lot of work to be done in the world and in life. I opted out of several projects because I felt like I didn’t know enough or thought I lacked expertise. It’s easy to wonder, “Who am I to build this part of the Kingdom?” In reality, all it takes is raising your hand.
How did your education at CDA prepare you to live faithfully in a world that doesn’t celebrate Jesus Christ?
Since CDA is an interdenominational school, there are families from varying backgrounds. My teachers not only cared about me and invested in me, but they also had a diverse range of experiences and perspectives that made a big impact on my worldview. I now intentionally put myself in situations where I’m around people who aren’t like me, so I can learn from them. That diversity has been critical in my life to ensure I’m pursuing truth. I can’t engage in a search for truth if I’m only around people who are saying the same thing. Instead, I seek out different perspectives because I know God is bigger than all of us. He’s reflected in many ways, and the people around me help me see all His different qualities. That’s been a way that I seek truth in my life.
Do you have any encouraging words or advice you’d like to share with current CDA students?
I attended this class at my church about a year ago called the Pegasus Fellowship. It’s about connecting faith and work. One of the ideas I latched onto was about creation. God didn’t create the Earth completed with all its cities. Instead, He created a beautiful canvas full of resources and invited us into the work of creation. In the same way, I believe the work we do now mirrors us taking part in creation of the new heaven and the new earth.
College isn’t the end. College is a place where you gather tools to place in your toolbox that you’ll use to build the Kingdom of God for the rest of your life, so think about where you can go to get the right tools. Have a long perspective.