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New Oak Hills’ dean helps students prepare for life

Randy McKain began Aug. 8 as the new dean of student life and director of youth ministry at Oak Hills Christian College. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI – Oak Hills Christian College didn’t have to look far to find its newest dean.

Randy McKain, who has served as both an adjunct professor and guest speaker at the college, began Aug. 8 as the new dean of student life and director of youth ministry at Oak Hills.

“I like to teach and I like working with students,” McKain said. “I’m helping them as they move into the next phase of their lives.”

McKain has a bachelor’s degree in behavioral science from Sterling College in Kansas and a master’s degree in counseling and school psychology from Wichita State University in Kansas.

McKain, a licensed pastor with the Evangelical Covenant Church of America, previously worked as a pastor of student ministries, mental health practitioner, and director of the Evergreen Recovery House.

His wife, Mishele, works for Oak Hills as the central office supervisor/executive administrative assistant.

“We’re excited to have him on the team,” said Joan Berntson, vice president for advancement with Oak Hills. “He’s helping to lead the direction where we want to go as a college. He has stepped so ably into that role.”

College-aged students have moved beyond childhood, yet they’re not quite adults, McKain said, noting that his past work experiences will help him identify and work with students who are struggling with life’s challenges.

This year, the college has formed three support groups through which students share with and learn from one another, he said.

Oak Hills students are required to perform two to three hours of community outreach each week. For example, students this year are volunteering at places such as the Boys and Girls Club of the Bemidji Area, the Bemidji Community Soup Kitchen; and the Sexual Assault Program of Beltrami, Cass and Hubbard Counties.

Such outreach activities widen students’ experiences and connects them with the Bemidji community, McKain said.

“It’s great. They need to be doing things beyond the college’s walls,” he said. “It’s not just hands-on, it’s practical.”

Oak Hills has 145 students enrolled this year. McKain said he will get to know each student as the school year progresses. He walks through the dormitories and often stops to talk to students during lunch or on their way to class.

Campus activities have increased this year. McKain said students themselves have founded a few new events, such as weekly Manly Man Movie Nights and ProcrastiNights, when students are invited to come hang out, talk, munch on some snacks and basically procrastinate on their school work for a few hours.

Students also are able to take part in intramural activities, such as flag football and floor hockey, which both also offer faculty teams. So students can face off against their favorite professors.

“We all just feel like family here,” Berntson said.