TEACHING FROM EXPERIENCE by Mandy Pohja, 2004
If Dr. Leslie Wickman felt like God was calling her to explore the edge of the universe, she'd probably go. In fact, it's one of the places she'd like to visit anyway. Now in her fifth year of teaching at Azusa Pacific University, Wickman utilizes her knowledge and past experiences to encourage, direct, and inspire students of today. Her adventuresome spirit has led her on a unique career path that has enabled her to make great contributions as a teacher in the science department and as the director of the Center for Research in Science (CRIS). "I am completely willing to do anything God wants me to do," Wickman said. When describing her defining moment in life, Wickman travels back to a Bible camp she attended where she felt God's pull on her heart, but feared total commitment. Her nine-year old mind was certain that God would call her to be a missionary in Africa if she turned over her will to him. "I finally surrendered, and I said, 'Okay, Lord, if that's what you want me to do, I'll do it'," Wickman said. After receiving her master's and doctoral degrees from Stanford University, Wickman worked for Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space where she had the opportunity to work on NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and International Space Station Programs and receive astronaut training. Though she has not made a trip into space, it may be in her future. "I'd really like to go to the moon," said Wickman. "Mars would just be too far, but the moon would be nice to go up there and hang out for awhile and then come back." While working at Lockheed Martin, Wickman heard God's voice leading her to Las Vegas, NV, for a two and a half year position on the research and development team for the Bellagio Hotel fountains. "It was a really different kind of work for me," Wickman said. "It was instant gratification." After programming the computer synchronization for the fountains, Wickman moved on to the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica where she did government policy research. "I felt like I wanted to do something a little more significant and substantial," Wickman said. It was in Santa Monica that Wickman met Tedd Szeto, a teacher at APU and the choir director at Wickman's church, who would ultimately lead her to the University. "Through a long series of 'whatevers' the position opened up at APU and I knew she was very qualified, so I immediately thought of her," Szeto said. Desiring to obey the call she felt from God, Wickman accepted the position. "The Lord laid it on my heart that he'd given me the extensive background and training in science and technology, and now it was time to start thinking about how to bring that together with my faith," Wickman said. What began as an adjunct position turned into a full-time job involving teaching classes, organizing research, and designing events to integrate science and faith. "She's a really connected person. She has really great links to the research world outside," Szeto said. "She has put students in real world situations and has kept a high level of excellence in areas of research we wouldn't have gotten into otherwise." Along with the knowledge and experience Wickman brings to APU, she also offers support and inspiration to her students. "She has shown me that it is possible, even when life seems overwhelming, to focus on God first before anything else," Applied Health major and research participant Briana Nota said. Wickman's passion for adventure is also evident in her list of hobbies. Among other things, Wickman plays for the California Quake women's professional football team, sings in her church choir and travels the world with Athletes in Action. Of her teacher and mentor, liberal studies major Chelsea Lawrence said, "She's brilliant, steadfast, funny, and has a zest for life that others only dream about. She plays football, lives near the beach, and drives a motorcycle. She is the coolest chick ever." No matter the circumstances, Wickman follows her heart and heeds even the strangest callings. Of her role in life Wickman said, "In God's economy, he's very efficient. The things I'm good at are the things I'm best able to contribute."