When Andrea Gibson ’07 arrived in Tanzania in spring 2006, she had little idea how influential one semester would be.
Pushed outside of her comfort zone in a culture vastly different from her own, she realized that “no matter where we are in the world or what challenges we face, we are all just people.” This pivotal moment in her time at Houghton continues to shape her life and career as a therapeutic riding instructor and executive director and founder of Chasing Rainbows, a nonprofit therapeutic equine facility outside Harrisburg, PA.
Gibson recalls how Dr. Jon Arensen, professor emeritus of anthropology, shared ongoing sustainable and culturally valued service projects in the country, and she “fell in love with this mindset toward service.” She returned to Africa after graduation to serve briefly at a children’s home in Namibia. During that trip, she was inspired to found Chasing Rainbows, where she and 75 volunteers provide equine-assisted activities for 50 special needs individuals weekly. “In my current career, my core philosophy is to see beyond the labels of diagnosis to value each individual,” Gibson notes.
Houghton continues to impact Gibson. Her biology education was instrumental to her admittance to the occupational therapy graduate program at Misericordia University. Collaborative research with Dr. Aaron Sullivan, associate professor of biology, provided Gibson with exposure to the scientific process, which she will use again next year in her required master’s degree research. The enthusiastic and expert instruction of equestrian director Jo-Anne Young (’69) influences Gibson daily, while Arensen’s “passion for humanity, service, and experiential learning” continues to inspire her.
“We are each here to play our own roles in our own unique way,” Gibson remarks of her place in the body of Christ. For her, it’s been a journey from Houghton to Africa and beyond.