If there is one lesson COVID-19 has taught Owyn J. Ferguson, it is the ability to be able to pivot. After a year of volunteerism, the former junior minister of tourism, who had an interest in the industry, has set his sights on law school.
Ferguson, 22, is expected to commence studies at the University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana, in August to matriculate toward a dual Juris Doctor and a Master of Science degree in entrepreneurship, technology and innovation.
In the dual degree program, law students combine their law courses with classes in the ESTEEM (Engineering, Science and Technology Entrepreneurship Excellence) program, which helps students develop a unique combination of technical expertise and business acumen with a focus on fixing things that matter.
“Entrepreneurship excites me,” said Ferguson of the path he’s chosen. “It creates opportunities, brings solutions to problems, and reveals issues or disparities among us that otherwise go unnoticed. With that, I see myself using my time in law school to furnish myself with tools to serve entrepreneurs and be an agent of equity and justice in business markets. Ideally, with my affinity for working with persons of a variety of backgrounds, I would work with persons and/or entities from across the globe.”
Ferguson has been awarded a merit scholarship from the University of Notre Dame, and is waiting to learn whether he will receive need-based aid, and if so, at what amount. He also plans on pursuing student employment opportunities to help fund his law school education.
The tuition cost of both the JD and ESTEEM MS degrees dual degree program is $197,507, according to the school’s site. Pursued separately, they would cost $241,496. By enrolling in the joint program, Ferguson is able to receive a discount on the respective costs of two degrees. The tuition cost of the JD degree when pursued alone is $186,196.
Ferguson, who graduated the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University, Minnesota, in May 2020 with a Bachelor’s degree in economics, said he’s approaching law school the same way he approached his undergraduate degree – on a wing and a prayer.
“I really just plan on getting there, making it through the first year, and trusting that so long as I work diligently, God will facilitate opportunities to receive funds that will meet any balances.”
Law studies is a 180-degree turn from his freshman year ideals.
“When I started college, I had not too long ago concluded my tenure as junior minister of tourism, and was still pretty interested in the opportunities in that industry.”
He remembers having strong interests in fiscal policy, economic development, and capital markets before landing on his current path.
“When I started my economics major, I realized the many different directions I could take – and figured it would make sense to try and have an open mind. Since then, my interests have moved around but have never returned to the tourism sector. I wouldn’t necessarily attribute this to the pandemic, but more to exposure to other career paths.”
Ferguson is expected in Indiana for orientation on August 16 with classes scheduled to begin August 23.
He is currently in Tabgha, Israel, as a member of the Saint John’s Benedectine Volunteer Corps (SJBVC), participating in the monastic life of the community. He is expected to depart Israel mid-to-late June. He said he is looking forward to spending time with family and friends before beginning his journey at Notre Dame.
Tabgha Monastery is a dependent priory of Dormition Abbey and is located on the Sea of Galilee. The mission of the monastery is to be caretakers of the Church of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes, and to run the retreat house Beit Noah.
Ferguson and other volunteers are responsible for keeping Biet Noah running on a daily basis – welcoming and serving guests, cleaning, repair and maintenance work, gardening, cooking for the community and construction projects for the retreat house, monastery and church.
The Benedictine Volunteers Corps (BVC) of Saint John’s Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota, exists to provide a year of volunteer service for graduates of Saint John’s University, Minnesota, at a monastery of the worldwide Benedictine confederation and to support the work, prayer and life of Benedictine monasteries around the world.
Ferguson previously told The Nassau Guardian his reason for doing the program is that through the last couple of summers, working in corporate citizenship, he gained an appreciation for the citizenship part of corporate, and thought the volunteer experience would be humbling and give him an appreciation and recognition for dignity in all types of work and all types of people.
With approximately three months left in his shortened year of volunteer service, Ferguson said he believes wanting to go to law school influenced him to take a year to volunteer, more than the other way around.
“I recognized that I will be entering a profession, where humility, respect for persons, and mindfulness of the disadvantaged are not always present. These are values I wanted to be unwavering in, and I believed this experience to be one that would facilitate growth in those areas,” he said.
Ferguson chose to serve in Israel because of the service the monastery offers.
“The reason I picked Israel in particular is because of the service that the monastery does as a guest house for traveling pilgrims, so I would be able to meet people from all over the world, of all different religions, as well as a retreat center for persons with disabilities, which is a group of people I’ve never had a chance to work with before. And in addition to that, the monastery is, like, on the Sea of Galilee, which I think spiritually is something pretty significant and powerful.”
During his year, Ferguson was provided with food, lodging, laundry facilities, access to local transportation and other basic needs. Saint John’s Abbey also provided him with a $350 monthly stipend to cover his personal needs, entertainment and vacation.
Benedictine volunteers are discouraged from relying on additional resources from family to supplement their monthly stipend; and an exception may be made in the case of travel for enrichment and vacation.
Ferguson is expected to work no less than 30, but no more than 40 hours per week. Time in prayer is considered part of the calculation.