Mary Ellen Azada Named Executive Director of Call Discernment


“What an exciting time to join the Vocation and Formation team, to listen together for where God is leading Fuller Theological Seminary,” says Mary Ellen Azada, who has been appointed to the new role of executive director of call discernment at Fuller. Azada, who has served in pastoral and administrative ministry roles for the past 21 years, assumes her new position at Fuller April 13, 2015.

“Fuller is committed to helping students become reflective practitioners for life—with the agility and connectedness they will need as leaders of the future,” says Tod Bolsinger, vice president for the seminary’s new Vocation and Formation division. “Integral to this is the establishment of a culture, relational process, and set of experiences to help each student discern his or her unique call to serve the kingdom. Mary Ellen, with her wonderful mix of gifts and experience, is just the right person to lead this charge.”

“I am truly humbled by the task ahead,” Azada says. “Yet I also feel such joy knowing that my experience as a 1.5-generation Asian American woman in ministry shapes my ability to live comfortably with change, nimbleness, and courage as we seek to work together to call students to a wider, more expansive view of vocation for the kingdom.”

Azada comes to Fuller with more than two decades of experience serving in ministry and pastoral roles. That experience includes founding and directing a nonprofit organization for children of incarcerated parents, and serving as a school counselor while leading call and ministry development for a church plant in Hawaii. Azada most recently served at First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley, where she was associate pastor of missional engagement for 10 years. She holds a BA in Psychology and Religion from the University of Redlands, a Master in Education in Counseling and Guidance from the University of Hawaii in Manoa, and an MDiv from San Francisco Theological Seminary.

Azada brings a distinct multicultural perspective to her new role, as a 1.5-generation Japanese/Filipina who grew up making frequent moves between Japan, California, and North Carolina for her father’s military service. “Home for me,” she says, “was wherever my father was stationed.”

As Fuller’s executive director of call discernment, Azada will oversee a team of directors and staff collaborating to further the seminary’s goal of “forming Christian leaders for global kingdom vocations”—specifically by providing students with programs, experiences, and events to help them discern and fulfill their call, including the expansion of apprenticeships, career placement, and alumni networking opportunities.

Bringing Azada on board, says Bolsinger, is a significant, strategic step in Fuller’s vision “to create the organizational infrastructure necessary to shift the model of theological education from a primary focus on transmitting academic information to a focus on a highly relational approach to personal, spiritual, academic, and global formation of the leaders of Christ’s mission in the world.”

Learn more about Fuller’s new vision for vocational and formational support of students.

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