Sound of the Genuine

Robin Owens: Asking Big Questions to Explore Meaning and Purpose

April 08, 2022 FTE Leaders
Sound of the Genuine
Robin Owens: Asking Big Questions to Explore Meaning and Purpose
Show Notes Transcript

Robin L. Owens, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Religion at Mount Saint Mary’s University. She brings experience in both corporate and social work settings to the classroom to inform her transformational teaching. When she is not in the college classroom, Robin teaches, mentors, and coaches high-achieving leaders to help them to discover and express their leadership purpose. She is the host of the popular podcast “Leadership Purpose with Dr. Robin.”

Also, she is the author of two forthcoming books – “Purpose-Based Decisions: An Inspirational Guide to More Meaning, Purpose, and Passion in Your Leadership, Business or Career” (Balboa Press, 2022) and “’My Faith in the Constitution is Whole:’ Barbara Jordan Signifies on Scriptures” (Georgetown University Press, 2022).

Instagram: @robinlowenphd


Music by: @siryalibeats

Portrait Illustration by: Olivia Lim

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Robin Owens

Patrick: Welcome back to another episode of the Sound of the Genuine and I am Dr. Patrick Reyes. You are in for a treat because Dr. Robin L Owens, associate professor of religion at Mount St. Mary's University is here with me -and she might be the only nerd, like me, who just absolutely geeks out on questions of meaning and purpose, has dedicated her life to it. And what we hear is not only as a great teacher but as someone who brings her background in both the corporate and social work sector to this conversation. It's just an honor and privilege to sit and hear her story. So welcome Dr. Robin Owens. 

All right Robin, it is good to see you, to have you talking with us about meaning and purpose and life! And I know that you do this for a living - like you study what we are trying to do on the Sound of the Genuine for a living, but I'm really curious about how you even arrived at this? This is a weird group of people who studied meaning and purpose, I think you and I know all of them! So why don't we go back to the beginning. Tell us about yourself, you know, give a little bit of your biography. 

Robin: So I'm a college professor by day. I teach at Mount St. Mary's University in Los Angeles, which is a college primarily for women. And my personal mission is so connected to the mission of the university - promoting and developing women leaders.

And so that's close to my heart. When I'm not doing that, I'm talking about coaching, teaching, mentoring, people on how to find their own purpose and meaning in their life. And this is something that started with me way back in my early life.

I could remember specifically a moment when I was about six or seven years old. And I grew up in Connecticut. So my parents owned a house, a three family house and we lived in one floor. We had family in the other two floors. On the outside it looked like one big house, but in the inside, there were three separate homes and we would just go in and out of each other's home.

And it's just like one big happy family, most times happy. And so I had a brother and sister and then seven or eight cousins living together. So now it's a summer afternoon and I specifically remember just sitting on the porch by myself, just quietly thinking. And then I hear the kids, my sister and cousins, about to come out to the porch, right, with my father. And my father says to them, don't go out there and bother Robin she's out there contemplating the meaning of life. And he laughed. He thought this was funny, right? And so as a kid, I was embarrassed because they're laughing and I was thinking, well they're laughing at me because I'm a weird kid.

I'm out here by myself instead of playing with them. And then as an adult looking back, I think, yes, that was the moment that it started or that I recognized it because he knew that there was something about me that I had to take time away from others and think about these bigger questions of life. Now I don't know that I was asking, “hmm, what's the meaning of life?” but I wouldn't doubt it. 

Patrick: Did you have, I mean I hear the community with the cousins and your dad. And I mean, I hear the laughter too, but I imagine that there was also folks in your life, who you could maybe talk to? I mean at six or seven that someone says like, yeah, thinking about these big questions is good. Was it at school? Was it at home? Did you have other folks that you saw doing this or was it just this just a Robin thing? 

Robin: It just emerged out of me. I think just like other kids, whatever you enjoy doing, you just kind of gravitate toward it. And this was something I gravitated toward. However, they did tell me later, and I do remember often much of my conversations were with the older adults. I would play with the kids but when I had conversations, I had questions. And so those were with the adults. Yeah. 

Patrick: I mean, all of us who have PhDs got trained in some sort of moment in Western classical philosophy. I mean, I'm seeing this like little philosopher wandering around and at least in that tradition you would get trained. You would get someone to apprenticeship with. Going from six to seven, all the way through high school, how did you sit with these big questions?

Our world, our education system, is not set up for people who are curious, it's set up to get us ready to be workers or to do something particular, not to contemplate the meaning of life. Like, how'd you go about those times and what were you thinking about doing with these big questions?

Robin: You're right. I had none of that. No support, nobody cared, right? Which is why I tried to talk to the older adults. But growing up, it wasn't a direct path because no one else was doing it. And no one that I knew cared about it. You know, when I tried to talk to people my age, even growing into high school and beyond, the people around me, nobody cared about the conversations I wanted to have. So it was just in me until much later after starting a career and then going back to grad school. And grad school was my opportunity now to explore these questions. 

Patrick: Before you get to grad school, thinking about undergrad, did you get to explore these questions? Did you get to challenge…No? No even in your undergrad? 

Robin: No, not in undergrad, maybe surprisingly, or not. I don't know because it wasn't cultivated. I wasn't in an environment that really cultivated that and you’d probably be surprised to find out what I majored in, in undergrad. You want to guess? 

Patrick: I was going to say philosophy or like history or religion or something in the.... 

Robin: You would think, but because I was around people who nobody cared about that, they were very practical, like lots of families in the United States. You know, you go to college to get a job. And so when I was planning to go to college, my mother said major in business because you'll always get a job and you'll always have a job. So I majored in business. 

Patrick: Wow. And so when did you go like I have this itch. I want to explore these questions. You want to head off to grad school. When do you make that shift, and how do you, and who helps you along and kind of says, you know, grad school might be an opportunity for you to address these questions that you've been holding for a while?

Robin: Yes. It took many years between undergrad and grad school to happen. I had to go out and live and experience life because you're asking me like, what guided you? Life and experience guided me. I had to kind of do the things that didn't work to lead me to the things that would work.

So, for example, because I have the business background, I ended up working in a bank. After over five years of working in the bank, I realized this was completely against who I was. It was such pain to have to live every day in a way that went against the grain of who I was deep down within.

And when I left that position, I told the woman that I reported to at the time, I'm resigning and I'm going to make a difference. That's all I had in mind, I had no path, no goal other than I want to make a difference in other people's lives. You can make a difference in banking, right?

It's helping people with their finances. But for me, it was so against who I was and that person that you're talking about that was yearning for that. But I didn't have that clarity of thought back then, but I knew I wanted to do something different. So that set me on a path, still many years before grad school appeared.

Patrick: And what were some of those other things that refined it? I'm like, thinking of your parents saying…business and you got this job at the bank. You know I come from a working-class family, like you have a good job. What are you doing, gonna go off to grad school or think about these other things? Like what were some of the other things that sharpened…iron sharpens iron, right? You know, like that gets you on that path. 

Robin: Yes. Yes. You're right. They all said, all those people in that house in Connecticut, and at that time they thought, well, now you have arrived. You have the position that you went to college for. This is what people do. You don't leave “good jobs.” Right. And so I did it anyway because I had to, I didn't have peace and peace was important to me. So it set me on a path to make a difference. And I thought to myself, well, how can I make a difference?

I remember a verse in the Bible that says, if you've done it unto the least of these, you've done it unto me. And I was like, who are the least of these, as I was looking for a job. And I realized there was a company that helped women who had been out of the workforce and they were trying to get back into work. And so I thought this is my opportunity to help. And many of them were receiving state assistance or welfare. So I applied for that position, got the position and my official title was preemployment instructor. It was kind of teaching them to prepare for the workforce.

But really what it was, was helping them see the best of who they were. And that helped them build their confidence and that would then be conveyed in their interviews and then on the job. And that was a wonderful, wonderful position. I loved it because I could see their growth right in front of me. In my mind, I’m making a difference.

That became a problem for me because financial stability was important to me. And I decided to leave the position. I gave my notice and my last week, one of the women came to me and she gave me a newspaper clipping of an artist's rendition of Nelson Mandela before going to prison and then after going to prison. So he's in prison for 27 years. Before he goes in the artist drew him very thin and it's looking like almost like a skeleton and weak. The after picture showed him very muscular and built like a bodybuilder. And so the women gave me this clipping from the newspaper and said this is what you've done for me. Before I came in, I was like this. And now that I'm leaving, I'm like this picture here. And I thought, wow, I'm making a difference. And so this is part of what I came for, but this struggle with the finances…I had to move on.

Patrick: I'm thinking like for a lot of people, that's a pinnacle right there. I mean you found meaning and purpose. That is such a powerful image. I mean it sounds like you were kind of settled, you're activating people in their purpose, in their call helping them be their best selves. 

Robin: Yes and I was in mine, you are right! But you know the realities of life - financial considerations are important. So I said, well, how can I continue to make a difference? Cause that was my guiding theme. I want to make a difference. Also strangely enough, because in that position, I was preparing them for interviews, I always had to dress like I was going to an interview. The criteria for my next job. I want to make a difference now developed a little bit.

The next thing is I want to be comfortable at work, so I want to be able to wear jeans. So I have a guiding mission and one of my values, comfort. And so I told one of my friends, I said, yeah, I'm looking for a job. And I told her those two things, and she was a manager for a rental company in an apartment complex.

And she says, well, a woman came in and she was a social worker and she was wearing jeans. She was wearing jeans? That was my response! So I applied to the state of Connecticut as a social worker and got the job. And my job was to investigate cases of child abuse and neglect. And I thought this would be a way for me to make a difference, still in this pursuit of purpose and meaning through this guiding theme of making a difference...and wore jeans sometimes 

Patrick: I just think about, yeah, wearing the jeans is important and now you’ve moved from helping women find their best selves to dealing with intense trauma, I'm assuming in this next role. What was that like as you kind of imagine what, I guess the emotional, spiritual, intellectual toll that that type of work takes on a person who's in that work and in that role? 

Robin: You're absolutely right, Patrick, that's exactly what happened. I thought going in, if the children had to experience that, at least [in] my role they could experience someone who was caring, in the midst of it all. And that would be my sort of ministry with them. Just bringing this caring presence to the role, which I did. Around five and a half years, I have a specific memory - that moment when I knew this was no longer for me. As I had done before I had helped some children leave their home because there was neglect in the family.

And in this particular case, it was even more sad, if that's even possible, because the mother - a single mother had mental health issues. So the neglect came from that, she couldn't care for her children. So we had a moment at the home, said goodbye. A little two-year-old and a one-year-old, girls. And so they were in the backseat of my car, to now bring them to the foster home where they would be living. And somehow, I felt like they knew because kids always know. Like their mother said goodbye, but I felt like they knew that was like a different kind of goodbye.

Cutest little girls, both had curly blonde hair, blue eyes, just adorable. And the mother gave the older one a necklace, sort of like a decorated rope with a piece of candy on the end, but it was a necklace. And the candy was shaped like a pacifier, like a baby's pacifier. And she put that on her before she left. And so now I'm driving them to the foster home. I'm looking in the rear-view mirror and I see them and they just look, of course, despondent. We stopped by McDonald's because often that would help soothe them a little bit on the transition. But for these, not at all.

The older one had that look of distress on her face and then the little one starts to cry, but not just like a whiny cry, but like a sad sobbing. So the older one took the necklace off and took the candy pacifier and tried to put it in the little one's mouth to soothe her. And as I'm watching this in the rear-view mirror, tears start streaming down my eyes watching this moment with these two sisters. We went on to the foster home and when I got back to the office, I decided I can't keep doing this. I can't keep doing this.

Patrick: It sounds like a very different kind of moment. I mean the finances transition you from the last one, but you have this moment where you're seeing your work…you know, the biggest impact. And here you are after five years helping families and really trying to help them transition, but being overwhelmed.

Now that you've had these moments, what do you do with that? I mean, you're making a difference in the world. You're helping people find meaning and purposes, you know, saving lives. What do you do after that? After you've had this and know the kind of both ends of this, like the activation on the next level, and then the kind of deep lows that come with that type of social work?

Robin: Yeah. There were those really deep lows. And what was missing for me was a sense of passion. I was making a difference, but I didn't have passion in my work. I had that service piece and I had the values of, you know, making a difference in kind of being comfortable in what I wore and that kind of thing, but the passion piece was missing and I think that's important. In meaning and purpose, there has to be an element of something you enjoy, I mean really enjoy. And so at that point unfortunately I lost my mother at that time. And so I think when you go through a big loss or any kind of loss for lots of us, it makes us think about our lives and what's important to us and what we want to do now. Some people might be doing that right now in this era of this pandemic, after this loss or change of job, what's meaningful to me now?

And so I went on that search and we come back to the little girl who was asking the big questions of life. Now I had a place where I could talk to people about the big questions of life in my spiritual community at church. Because after my mother's death, the questions began again. What does it all mean?

After months of reflection and conversations with my pastor, I sensed it was time for me to go to grad school in general, but seminary in particular. I just felt called to go to seminary - compelled to go to seminary. And so that started my path, my graduate school path.

Patrick: How did seminary get on your radar? I mean, we haven't heard like faith commitments, [that] church commitments have been a part of this journey alongside. Is it something you're just like, Hey, I think seminary is a place where I can actually tease out these questions and do the work of caring for individuals? How did seminary get on your radar? 

Robin: Yes, you caught that gap. Throughout those years, growing up with that big family, we all kind of went to church together and it was one of my happy moments in the week unlike the other kids, I looked forward to it, even in high school when they really didn't want to do it. But generally I always enjoyed church and I enjoyed the whole experience.

And so I guess that was that nurturing in the background of those big questions through the church, rather than through work in other areas. At that time when I was experiencing the loss of my mother, that spiritual quest only deepened. And so that was the opportunity. But seminary and any thought of grad school was not in the plan. It kind of emerged during that time. 

Patrick: And did seminary scratch the itch? I mean, did it offer the answers? Did it give you a pathway to kind of marry with what you've been doing professionally to help people and these deep questions? Was it the place to hold all of this that we've heard about so far? 

Robin: Well yes, for the moment, for that moment in time, in history, it was glorious, because now I met other people like me and like you – people who were asking these questions and exploring these questions. And so it was fabulous. And I enjoyed every single moment of it. Looking back, the seminary experience included lots of reflection alongside the academic – lots of personal reflection which allowed me to think about how people find meaning. And I was fascinated about how people find meaning in texts, in scriptural texts, and what they do with that meaning. And so that set me on the path forward.  

Patrick: One of the questions that we have with young adults that comes up all the time, especially folks who are discerning or trying to figure out their call, is really the intersection of where you're probably at, at graduation after seminary, like how do I make this work as a job? Like these were great questions, a great three years to get this MDiv or additional seven to get this PhD, but like, how do I make this work for out in the world? What was your next step out of seminary, coming off the loss of your mother, I mean it was also your mother was said, you know this job at the bank - a very pragmatic thing. I'm sure that is coming into play here at some point. 

Robin: You are absolutely right Patrick! What are you doing, reading my mind? You're right. And so after seminary, that was in the back of my mind because the seminary for me was a quest, a spiritual quest. And how can I serve in a different way, in a way that's meaningful and purposeful to me? And I knew based on learning and experiencing life, that church ministry was not the path for me.

But teaching, I consider teaching a ministry. And so as I talked to people while  in my MDiv, so what do you do if you want to teach? Oh, you get a PhD. So now this combines that practical notion of, you know, I have a work to do that, I could live and it's serving and making a difference. So that started the call to pursue a PhD.

Patrick: What was it that you were after in your studies and as you came out of your studies, what were the things that you wanted to write, and talk about and teach and offer up to the world? 

Robin: Yeah, I'd like to say, oh, I just was so clear immediately! I don't know if that ever happens in life. It must for some people, it didn't happen for me. The clarity was not there. So it was a time of exploration, still guided by wanting to make a difference - I knew that for sure. And began to look at some of the gifts I had: teaching, at the time, and how I could use that and how to communicate it and where best to use it.

While I was in the process of study, I just paid attention to what I was drawn to. Someone had given me this advice, what are the courses you really enjoy? What kinds of work do you really enjoy? And for me, for some reason, it was the Hebrew Bible. I loved it. Loved it, loved it, loved it. And so I set that as a guide to start off with. And when I did my MDiv, it was at Union Seminary in New York and right across the street was the Jewish Theological Seminary. Once you get past like the first or second year at Union, they have this cross-registration.

And because my concentration was Hebrew Bible, I had to take more than what they normally would offer. So I moved from the MDiv program at Union into the PhD program. I say “move,” I applied and was accepted when they only accepted two people a year into that program.

So that, I believe, was divine intervention. Some faculty, at that point they said there's only one or two African-American women, Hebrew Bible scholars and Union has never graduated an African-American in Hebrew Bible. Your chances are pretty slim here. I mean, they were saying it with good intention, but basically that's what they were doing.

But I was on that path because I was following my heart and my passion. I mentioned about passion being connected to meaning. So I was following my passion. Another one of these moments - I'm sitting there at The Jewish Theological Seminary in the classes where I had been now for a couple of years. And it just occurred to me, I feel like I'm very proficient in the history, culture and language of ancient Israel, but I'm missing. I'm not proficient at all in any African-American history, religion, culture. Very little. So I felt the disconnect. I started to feel it because I was also taking another class back at Union with Vincent Winbush and the class was African-Americans in the Bible.

So it connected me to my African-American identity and it was asking questions about how people make meaning with Bible and other scriptures. So I went into this, what am I doing over here? That part of my identity is missing. And just as I was trying to get some clarity around that and getting interested in my own African-American identity Vincent Winbush takes a job at Claremont Graduate University in California. I'm like, wait, what? I'm just getting started with this! And so basically I said, okay, I'm going with him. And I did that. 

Patrick: So you transferred to LA, you came out West. Had you been out West before? 

Robin: No. I mean, I had been to California maybe once or twice before on vacation, but I didn't know anything about California. All I knew was I was just getting connected to the work that was connecting who I was as a person with this love of texts and meaning. So putting all those things together. Because I was in the Hebrew Bible track and Vincent Winbush was a New Testament scholar, it didn't even make sense to anybody. My doctoral advisor, I had one at union - they were joint - and at JTS, you know, they had their hopes and dreams of building me as one of the next African-American women Hebrew Bible scholars. And they took pride in that and they had invested a lot of me.

So they were disappointed to hear that I wanted to now make a change, not to study New Testament, but to be connected to this African-American piece. I just had to stay the course, what I knew was right for me and make the decision. So I had to apply to Claremont Graduate University and I went along with him as he took the assignment. 

You're right. I didn't know anybody in California just picked up everything, sold what I could and just carried a few things, some books and my computers and the necessities and came across the country with one other student who was actually a New Testament student. 

Patrick: So you said something really interesting that I think for our young adults or even for our doctoral students, this didn't make sense, like this move from the east coast to the west coast. But as I hear it as a Chicano, as a person of color, I think about the numbers that you said, you know, you would have been one of two or three at the time, Hebrew Bible African-American scholars in the country. I mean, now it's like seven or eight, you know, I just think about the numbers and so to me the move, it's not that mysterious. You know, it's about the bodies that we inhabit, and the people, and the community that forms that activate those questions in us to help us dive deeper. And so that move makes total sense for my ears. But as you come over to California, switch disciplines and all that, if you can talk about what is it like to make that switch to say like, okay, these questions that are relevant to the body I inhabit match the big questions that I've had since I was six or seven on that front porch. Help us make sense of that.

Robin: Yes. Yes. The questions that Vincent Winbush was asking at the time was about meaning. So that, of course, got my attention. Not the meaning of the texts, which is where I started at the interpretation, what does the text mean - you know, translating the Hebrew and this kind of stuff. He asked a different question. How do people make meaning, use these texts to make meaning? And so that's the question that drove me. But I didn't want to become a New Testament scholar, even though I had all that Hebrew. Took all the languages. I had like six languages under my belt now. This couldn't happen before? 

So I was not interested and becoming a New Testament scholar. I was interested in culture, religion, meaning, in those combinations. So with Vincent Winbush as my advisor, I created my own PhD program. It wasn't one that was quite set up. They had an opening where you could sort of create an interdisciplinary program and so that's what I did. Because that will allow me to search and ask the questions that I always had, and he was open to that because he was interested in meaning. So this was my time to explore. 

Patrick: This is a big move in doctoral education now to do something interdisciplinary. How did you land on a question? How did you land on a research topic? How is that fueling your current research? Now I think a lot of PhD programs are thinking, oh yeah, let's do an interdisciplinary program - PhD program, but then it was, you're crafting something that in a school, in an institution that has very rigid disciplinary boundaries. 

 Robin: Yes. And when you say that disciplinary boundaries, I remember before I left Union those advisors that were disappointed, naturally, said you're not going to get a job. In order to be marketable, you have to focus on one thing - stick with the Hebrew Bible.

But as you hear through my career vocational journey, if it goes against who I am, I just can't do it. I have to be true to who I am. So maybe that will be an encouragement to someone. When I thought about what my dissertation research project would be, I took the parts of me that I wanted to explore - I am an African-American woman. And then I took some of my passions - I am passionate about public speaking and I am passionate about African-American history and culture and religion. So I created a project that included all those things and I thought if I am in it, I'm represented in what I'm studying and the questions that I'm asking, that would give meaning and purpose. And it did.   

Patrick: And as you write this dissertation, as you have this mix of all your passions, like you're ready and fueled. Because I know what you work on is next level and I know that you're employed too now [but] I know that so many doctoral students go into that dissertation stage or, you know, in that first book or as they're going for tenure, they're worried about whether or not they will check the right boxes. As a scholar, walk us through like, what does that mean to find your passions, follow it, and develop a career, a vocation, a life around this is what I do! I'm not going to be anxious about not being the Hebrew Bible scholar that sits within these boundaries. I'm going to operate at these passions which don't fit clearly into anyone's box.

Robin: Yes, I think that's so important. I think it's the key and, it's not easy to do. It’s not easy to go against what other people are saying, and the guidance. Of course we take into consideration the advice and experience of those who have more wisdom, but in the end, if we could really be true to what’s inside of us and what’s calling us, and even if we don’t know what that is, we have some inklings. Like in my approach with starting with the passions, and just who we are and what you’re really drawn to. I think it’s critical in the vocational journey. And I think the rest will come if you’re true to that. Something about that keeps you on path, whether you could see it or not, whether you could see the career path so directly or not.

And it's so interesting Patrick, after doing that and just being true to myself, finishing the dissertation, teaching, loving teaching, and doing all that, just the end of last year out of nowhere, Georgetown University press calls me up and says, we see your dissertation. We want to publish. I was just true to who I was and this work that now was compelling to someone else.

Patrick: And as you think about publishing that dissertation and doing the public speaking, doing the teaching now, what is your experience like now living into this call day to day? 

Robin: Yes, it's coming full circle. The little girl that was looking for meaning has it in many ways. I have it through this work of teaching. I'm connected with universities whose mission and purpose is so much like mine. So I call that a match made in heaven. We're in alignment. And I'm doing this work outside of the university, helping others find their own sense of purpose and meaning.

And now the book that was the dissertation, because I have two books, the book that was a dissertation coming out at a time where I think it's important and will be meaningful to lots of people. 

Patrick: What are those two book projects? 

Robin: The book that stems from the dissertation is a book based on Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, who was a Congresswoman back in the 1970s. I used her sort of as a case example to look at how people found meaning in their scriptures. But because she was in politics, I looked at how she found meaning through American scriptures - the US constitution.

And so the title of that book is taken from a famous quote from one of her speeches back then, and she said, “My faith in the constitution is whole.” So that's the title of the book: My Faith in the Constitution is Whole: Barbara Jordan and a Politics of Scriptures. And so that came out of putting together that interdisciplinary dissertation project.

And now, Georgetown is going to publish that next spring. And then in my other work in helping people find meaning and purpose, because I had such a long journey from that little girl all the way up through third career, I want to save people time and energy to get in touch with it sooner and tap into it as a way for me to make a difference, which helps me have more meaning myself. So the title of the book is Purpose-Based Decisions. And it chronicles some of the stories we're talking about now from my life, but also the system that I created as a result of it, to walk people through step-by-step to find it and then make decisions based on it, which I have been doing successfully for the past several years.

Patrick: That's fantastic. I still need that. But, like you've said in your narrative that it's not casting that vision when you're six for all the jobs you'll have, it's really kind of addressing the moment that you're in now and discerning that call. And what is the decision for now, not for all time. This is powerful. So something I ask all guests that come on the show is this question of meaning and purpose, this question of vocation. How much of it is driven by that sort of inner voice, that kind of questioning self, that six-year-old out on the porch, who is contemplating the meaning of life and how much is driven by community?

And I'm thinking in your story, you know, sitting with the women who are looking at that image of Mandela or following Dr. Wimbush out to California, like how much of this is an internal process, that connection to the divine, the connection to self, and how much is connection to community? 

Robin: Yes. I think it is all one, so all of those. Connection to the divine as expressed through community, right? So I am guided by my own relationship with God and that is at the core of it all. I might not have realized it as a six-year-old, but later certainly. The divine expresses through community, whether it was my church community going to Sunday school and going to church and through the seminary community, through the academic community, through Vincent Wimbush's guidance for the dissertation.

Now through Georgetown press as a community, through you and FTE - Divine expresses through community. And also governs that internal spark that helps you recognize your passions. That internal spark is the divine created because you know, you think about little kids, where did they get that from? Where did they get that love from? I didn't teach them that. It's some things they just gravitate toward. It's the spark of the divine in them. So I think it's all of that – individual, divine and through community. 

Patrick: Robin, this has been such a gift. Thank you for joining us on the Sound of the Genuine and let me just say, like the stories, the way you talk about this, it's speaking to my heart and my soul in such a powerful way. You are guiding us all. So thank you so much for sharing your journey and for being with us. 

Robin: Thank you, Patrick. It's an honor and a privilege and you are such a good interviewer! I don't know if it’s because we're kindred spirits, but I think your experience and expertise probably is broader than just this interview. You're good at it and so it was a joy to always be in conversation with you in any way that I can.

Patrick: Same. Thank you so much. 

Thank you for listening to Robin's story and for joining us on the Sound of the Genuine. As always, we are grateful for your story that you bring to your own sense of meaning, purpose and calling. And we want to hear it! So hit us up, write us, head on over to and let us know what your story is or if you want to be a guest on this show. I'm grateful for Heather Wallace, Elsie Barnhart, Diva Morgan Hicks, who put this show together and @siryalibeats for his music. Share this podcast with a friend and we'll see you next time on the Sound of the Genuine.