Curiosity and the call


Intellectual curiosity has driven Kjell Bakken ’26 through college, then to LTSS, and, this fall, to the 13th Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Assembly as a member of a class of students cross-registered from seminaries around the U.S.

Kjell Bakken with ELCA bishop and Matt Hansen

“I spent a lot of time talking to people from around the world, about our hopes and our fears,” Bakken shared. “There’s a lot of concern about the rise of authoritarianism in different places, but it gave me hope to have these conversations and see the LWF addressing so many current issues in their resolutions.”

As an undergraduate at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, Bakken’s curiosity and diverse interests posed a challenge.

“I went to college thinking I was going to be a math major,” said Bakken. “Then I wanted to do theater, then social studies, education, history. I bounced around between majors until I had to pick something. I went where my best grades were — religion.”

Growing up in Black River Falls, Wisconsin, with both parents as pastors, Bakken spent years resisting comments from parishioners who assumed he would follow in his parents’ footsteps. 

“I always thought they were making conversation with the pastor’s kid. They didn’t know anything else about me, so ministry was an easy topic,” said Bakken. “I grew up with that connection to the church as a constant part of my life. That’s hard to ignore.”

After graduating from St. Olaf in 2018, Bakken took a full-time job with Sugar Creek Bible Camp, an outdoor ministry in Ferryville, Wisconsin. 

“Working at Sugar Creek, I found some gifts for leadership — especially small group youth leadership — and creative problem-solving in the non-profit sphere,” he explained.

Bakken began looking at seminaries and came to LTSS after meeting Macy Kennedy ’22 on his campus visit. Earlier this year, he proposed to her in the classroom where they first met. 

“I also value the faculty and staff here,” Bakken added, smiling. “They set up curriculum and events to meet students where we are and shape our learning to meet our best interests.” 

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