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Christian Union: The Magazine
August 31, 2021

CU Martus Leader Earns Prestigious Fellowship at Penn

By Tom Campisi and Fuji Kim

Michael Hagan is one of eight undergraduates in the inaugural class of fellows for the University of Pennsylvania’s new Office of Social Equity and Community.

Hagan ’22, who is studying neuroscience, is hopeful that his appointment brings added awareness and resources to the work he was already doing in serving those suffering from homelessness. Prior to this role, he had volunteered at three locations in West Philadelphia through the Shelter Health Outreach Program (SHOP), a student organization at Penn, and developed a deep compassion for the homeless community.

“I wanted to make the greatest impact possible, within the limitations of being an undergraduate,” Hagan told Penn Today. “I hope one day helping the homeless community will be a University-wide agenda.”

MichaelHeadshotMichael HaganThe Office of Social Equity and Community, created in 2020, is led by University Chaplain Chaz Howard. Fellows will work with those who are homeless and food insecure and use their leadership and research to address inequities in Philadelphia neighborhoods, according to Penn Today. 

“We want to create a space for students to explore how their passions intersect with needs in the community,” said Scott Filkin, co-director of the Office of Social Equity and Community.

The fellows are working to build a relationship of trust between Penn and West Philadelphia by listening first and having the mindset of a “guest.” This requirement of a humble, servant-leader mindset will suit Hagan well, according to Tucker Else, Christian Union’s ministry director at Penn. Over the last three years, he has witnessed how Hagan has served as a leader with CU Martus.

“I remember meeting Michael as a new student, and he was obviously bright and driven. But seeing his humility grow these last few years has been such a joy,” said Else. “He has been a faithful member of Martus, has been a great leader in the 2022 Bible course, and it is a joy to visit with. He is passionate about his calling and God will use him in an impactful way.”

Hagan attributes the capacity to serve the underprivileged to his relationship with Christ. Through life’s trials and difficulties, he’s experienced God’s grace and sustaining power.

“God takes the credit; His Spirit does the work. We are merely stewards of Jesus’ grace,” he said.

Hagan credited Christian Union Bible courses, especially the one that focused on Romans, with helping him develop deeper humility and tangible spiritual growth.

“I had felt righteous and self-justified (and judgmental),” Hagan said. “In the Romans Bible course, [we looked at how] Paul addressed the Jews who were going around judging those without the law. It was a big realization that the feeling I had of righteousness was…just self-righteousness. That was a big stepping-stone. That was the discipline of God on me, to humble me…Because without humility, God would not have been able to use me.”

Hagan serves as the SHOP outreach coordinator, responsible for communicating with the shelters, finding ways to match Penn student volunteers with the most pressing needs. This group of undergraduates seeks to care for those in local homeless shelters, especially through health screenings, according to Penn Today. In the past year and a half, the profound needs of the homeless have been aggravated by the pandemic who now are in need of vaccinations.

Hagan, a junior from Carroll, Ohio, has hopes of pursuing a medical degree. In his role with SHOP, he connected a mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinic with two homeless shelters that did not have vaccine resources. However, because the vaccines required two doses with an interval in between, the mobile clinic opted to not partner with the shelters, believing the homeless would be less prone to return for the second dose. Facing discouragement, Hagan prayed, “ultimately, it is in the hands of God.” A couple of weeks later, he decided to follow up. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine requiring only one dose had become available. With timely coordination with students, shelter administrators and the mobile health clinic, one-hundred people were vaccinated.

The co-director of the Office of Social Equity and Community noted Hagan’s leadership.

“[Michael Hagan] found specific ways to align his passion and interest with the needs of the homeless community to effect real change,” Filkin told Penn Today.

Else is also impressed with this alignment of Hagan’s passions, giftings, and service mindset, and is confident that he will be a high-impact leader in future endeavors.

“Michael’s spiritual maturity, humility, and desire to see the melding of Christ’s commission and this committee’s objective, has led him to represent not only the fellows program well, but the Kingdom of Christ,” he said. “Michael is an independent thinker, who is utterly dependent on the gospel. That serves him well in his role to be a blessing to the greater community of Philadelphia.”

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