One Thousand Days Transformed - The Campaign for Cedarville

by Cara Groves, Student Public Relations Writer

Paulo Diniz stepped foot on Cedarville University’s campus for the first time in the fall of 2013. Born and raised in São José dos Campos, Brazil, Diniz was anxious about attending college in the United States — he was not fluent in English and felt nervous about communicating with his professors and classmates.  

“I wasn’t sure what my college experience would look like,” Diniz said. “I just prayed that the Lord would guide me through it all.”  

Unbeknownst to Diniz at the time, his advisor, Dr. Dan Sterkenburg, associate professor of business and management, was a missionary kid in Brazil for most of his childhood and spoke fluent Portuguese. 


“I see it as a miracle that when I came to Cedarville, my advisor was someone who had lived in Brazil for many years,” Diniz said. “I had someone who understood me and my culture. It was a huge blessing.”  

This similar upbringing sparked the beginning of a unique relationship between professor and student. Diniz often came to Sterkenburg outside of the classroom for advice regarding his classes, career path and personal life.  

“Dr. Sterkenburg played a huge role in helping me make decisions that would position me well to start a career,” Diniz said. “He mentored me through that and also encouraged me in my spiritual and personal life.”  

For Sterkenburg, teaching at Cedarville University has provided him with many opportunities to mentor students deeply and intentionally. “In the business world, I mentored my direct reports and always wanted to see them succeed,” Sterkenburg said. “And that mindset translated to my approach at Cedarville. I want my students to succeed. I am in their corner and I’m trying to prepare them for the next step in their career.”  

Sterkenburg provided council and advice to Diniz during his four years at Cedarville — but their relationship has lasted past Cedarville.  

“I have visited Paulo in both Chicago and Michigan. There’s a close relationship there,” Sterkenburg said. “He still calls me and asks me for advice about different career changes and companies.”  

Since graduating with a finance degree in 2017, Diniz has worked at StoneX, a Fortune 500 company; Goldman Sachs, a leading global investment company; and LGIM America. Currently, Diniz is the chief operating officer of Northgate Resorts in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  

But Diniz and Sterkenburg’s relationship is not an anomaly at Cedarville University. Across campus, professors pour into their students — inside and outside of the classroom — to help them grow and succeed.   

Steve Meacham, associate professor of criminal justice, believes that learning is not something that solely occurs in the classroom. This mindset impacts how he teaches his students.  

“To some degree, there’s a great deal of learning that can be done by watching and coming alongside somebody as opposed to just hearing it in the classroom,” Meacham said. “I’m in a position where I can provide additional insight about career opportunities, and even beyond that, provide insight into life as a whole and how to live by faith.”  

Before teaching at Cedarville, Meacham was a state trooper and senior criminal investigator with the New York State Police. After three years of experience as a state trooper, Meacham was designated as a field training officer, allowing him to mentor young troopers who had just graduated from the police academy. And, later, while working as an investigator, Meacham taught at the police academy — further sparking his passion for training and leading the younger generation.  

“This was an opportunity for me to pour into people who are coming up after me and help them do their job with excellence,” Meacham said. “The mark of a leader is to help others develop to be a leader and to do quality work, regardless of their field.”  

In 2019, Meacham traded the big cities in New York for rural Ohio and moved to Cedarville to become the school’s newest criminal justice professor. This new career provided an opportunity for him to give back to the field that he had spent his whole career in. It didn’t take long for students to build a relationship with Meacham.  

“Professor Meacham’s first year teaching at Cedarville was my sophomore year. Right off the bat, you could tell his knowledge of the job was exceptional — but he also had a passion and talent for teaching and relating topics to students well,” said Braylen Luke, a 2022 criminal justice graduate and now a police officer in Kearney, Nebraska. “He was a role model and somebody I looked up to, not only in the professional world but also in how he lived his personal life.”  

At the start of every class, Meacham began with a Bible verse that related to the topic covered that day. Having this at the center of instruction, Meacham approached justice from a biblical worldview and encouraged his students to do the same.  

Outside of the classroom, Meacham and his wife, Brandi, host students at their home a few times throughout the semester. Here, students enjoyed a home-cooked meal and a time of fellowship.  

“This helped me connect with Professor Meacham on both a professional and personal level. He took time out of his day to involve his students and care for us in a different way,” Luke said.  

Later, three months after graduation, Luke started the police academy in his hometown of Kearney. Here, he was joined by about 50 other aspiring police officers, all from different colleges and agencies. But Luke’s preparation for the academy excelled many of his classmates.  

And now, a year and a half later, Luke works full-time as an officer for the Kearney Police Department. But lessons he learned from Meacham still echo in his mind.  

“There are many stories and cases that Meacham told in class that I think about when I come across similar situations at work,” Luke said. “He is somebody that I look at in my life as important and as a major player in getting me to where I am today.”  

Located in southwest Ohio, Cedarville University is a Baptist university with undergraduate programs in arts, sciences, and professional programs, and graduate programs. With an enrollment of 5,456 students in 175 areas of study, Cedarville is one of the largest private universities in Ohio and is recognized nationally for its authentic Christian community, rigorous academic programs, such as the Bachelor of Science in finance and Bachelor of Arts in criminal justice, and high graduation and retention rates. For more information about the university, visit    


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