A Note from Seminary Hall

A Cohering Vision

After much collaborative discussion, discernment and evaluation of the current state of theological education, those of us who lead, teach at and support Drew Theological School have launched on an ambitious course. Nearly 150 years after our founding, we envision a future as bright as the best eras in our past. I am pleased to share with you here the concrete steps we have taken—and are taking—to bring this future to light.

Our efforts are attentive to the history of Drew and its Methodist roots, and draw inspiration and direction from this wellspring. We have honored our progress to achieve denominational, ethnic, gender and racial diversity in our faculty and student body, already a hallmark of Drew and an expansion of our wellspring. Forces beyond our campus— notably, that the reasons for pursuing a theological education and expected outcomes are shifting dramatically—further press the need for us to align our vision and its supporting systems with our communal reality.

Given this imperative, we are focusing our cohering vision on three C’s:

  • Redesigning our curriculum
  • Strengthening our community of learning
  • Deepening training through revived co-curricular initiatives

Working together, these three aspects of a Drew Theological School education will empower creative thought and courageous action to advance justice, peace and love of God, neighbor and the earth—as well as uniquely position us to lead evolving expressions of Christianity.

Designing distinct pathways from curriculum to vocation

To remain meaningful and offer the greatest value to our students, each of our six degree paths must be as distinct as the ministry to which it leads. For example, our Master of Arts in Ministry program, which forms students for the broadest spectrum of theologically informed advocacy and ministry, or our Doctor of Ministry program, the “new” terminal vocational degree, must be custom rebuilt for current and emerging student needs and outcomes. This also holds true for our Master of Arts, Master of Sacred Theology, Doctor of Philosophy and core Master of Divinity programs.

We have achieved our roadmap for curricular change through many months of intentional discernment. Our discussions have been broad and deep, and included consultants from Auburn Seminary’s Center for the Study of Theological Education, colleagues at peer institutions and Professor Willie James Jennings of Yale Divinity School, who led a curricular formation retreat with our faculty. Our sound planning earned us generous financial support from the Jessie Ball duPont Fund, which allows us to move forward.

Our next steps include a comprehensive analysis of competitor seminaries, pedagogical and technological trends in theological education, enrollment and outcomes. Our redesigned curricular paths will be announced in the fall of 2017, concurrent with the 150th anniversary of the founding of Drew Theological School and the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

LD_1216_TheoCommGarden_0345Creating student experiences rooted in community

Despite the increase in students pursuing their education through evening classes and online enrollment, we remain committed to the on-campus experience of community. This begins with a student-centered educational experience that better attends to the scheduling needs of our students, offers broader course content and availability and more intentionally integrates vocational or career aspirations with coursework.

The success of these efforts are inextricably linked to scholarship support. Only by removing financial barriers can we hope to attract and retain the most promising students and free them to learn and grow in community. Related to tuition support is more affordable and modernized housing for students who choose to live on campus. Together, scholarship support and housing relief can unburden our students from unsustainable debt.

BC_091014_Theo_Matriculation_072Fostering innovation in ministry and the work of spirit-filled justice

To round out changes in our curriculum and on-campus learning experiences, we are reviving co-curricular initiatives. The existing Center for Lifelong Learning will be recast as the Center for Innovation and Leadership in Ministry and serve students, alumni and others seeking to find creative and courageous approaches to revitalizing ministry. Here, programming will train pastoral leaders to fearlessly and prophetically lead in rapidly changing church environments.

Our second co-curricular center will be an expansion of the current Communities of Shalom. This initiative will focus on action, advocacy and social justice work in both pastoral and lay environments. Efforts will include engaging in initiatives that seek to transform and end systemic poverty, expanding our Partnership for Religion and Education in Prisons (PREP) program and offering teaching residencies for prophetic leaders. We will also relaunch internships through which students can advance social justice in nonprofit settings in our backyard, across the country and around the world.

LD_0413_TraciWest_0185Success so far through our One And All campaign

As the 14th dean of Drew Theological School, I am deeply committed to continuing our long and distinguished legacy. Our vision is innovative, forward-looking and grounded in the practical needs of our students—we hope, too, that it is an inspiration to you.

Our vision is coming to light, in part, because of the generosity of our many alumni-donors and friends. Our One And All fundraising campaign has raised more than $12 million to date for the Theological School and has seed-funded many of our efforts. To those of you who have given financially, thank you.

Also, I encourage our alumni to embrace your power of influence to help grow philanthropic support for Drew Theological School. Many of our largest gifts have come from the influence of alumni, particularly pastors who serve in our church communities. All gifts received through June 30, 2016, will continue to count toward the One And All campaign and further support all we do to better serve our students, our communities and our world.

Yes, the needs ahead are many, yet our hope is high for a bright future for Drew Theological School.

Javier Viera
Dean and Professor of Pastoral Theology
Drew University Theological School

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