Spring semester at Drew Theological School started by welcoming 22 masters students and 1 Ph.D. transfer student, bringing our total new masters students for this academic year to 102. They come to us from 10 different denominations, 11 states and 8 countries. They are 46 men and 56 women, ranging in age from 24–65. Racially and ethnically diverse, 27% are Asian, 35% Black/African-American, 26% White, and 2% Hispanic. While we are proud of the diversity, we know that there is much work ahead to recruit more Hispanic and Native American students.
In the current challenging ecology of theological education, Drew continues to show well among our peer institutions. Our new enrollment for the fall semester, our acceptance rate, and our total degrees awarded rank us in the top 10% of ATS schools. The estimated years our students take to complete the M.Div. degree place us in the top 4%. When the majority of seminaries are financially stressed, we are grateful for the resources we have; in particular, the Ministerial Education Fund (MEF) from The United Methodist Church and our endowed scholarships given to us by our generous donors. These funds continue to enable us to support our students financially. All of this is good news.
Yet even as our enrollment for the fall and spring semesters has gone up, we are experiencing a decrease in the MEF contribution from the UMC because of a new formula that is tied to UM registered candidates for ordination and ordinands. I have met with my faculty and staff to address this very issue, and we are putting in place new strategies to recruit more UM students. We are looking to enhance our 100% tuition scholarship for UM students with the requisite GPA. Our thinking is that if we can increase our UM student population and receive more MEF money from the UMC, it will allow us to better fund students from other denominations with our own seminary funds.
Professor Otto Maduro, Professor of World Christianity and Latin American Christianity and a very valuable member of the faculty, will retire at the end of June after 21 years of teaching at the Theological School. Professor Maduro has distinguished himself as “a world-traveling lecturer, a prolific author, and a polyglot teacher.” He is the first Latino scholar to be elected as the President of the American Academy of Religion. We know that he will be sorely missed. We are looking forward to celebrating his many years of contribution to the Theological School and the University on May 10, 2013.
Professor Wesley Ariarajah, Professor of Ecumenical Theology and another very significant member of the faculty, has begun his two-year phased retirement. He will continue to teach half-time in these next two years.
We have also begun the search to fill the position in Homiletics that has been vacant for more than a year. For most of the last several years, we have been operating with a half-time faculty in preaching. We cannot continue teaching our 200 M.Div. students with just a half-time faculty–churches expect us to train students to preach! Our curriculum has truly suffered from the position’s vacancy.
This January, I had the privilege of taking a group of 17 students and a teaching assistant with me on a cross-cultural immersion trip to Malaysia. Although I was born and raised in Malaysia and having lived in the U.S. for the last 30 years, returning to Malaysia each time is a cross-cultural experience. On this trip, we visited East Malaysia and West Malaysia to study politics, race, and religion in context. We visited universities and seminaries, temples, mosques, and churches, and engaged in conversations with religious leaders, academicians, and NGO’s. A cross-cultural immersion trip is meant to enable our students to experience a different social, political, religious, and cultural context. In Malaysia, they were immersed in a context that looks different, smells different, sounds different, tastes different, and feels different. We had prepared our students in our pre-departure course with the DAE model for intercultural engagement, in that they learned to Describe and Analyze, before they Evaluate. Unlike theological tourism, an engaged cross-cultural experience can lead to transformation. It is our hope that such a program can help us better prepare leaders for ministry in a multi-cultural society.
Grace and peace,
Kah-Jin Jeffrey Kuan, Ph.D. 關嘉仁博士
Dean and Professor of Hebrew Bible
The Theological School, Drew University