Thursday, December 03, 2009

Board approves new mission and vision statements for seminary.

The Bethany Theological Seminary Board of Trustees gathered at the Richmond, Ind., campus on Oct. 30-Nov. 1. Continuing work from its Spring meeting, the board spent considerable time discussing a proposed new mission and vision statement for the seminary and refining specific goals and action plans for a strategic direction paper.

The new mission and vision statements were approved and can be viewed at Objectives in the strategic direction paper were compiled into a three-year completion plan and assigned to groups or individuals. The board also approved funding for a marketing study and communications audit.

The Academic Affairs Committee reported that a comprehensive curriculum review is in progress, with a simultaneous examination of the master of divinity and master of arts curricula. "As we consider how curriculum will support Bethany's new mission and vision, we want to emphasize the importance of the seminary both for training congregational leaders and for Brethren scholarship," said president Ruthann Knechel Johansen.

The board approved proceeding with the development of an MA Connections program proposal, a distributed education track for the master of arts degree. The proposal will be presented to the Association of Theological Schools, an accrediting agency, for approval. Academic dean Steven Schweitzer and Malinda Berry, instructor in theological studies and director of the MA program, are developing the proposal. The number of students in the MDiv Connections program continues to grow with 32 students currently enrolled.

The Academic Affairs Committee heard that faculty have approved several standards and resources for writing, to improve the quality of student writing and scholarship. The committee also heard a report from Donna Rhodes, executive director of the Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center that enrollment there has been more successful for classes offered at a nongraduate level than at the graduate level. SVMC and seminary staff continue to explore ways to strengthen the relationship and synergy of their work together.

The Institutional Advancement Committee reported that annual giving in fiscal year 2008-09 was less than the previous year. Although gifts from congregations have been declining slowly for more than a decade, there was a greater drop in gifts from individuals in the past fiscal year. The total also was affected by the receipt of fewer estate gifts than usual. The committee presented several reports that examined giving from specific constituencies in greater depth, including congregations and alumni/ae. The board approved a recommendation to conduct a feasibility study for a new financial campaign. The staff has developed a plan for making donor contacts utilizing four institutional advancement staff: Lowell Flory, Marcia Shetler, Fred Bernhard, and Dan Poole.

The board approved recommendations from the Student and Business Affairs Committee related to tuition and financial aid. Tuition for the 2010-11 academic year will be $1,260 for a three credit hour class. A new financial aid plan will be implemented in 2010-11 with a primary goal of meeting student financial needs and addressing seminary priorities relating to the makeup of the student body, financial goals, and support from congregations and districts.

In the new financial aid plan, registration and technology fees will be eliminated. All students will pay a flat amount that will vary each year, based on the annual income needed to keep the financial aid program viable. As in previous years, students' congregations and districts will be invited to make a gift to Bethany in support of financial aid. The plan will offer generous scholarships for students with high academic standing and those who plan to pursue a vocation that serves the church.

The committee shared encouraging admissions and student development reports: 26 new degree-seeking students and two new occasional students began taking classes this fall, a 12-year record high. Reasons cited by new students for choosing Bethany include the quality of faculty, academic reputation, and financial aid.

A celebration marked completion of the restoration of the seminary's special collections project. The special collections contain portions of the libraries of three donors: the William Eberly Hymnal Collection, the Ora Huston English Bible Collection, and more than 4,000 titles from the Abraham Cassel Collection. A grant of nearly $150,000 from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations provided for restoration of most of the very valuable volumes and the enclosure of each item in acid-free clamshell or hinge boxes. Murray Wagner, emeritus professor of historical studies, directed the project. The project team has posted more than 300 digital images of title pages and other illustrations at

The meeting was preceded by installation of new academic dean Steven Schweitzer. The board also welcomed new member David Witkovsky of Huntingdon, Pa., representing the Church of the Brethren colleges. Other returning members elected or affirmed by the 2009 Annual Conference included Rhonda Pittman Gingrich representing alumni/ae; Jerry Davis of La Verne, Calif.; and John D. Miller Jr. of York, Pa.

-- Marcia Shetler is director of Public Relations for Bethany Theological Seminary.

Source: 12/3/2009 Newsline

No comments: