Thursday, April 22, 2010

Bethany Seminary board approves new strategic plan.

Bethany Theological Seminary's Board of Trustees gathered at the school's campus in Richmond, Ind., for its semi-annual meeting on March 26-28. The board addressed several significant items of business including a strategic plan, a proposal for a distributed education track for the Master of Arts degree, a feasibility study for a fundraising campaign, and a budget for the coming year.

The board approved the strategic plan, which was reviewed by the entire Board of Trustees and the committees of the board. The board also gave direction to the seminary president Ruthann Knechel Johansen and the Strategic Planning Committee to include an additional priority of increased seminary visibility through attention to enrollment, communications, and public relations.

Described by board member John Neff as "fresh and fluid," the strategic plan combines into seven priorities, with accompanying subsets of goals and tasks, the 22 recommendations from a strategic direction paper passed by the board in March 2009. That paper created specific action steps to align the seminary's educational program with its new mission and vision statements.

The goals focus on educational ethos and environment; curriculum focus, integration, and expansion of the educational program; and funding for new initiatives. Each task has a time frame for completion, measurable marks for accomplishment, and personnel assignments.

The Strategic Planning Committee was chaired by John D. Miller Jr. and included the chair of the Board of Trustees, the committee chairs, the seminary's administrative team, and faculty members Dawn Ottoni-Wilhelm and Dan Ulrich.

In an update to the board about the Master of Arts Connections program, the board learned that a proposal was to be sent to the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) by April 1 for approval by the association. The Board of Trustees approved proceeding with development of the program at its Oct. 2009 meeting. Since 2003, Bethany has offered an ATS-approved distributed education track for the Master of Divinity degree, named MDiv Connections.

The new Master of Arts track will offer a parallel track to the current MA program, imitating its requirements and standards while offering courses in formats that are more conducive to the needs and desires of students who would enroll in a distributed education program. Pending ATS approval, the new track will be implemented as soon as possible.

The board received a feasibility study report conducted by Braren, Mulder, German Associates regarding the possibility of launching a new financial campaign. The board approved a four-year, $5.9 million campaign, with the lead gift phase to begin in July.

The board approved a budget for the 2010-11 fiscal year of approximately $2.3 million, a one percent increase from the prior year. Jim Dodson, Student and Business Affairs Committee chair, noted the current challenges of developing a balanced budget, including compensating for a 42 percent increase in health insurance premiums for employees. The board's Investment Committee reported that Bethany's investments, which meet the criteria of social screens that are aligned with the seminary's mission and values, are performing well.

Other business:

To facilitate the ongoing work of assessment related to curriculum review and strategic plan implementation, Karen Garrett of Eaton, Ohio, has been hired as coordinator of assessment. She holds a Master of Arts degree from Bethany and a Master's degree in education with specialization in curriculum and assessment. The board is expected to approve a comprehensive assessment plan in anticipation of a focus visit by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools in 2011.

The board received a report on a marketing and communications study conducted by Liechty Media, Inc. The board approved funding for the study in Oct. 2009. Board committees offered suggestions to prioritize the recommendations of the plan.

The seminary's new financial aid program will go into effect in the 2010-11 academic year. The basic components of the program include significant scholarship awards for academic excellence and goals of church service after degree completion. Federal loans, grants, and work-study will be available. Several forms of communication have been developed to promote and interpret the new program, including a brochure and a video.

The board approved 10 candidates for graduation, pending completion of all requirements. Bethany's 105th commencement will take place on Saturday, May 8. The board also celebrated the increase of fulltime students enrolled in the 2009-10 academic year.

Amy Gall Ritchie, director of student development, presented a report on student retention over the last decade and its findings regarding student patterns in progress toward finishing degrees. The board also received reports on the Institute for Ministry with Youth and Young Adults and the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership.

President Johansen led a special recognition for chair Ted Flory of Bridgewater, Va., whose term of service ends this year. Carol Scheppard of Bridgewater, Va., will serve as board chair beginning in July. Others chosen to serve as officers include vice chair Ray Donadio of Greenville, Ohio; secretary Marty Farahat of Oceano, Calif.; Elaine Gibbel of Lititz, Pa., Institutional Advancement Committee chair; Jim Dodson of Lexington, Ky., Student and Business Affairs Committee chair; and Lisa Hazen of Wichita, Kan., Academic Affairs Committee chair.

-- Marcia Shetler is director of public relations at Bethany Theological Seminary.

Source: 4/22/2010 Newsline

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