Saturday, March 07, 2015

21. Growth means addition. (3)

... continued: growth means addition

b. So the first new venue that Dr. Schmidt added in our fourth year was the new Benjamin MDIV cohort in Indy, November 2012.

A second was an online MA cohort that was more or less based in 12Stone® Church in Atlanta. We had partnered with 12Stone to offer an elective there in June 2011, "Church Laboratory." The idea was to expose Seminary students to the DNA of a super-growing church. Bob Whitesel teamed up with Dan Reiland as professor of the class.

Then in the summer of 2013 12Stone and Wesley launched an MA cohort. Bob kicked it off with Non-Profit Management. He spent a fair amount of time dialoging with 12Stone to develop a format for the partnership, developed something like a 10 page book on it. We called Kwasi and him liaisons.

There wasn't a lot of time for contextualization of an online course. IWU has a system. There is a Platonic pattern of sorts, a "master course" from which all "live" versions of a particular course are copied. In 2013, courses only copied a week before the course began, and that's all the prior time a professor had to change things before the official start. Same for students. (The switch to a new Learning Management System in 2014 has given professors two weeks).

So we weren't going to be able to do much changing of the curriculum in relation to 12Stone. There were a few changes. I think we were able to switch out a textbook or two.

The key contextualization was that someone on staff for 12Stone would record an introduction to the course, giving a 12Stone perspective. Then during some Monday evening during the course, that same person would have an hour long Q & A with the class on Adobe Connect, a software that allows for a live online session.

And, of course, we had to get regulatory permission from the State of Georgia.

I would say the 12Stone MA cohort is the sharpest group of students I've ever taught online, a real set of sharp cookies. The Scripture class I taught was one of the most stimulating classes I've ever taught. If we get a full cohort, we hope to start a second MA group this summer.

c. These sorts of innovations required us to work out the details of shared governance. Let's say the administration, by which I principally mean the VP and Dean, with the support of the Seminary board and upper administration, wanted to engage a strategic partnership with some church or other partner. To what extent does the administration have to have faculty support to do so? If we launch a new cohort of an existing program with a new partner, who is in control of the specific content within the curriculum at that new location? To what extent can the Dean grant exceptions to various features of the requirements, for example, by substituting a different course for a core requirement that fits better with the needs/desires of the partner?

Obviously you would hope that everyone would be on the same page in such ventures, but there are tensions from time to time and it becomes important to clarify the chain of authority in shared governance.

The clarity we gained is that the faculty as a whole control the curriculum as a whole. But no individual faculty has ultimate control over the curriculum for a specific course. And, as Tom Tanner of ATS once told me, "Policies are not people." Exceptions are the stuff of good academic administration in individual circumstances. Obviously if you never follow a policy, it's either a bad policy or you're a bad guardian of the policies. And exceptions are best made for individuals, rather than collections of individuals. But the academic Dean has the power to grant petitions.

Further, the administration determines where the curriculum established by the faculty is offered, and the Dean assigns the faculty to teach specific courses. So if the administration believed it was in the missional or strategic interest of the Seminary to start a cohort at a particular location and none of the faculty was interested in teaching there or in teaching in the manner the partnership suggested, the academic Dean could assign other appropriate adjuncts there, assuming they are academically qualified.

d. There are costs, however, to political maneuvering. I like the image of spending your capital. A leader only has so much capital to spend. "You have to choose your battles." "You can't kick every barking dog" (a little older proverb ;-). An administration and faculty at odds with each other can only persist so long before one or the other has to give. An administrator can only overrule the faculty for so long, and a faculty member can only defy the administration so long. Again, the ideal is that both collaborate on ventures with a normal give and take.

Perhaps I am mistaken about some of the dynamics to the start of the adult programs at IWU, but my impression is that then President Jim Barnes wisely set up the adult programs as a separate unit of the university. Let me be clear, I breathe the air of a professor. I am returning to teaching because I love teaching and writing. I am far more a faculty person by my default nature than an administrator.

So I am not indicting all faculty individuals as a whole here. I am only saying that the stereotypes of faculty in general are not entirely false. We are not nearly as omniscient as we think we are and most of us are no smarter than people who are doers--we just have a different personality and thus channel our smarts in different ways.

So the rumors that large numbers of faculty types tend to oppose online education or what seem to be obvious innovations is not entirely false. I think a good deal of it is selfish. We want to be a "sage on the stage" not a "guide on the side." A lot of us like hearing our own voice, myself included. We stroke our egos by thinking we know oh so much and delight in the thought of people sitting at our feet to learn. Obviously educational institutions rather need to be about serving students, and we need to be focused on their education rather than on our knowledge. It's not about transmission but reception.

So my impression is that Barnes created the adult wing of IWU slightly out of the reach of the traditional faculty. That allowed him to innovate with the modalities whether the faculty liked them or not. It allowed him to shape a faculty of a different flavor. Over time, it allowed him to shape a curriculum in an innovative way. IWU might not be here today if he hadn't.

e. Two other new venues of this sort are currently in the works. It is quite possible that Heartland Church in Indianapolis will contribute some students to another onsite evening MDIV class at IECN on Monday nights this Fall. And they may contribute some MA students as well to a new Leadership cohort. These students will probably take two intensives at Heartland itself, the same two we have substituted for 12Stone's version of the MA (Strategic Leadership and Leading People). And they may do one hour spiritual formation classes onsite at Heartland Church too. A second partnership is also in the works with Prairie Lakes Church in Iowa.

I have had a surprising thought as we think about a second MA cohort with 12Stone. We have chosen to be a practical seminary. Our connections with teaching churches embody that emphasis. We are doing our students a great service by connecting ministers with the DNA at 12Stone. I have a student in spiritual formation on campus who interned at 12Stone, and you can tell his intuitions have been shaped by his time there. For the rest of his ministry, he will be more effective without thinking about it, because he has absorbed some of their DNA into his system.

So it fits with our identity to connect people outside of 12Stone with 12Stone and other growing churches.

But what of the students within 12Stone? How much can we really add practical value to them? I know we can do some, but think about it. When it comes to nuts and bolts type practical, are we ever really going to seem more practical than taking a leadership seminar with Dan Reiland or Kevin Myers? Indeed, ironically, it seems like they have the practical--at least in its tactical dimensions--more than adequately covered. Do we not have more to offer them along the lines of practical theology than practical in the tactical and operational senses?

4. Growth also comes by way of new degrees, specializations, etc.

In the last year or so, our greatest growth edge has been with the MA specialization in Children, Youth, and Family, almost single handedly redesigned by Colleen Derr. When the Seminary started, we had an MA concentration in Youth Ministry. It had largely run its course. We were repeatedly unable to recruit a full cohort, and started dropping occasional new students into existing cohorts.

The online leadership cohorts were doing okay, but the onsite ones had almost completely dried up when the Seminary started. More on that later. The start of the Seminary and the creation of an MDIV degree led to some reformulating of the Leadership concentration, as I have mentioned. The new momentum of the Seminary in general I believe refreshed the MA Leadership concentration as well.

With the advent of Colleen Derr as a professor in July 2011, she had a vision for a broader MA. So in May of 2012, we approved modifications that would make it a concentration in Youth and Family Ministry. (The name was further broadened to Children, Youth, and Family Ministry in June 2013).

We should not be surprised that the interest in this MA has been tremendous. Aiming for at least 15 in a new cohort start, we have sometimes had to start two cohorts. (Our current goal is not to have more than 18 in an online cohort)

Tom Tanner of ATS has recently indicated that the real growth edge in seminaries has to do with specialized MAs. It looks like Wesley is about to explode in this regard. More on this to come.

5. It is probably worth mentioning a program that the Seminary did not start, because what you don't do affects who you are as much as what you do. Indeed, you can consider it a strength that Dr. Schmidt does not try to do everything as a Seminary. Overreach or over-broadening of target can sabotage the mission as well. Certainly my own capacity is far from infinite.

a. In October 2010, individuals from the KERN foundation relaunched a conversation about an initiative they had to see the student debt of ministers go down. What they were especially interested were programs that could take a student from high school to an MDIV equivalence in 5 years. So they were especially in dialog with embedded schools that had both an undergraduate program and an MDIV degree.

In January 2011, then Provost David Wright proposed to them that IWU would form a task force to explore the possibility of a 5 year MDIV equivalence. David Drury, who at that time was Executive Pastor of College Wesleyan Church, was tapped to serve as a Project Manager. We met with KERN and other schools at a hotel off of O'Hare Airport in Chicago at the end of March. Then in April, the task force met at the IWU Kokomo site and formulated a specific proposal.

The end result was that the undergraduate School of Theology and Ministry (STM) started a KERN program. They designed a program that would recruit high school students into the KERN, would get them to the bachelor's degree in 3 years, then would get them a MA in Christian Ministry by the end of the fifth year, a package that was MDIV equivalent. The fourth year would be residential on campus and the fifth would be done in conjunction with an internship at a teaching church.

The decision to locate the KERN in STM made sense. As now President Wright says, "It takes a person." There was no one in the Seminary to shepherd this one, and I was barely keeping my head above water with what was already on my plate as Dean. Wayne had long conceptualized the Seminary as serving adult students, individuals who were already in ministry, less students just out of college.

By contrast, there were those in STM that wanted it (e.g., Russ Gunsalus, who was then over youth ministry, and Keith Drury) and they saw it as exactly what those in delayed adolescence needed. I remember what I considered the most convincing argument for having it in STM--these students want to hang around a little longer with the undergraduate professors they have grown to love, not switch to strangers.

(What made the most sense to me in theory was for the students to do three years with the undergrad, whose strengths were in Bible and theology, and then finish their MDIV with Wesley in two years, whose strengths were the practice of ministry. That way they would end up with an MDIV in 5 years. Trinity has a program like this one.)

b. The unintended consequences of this move were that IWU was now on a trajectory where STM, Seminary, and eventually CAPS all might have ministry related graduate programs. So Duke University has academic graduate programs in fields like biblical studies and theology, and Duke Divinity School has programs in biblical studies in these areas too.

Defining what ministry-related graduate programs the Seminary does and which STM does and which CAPS Religion does remains a key task in the days to come. Right now, you might say that STM does "launch" degrees and degrees relating to Bible, theology, church history, as well as degrees of a more academic nature (e.g., a PhD would more likely emerge from STM than the Seminary, which hopes to add a DMIN next year). The Seminary focuses on adults and more ministry-practice degrees.

Previously on Seminary take-aways:

1. There are key moments of opportunity.
2. You need the right people.
3. Good leaders collaborate and navigate.

Year 1: Launch Year
4. Innovation requires some trial and error. (1)
5. Innovation requires some trial and error. (2)
6. Innovation requires some trial and error. (3)
7. New leaders bring new strengths. (1)

Year 2: Growing Pains
8. Administration never ends.
9. New leaders bring new strengths. (2)
10. New leaders bring new strengths. (3)

Year 3: The Year of Maturity
11. Complexity works against sustainability.
12. There are advantages to being embedded in a broader university. (1)
13. There are advantages to being embedded in a broader university. (2)
14. Our guinea pigs survived.

Year 4: The Year of the Faculty
15. Faculty share governance with administration. (1)
16. Faculty share governance with administration. (2)
17. Faculty share governance with administration. (3)
18. Faculty share governance with administration. (4)
19. Growth means addition. (1)
20. Growth means addition. (2)

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