Friday, September 01, 2017

A New School Year at IWU

1. Another year is beginning at IWU. In July they took the word "interim" off my title, so I am the Dean of the School of Theology and Ministry (STM) this year.

It's a little confusing for those who knew me as dean of the seminary. The seminary of course is graduate level and mostly "older" adult students. STM is mostly undergraduate students, 18-22 year olds.

We have a great team and great students on the residential campus. It's a great campus if you've never been. I've always said that if we can get a prospective student or faculty member to campus, it will be hard for them not to come. You can see from my bad picture most of the faculty of STM dressed up for a social we do for the new students every year.

Why send your kids to IWU? Why come to IWU yourself? Of course it's a great education. That goes without saying. We have one of the leading worship professors in the world (Constance Cherry). We have brilliant minds in practical theology (Dave Ward, Amanda Drury). We have incredibly experienced practitioners in youth, children's, and local church ministry (Charlie Alcock, David Vardaman, Keith Springer, Eddy Shigley). We have Jim Lo and Norm Wilson for global and intercultural studies. Theology (Jonathan Morgan), Bible (Abson Joseph, Elaine Bernius, Brian Bernius, Ken Schenck), Church History (Miranda Cruz), Philosophy (Scott Burson, Steve Horst), Counseling (Judy Crossman). And we have two rising scholars as teaching fellows (Kayla Murphy-Crouso and G. B. McClanahan).

2. So there is the educational piece. There is an experiential piece. There are lots of opportunities to do ministry and to try out your wings in an internship. In fact, the KERN program gets a high school student to MDIV equivalency in 5 years, leaving them with a heavily scholarshiped master's degree at the end at less cost than a straightforward undergraduate degree. The final year is at a church. We're finishing up an agreement with Mick Veach in Detroit for students to do a semester internship in an urban context. We've worked hard to make it possible for all our students to graduate in 3 years, chopping off over $10,000.

STM Retreat Worship, with Wesley Seminary
Picture courtesy of Jim Lo
3. STM has always been a fun place to make your college memories. There are other options today. You can get an online degree. You can go to a community college. But you won't have the memories of college. You won't have the intensity of the friendships. I'm a big fan of online education as an option.

But you can't replace the overall experience of going to college as an 18 year old. You can achieve the individual learning outcomes, yes. But the overall Gestalt--you 'll never get it online. For some it's a worth-while trade-off for the convenience. Personally, I'm glad I spent those years in a living community, going for runs with friends, eating together, going out on dates, hiking, staying up all night together. Perhaps more importantly, I had my first faith crisis in a community of faith, not alone on my own.

I wish I could become an 18 year old and do it all again.

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