Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Life Check-In

There was almost a month without a blog post, something unheard of. Somehow I feel I will be blogging less. I was on Facebook daily of course. Those posts no doubt reveal how troubled I am by the state of America right now and by the state of the church world of which I am a part. The past year has seriously undermined a kind of optimism I used to have about the arch of history.

I wanted to jot down some brief notes to catalog my own story these past three years. Otherwise perhaps I'll forget. I cataloged my time as Dean of Wesley Seminary.

So let me label my last two years and this one.

This was the year of return. This was the year that I returned to the undergraduate School of Theology and Ministry to teaching. The first semester was quite a shock. Students are different. I no longer had a fan base. I did way too much.

I taught two sections of Honor's College. I really enjoyed the students but the response to me was more mixed. Nevertheless, I think I have a good relationship with these students still today.

I taught a "First Year Experience" New Testament Survey. This program is really good. I think it went really well and, again, have a good relationship with these students even today.

I taught for the KERN masters' students in the first year of the graduate program. These were some really high powered students who are already showing signs of future leadership. Eddy Shigley, Dave Ward, and Brian Bernius did a great job of setting up this program, which gets a student from high school to MDIV equivalency in 5 years.

This was the year of sorting out. In the spring of my first year of return I was tapped to be interim Dean of the undergraduate School of Theology and Ministry. I remarked several times that Dave Ward had done such a good job of structuring the School that it was hard to go wrong. Brian Bernius handles curriculum. David Vardaman handles course assignments and student issues. The Dean goes to broader meetings and facilitates vision and strategy. Brilliant set up!

With Eddy Shigley pumping the KERN, Amanda Drury generating all sorts of innovation, and Charlie Alcock pulling together Youth Ministry Events, this is a powerful line up. Youth Ministry Events was pulled fully into STM during this year. Amanda's Examen is doing great things. And Eddy is a machine.

The most significant events of the year were the sorting out of who does what between the Seminary, adult programs, and STM. The results did redirect the planned trajectory of STM, and other plans faced resistance in various bodies. Some initiatives ended up relocated.

On the innovative side, however, Scott Burson did teach an online philosophy class in the spring for undergrad students. There are courses of this sort, especially in the summer, but this was a potential turning point for the undergraduate campus.

I commenced as full Dean July 1, 2017. We are only a couple months into this academic year. So far, it may prove to be the year of waking up. Issues of diversity have been at the forefront so far. This is a difficult and uncomfortable topic. It is however a strategic goal for STM. I convened an ad hoc group at the beginning of the year and momentum seems to be toward the hard process of becoming more like the kingdom of God as a campus. This is tough work with frequent set backs.

We've lost Abson Joseph to the Seminary. He will become Dean January 1. The Seminary has become a model of diversity, thanks in large part to the trajectory first set by Wayne Schmidt.

The most exciting innovation is the possibility that the undergraduate campus will launch into a major dual credit initiative with high school students, perhaps especially the home school domain. Mike Egenreider, the new VP for enrollment management on the residential campus, gets the credit for catalyzing this exciting new development. I of course have been talking about this sort of idea for a couple years, but he is the man to make it happen.

STM hopes to offer four online courses a semester to mostly high school students next fall. Scott Burson is piloting one such course this fall (see, I was already doing it), and I hope to offer NT Survey online in the spring.

It helps to write this out. I feel like the most important voice the church needs right now is to help it sort out where it should stand in relation to current events in nation, culture, and church. Yet what I really feel is lament.


Martin LaBar said...

Yet what I feel is lament. Yes.

Thanks for posting.

Chris Bounds said...

Thanks Ken for the update! Even though I'm no longer a part of STM, I dearly love the department, programs, and faculty. You remain in my prayers.