Message Regarding Theological School Leadership, 6/12/20

Message Regarding Theological School Leadership, 6/12/20

Dear Drew community,

I write to you today to announce that Javier Viera, vice provost and dean of the Theological School and professor of pastoral theology, will be leaving Drew to become president of the Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, a graduate school of theology in Evanston, Illinois, associated with the United Methodist Church and located on the campus of Northwestern University. He will assume this new role on January 1, 2021, after taking an earned sabbatical during the upcoming fall semester to focus on his research.

Javier and I came to Drew around the same time six years ago, and he has been an invaluable resource to both Drew in general, and to me personally during that time. I have the utmost confidence that Javier will continue to do important, inspiring work in his well-deserved new role at Garrett-Evangelical.

When Javier and I spoke about his decision to accept his new role with Garrett-Evangelical, he was quick to express his pride in the renewed sense of purpose and clarity of mission with which our Theo School faculty is engaging in its work, and which he believes is allowing them to better prepare our students to confidently lead in unsettling times. I know he feels deeply about the colleagues who’ve partnered with him to accomplish great work for Drew and the people we serve.

In his six years in The Forest, Javier has led our Theological School with an earnest and open spirit, which has characterized the critical work undertaken by the seminary under his leadership. He pioneered the transformation of the school’s curriculum to be more responsive to the student learning experience; increased enrollment of new students, retention of returning students, and contributions from donors and alums; reordered the school’s organizational structure; reignited historic partnerships and forged new ones; adapted financial and budgetary models to align with those of the university at large; and solidified the place of Drew Theological School in the overall mission of the University.

Javier has also been a strong voice during the challenges for full equality within the United Methodist Church, and in the struggle for racial justice in the United States, and staunchly holds up what he referred to as Drew’s “unequivocal support and commitment to equity, diversity, and full inclusion.”

He is steadfast in his position that the school’s primary work is that of teaching and research that serves and disrupts the church, and transforms the way Drew educates the next generation of faith leaders who are rooted, innovative, and courageous. He leaves Drew better for his service to it. Javier’s presence at Drew will be greatly missed.

Leadership Plans and Related Transitions in Academic Affairs

After consulting with Provost-elect Jessica Lakin, I am happy to announce that Melanie Johnson-DeBaufre will step into the role of acting dean of the Theological School beginning September 1. I know that Jessica is very much looking forward to working closely with her in this capacity.

Melanie will serve in the position of acting dean while continuing her associate dean work; as part of the larger transition in academic affairs—and to reflect the work that she has already been doing in this regard—Melanie’s associate dean title will now be associate dean of graduate studies. In conversation with Jessica and other members of the academic leadership team, Associate Dean Tanya Linn Bennett will also be extending her leadership work on vocational formation and immersive learning in the Theological School to graduate students in the Caspersen School of Graduate Studies.

Details about a national search for a new dean will be forthcoming.

Please join me in congratulating and thanking Javier for his outstanding and important leadership at Drew Theological School, and wishing him the best at Garrett-Evangelical.

MaryAnn Baenninger