As spring begins its seasonal transformation of The Forest, change is in the air all around us. The corridors and classrooms of Seminary Hall are abuzz with generative intellectual engagement and spiritual creativity, and for that we remain eternally grateful. Yet, as we further process the effect of February’s vote at the United Methodist General Conference, we witness the impact it has had on many of our students and faculty, and as a result, we remain resolute in our commitment to create a place of welcome for all. We take pride in our dedicated, courageous students, and we continue to work hard to address the needs of our entire community.
At times like these, when change requires more from us than we had originally predicted, we realize how fortunate we are to have such committed alumni, and we are so grateful for your support.
We have much to celebrate, particularly as our curriculum transformation is fully implemented. The latest phase focused on increasing access to our programs, which resulted in a new entering class of 145 students—the largest in over a decade. So far, we’ve seen the largest growth in the Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry programs, a sign that our enduring commitment to train rooted, innovative and courageous leaders for the Church has been strengthened.
Our newly restructured curriculum allows students to choose one of ten different vocational pathways, such as Congregational Leadership or Social Justice Advocacy in the Master of Divinity and Youth and Young Adult Ministry, or Pastoral Care and Counseling in the Master of Arts in Theology and Ministry. Other pathways include Music, Worship and the Arts, Christian Education or Hospital and Prison Chaplaincy. Students will take on a first-year experience of core courses that takes a more interdisciplinary approach than the introductory courses they replace.
Thanks to our new smart classrooms, we’re able to offer more flexible learning options as well, including our new open Master of Sacred Theology, a post-master’s degree that we hope will expand our reach and influence globally. Early indications suggest this is working. For example, during our 2017–2018 academic year, we ran two classes in the smart classroom with nine students, while this academic year, we offered 14 classes to 119 students. These technological advantages expand access for those who want to strengthen their pastoral knowledge and academic preparation but who cannot be physically present in the classroom.
One necessary aspect of successful change is a strong support system. To that end, we have established new structures to assist students through their degree programs and beyond. Our new Graduate Academic Services office will lead students through their programs, and our Office of Vocation and Formation will support students through experiential learning, spiritual growth and identity, and vocational discernment and assessment. Together, these offices will help bridge the academic, spiritual and ministry experiences that define a seminary education, with a focus on helping students translate their learning into effective leadership.
These changes and transformations would not be possible without you, our alumni and donors. On April 10, our first-ever Drew Giving Day raised $118,000 in support for the entire University. I hope you can see that your giving is already making a tangible difference in the lives of our students and faculty, and we need your ongoing support to continue to be responsive to the needs of the church, the academy and the world. Whether you participated in Drew Giving Day or give at other times of the year, the momentum we are building is only possible because of your support and confidence in our mission.
Thank you for your continued support of the Drew Theological School.
Javier A. Viera, Vice Provost,
Dean of the Theological School and Professor of Pastoral Theology