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Susan Mercer T’24 on Earning a Master of Divinity Online

Drew Theological School removes geographical boundaries to earn a theological education

December 2021 – Drew Theological School has offered students synchronous (online, live) learning options well before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which prompted an introduction of asynchronous (online, self-paced) versions of the core curriculum of Drew’s master’s degrees for ministry vocations.

While Drew’s campus is now open, the online learning modalities remain and are thriving. Synchronous and asynchronous options—as well as blended options—are available to students across the globe. The student-centered program allows students to earn a Drew Theological School degree beyond geographic boundaries.

We recently spoke with Susan Mercer T’24, a Master of Divinity student, for insight on what it’s like to earn her Drew degree online from her home state of Kansas.

What were the deciding factors the led you to pursue an online degree from Drew Theological School?
I’ve been considering seminary education for some time. Drew was one of several schools that rose to the top in my research. Moving to New Jersey wasn’t a viable option and there were additional constraints to attending a seminary. In the meantime, I pursued other aspects of my vocation—I’m a spiritual director and group and retreat leader. Last fall as I was becoming a local pastor, I learned Drew was offering a fully online program. Knowing Drew was a great fit, I realized the time was finally right to pursue this degree!

What are the benefits of pursuing your MDiv degree online?
The benefits are many. Number one is avoiding physical relocation, which would have been problematic for my family. Driving even a short distance for classes would have been difficult as I currently serve as a college campus minister for the United Methodist Church. Since my coursework is online, I can really focus my time and effort, which minimizes disruptions to work and family life.

Another significant benefit is the rich diversity that comes from my classmates. I have been in classrooms with folks in five-six different time zones—from Madison to places near and far!

And the challenges?
All of my courses are asynchronous this semester. The blessing is doing the work at your own pace; the curse is the disconnect it creates. I really appreciate the rhythm of synchronous classes and the ability to engage faculty and peers over Zoom. I have found this approach to be a rich learning environment, which reflects the care of faculty in course design and facilitation. Last spring, I had three vibrant seminars via Zoom. I’m glad those seminars were my first experience with online education and would recommend new students take at least one synchronous class during their beginning semesters.

Being an online student, do you feel a part of the Drew community?
Especially through my experiences last spring, I feel part of the Drew community. I developed several important friendships and have found the faculty very approachable. I have chosen to participate in Thursday chapel as often as possible and I really appreciate that Drew makes worship and other community events accessible to all. Of course I would love to be on campus and there is really no substitute. However, if you make an effort, it is possible to have an experience that is engaging and meaningful, even if different.

I’m hoping to be able to visit campus sometime—maybe in the spring—to experience campus, meet people, and even sign the matriculation book!

Learn more about Drew Theological School’s online learning modalities.

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