New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary trustees, to broaden accessibility to its degree programs, approved a new master of divinity specialization and removed the "on-campus" requirements for distance learning degrees during their April 16 spring meeting. Trustees also voted to pursue establishing the seminary's first international professional doctoral extension center in Seoul, South Korea.
The new master of divinity specialization creates a more flexible degree plan with more options and electives. Called the M.Div. flexibility track, it will provide more options for extension center students and transfer students seeking to complete their degrees. The flexibility track also will help those who earned a master of arts in Christian education or similar degree in transferring their credits into an M.Div. program, which is required to qualify for advanced degree programs such as the doctor of ministry.
In removing the "on-campus" requirement for distance learning degrees, trustees acted on the notification NOBTS received in February that it had been granted "comprehensive distance learning" status by its accrediting agency, the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada (ATS). Previously, all master's students were required to earn at least 30 hours of their degree on the main campus (or 18 "on campus" hours for students at extension hubs in Marietta, Ga., or Orlando, Fla.). With comprehensive distance learning status, NOBTS can offer entire master's degrees without the on-campus requirements.
NOBTS will continue to offer numerous main campus workshop courses in the summer and during fall and spring breaks. Workshops have been a popular option for extension center students seeking to fulfill "on-campus" requirements. While students will no longer be required to come to campus, administrators told trustees that workshops likely will remain an attractive option for extension students seeking specialized degrees and those who enjoy interacting with on-campus faculty as part of the main campus experience.
In approving efforts to establish the seminary's first international doctor of ministry (D.Min.) teaching site in Seoul, South Korea, trustees expanded the work of the seminary's Korean Theological Institute (KTI). KTI, established in 2006 in Georgia, offers ministry training through the bachelor of arts and master of divinity degrees in the Korean language to the growing number of Koreans moving to metro Atlanta. Korean-language D.Min. studies were added in 2009. Due to the success of the program in Georgia, Bong Soo Choi, director of KTI, and Jonggil Lee, director of the Korean D.Min. program, decided that expansion to Korea was the next logical step. If the requisite accreditation and governmental approvals can be obtained, Gangnam Joongang Baptist Church is the intended location for the D.Min. site in Seoul.
Trustees approved four new extension centers including one at a state prison in Florida and four new undergraduate certificate teaching sites. As a part of a statewide strategy to provide accessible theological education to Georgia Baptists, the board voted to pursue establishing extension centers at First Baptist Church in Duluth, Ga., First Baptist Church in Jonesboro, Ga., and at the Savannah Baptist Association in Savannah, Ga. The new Georgia centers will offer undergraduate and graduate coursework. An undergraduate extension center, modeled after the successful program at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, La., was approved for the Hardee Correctional Institute in Bowling Green, Fla. The new centers will be launched as soon as accreditation approval and funding can be obtained.
Three undergraduate certificate sites, meanwhile, were approved for Georgia and one for Florida. The Georgia sites will meet at the Columbus Baptist Association in Columbus, Ga., Liberty Baptist Church, Fayetteville, Ga., and Family Life Missionary Baptist Church in Jonesboro, Ga. The new Florida site will meet at Parkview Baptist Church, Gainesville, Fla.
NOBTS president Chuck Kelley, speaking after the trustee meeting, reiterated the seminary's commitment to accessible education. He said that new initiatives like the M.Div. flexibility track, the removal of the "on-campus" requirements and the teaching sites are all designed to give students more options.
"We are trying to make it possible for any student to fit theological education into their place in life and their calling from God," Kelley said. "They will be able to flow from one form of theological education to another without penalty or extra barriers."
"So if they want to do online, classroom, residential, non-residential — anything from a certificate to a Ph.D. — we are designing our curriculum to allow the students to tailor their study to their calling and their circumstances."
Trustees approved the following faculty rank promotions:
David Lema, from assistant professor to associate professor of theology and missions (ministry-based) in Leavell College, also serving as director of the south Florida extension center.
Jeff Nave, from associate professor to professor of psychology and counseling, also serving as director of testing and counseling.
Jim Parker, from associate professor to professor of biblical interpretation, also serving as associate vice president of facilities and executive director of the Mike and Sara Moskau Institute of Archaeology.
Donna Peavey, from associate professor to professor of childhood education.
Loretta Rivers, from associate professor to professor of social work.
Greg Woodward, from assistant professor to associate professor of conducting, occupying the Lallage Feazel Chair of Church Music and serving as director of choral programs and chairman of the division of church music ministries. Woodward was also granted tenure.
In other action, trustees:
approved a $22.9 million budget.
approved a plan to relocate the main entrance of the campus to facilitate increased traffic flow on Gentilly Boulevard after the opening of the new Walmart adjacent to NOBTS. Seminary Place, the current entrance gate will close and the main entrance will move to the existing gate in front of the Hardin Student Center.
reelected Tom Harrison, executive pastor at Broadmoor Baptist Church in Shreveport, La., as trustee chairman, Dan Wilson, professor of biblical studies at California Baptist University, as vice chair and Marsha Dyess of Maurepas, La., as secretary-treasurer.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Gary Myers is director of public relations for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.)