Alliance College Presidents Speak Out
A Christian education has eternal value
- BRIEFLY DESCRIBE YOUR SPIRITUAL JOURNEY.
- WHAT IS THE PRIMARY REASON STUDENTS ATTEND YOUR COLLEGE?
- WHAT ROLE DO CHRISTIAN COLLEGES PLAY IN EQUIPPING BELIEVERS FOR MINISTRY IN THE CHURCH OR WORKPLACE?
- TELL US ABOUT ONE OF YOUR STUDENTS WHO HAS USED HIS/HER CHRISTIAN EDUCATION TO EFFECT CHANGE.
- HOW DO YOU SEE HIGHER EDUCATION CHANGING IN THE NEAR FUTURE?
- HOW WILL YOU ADAPT TO MEET THESE CHANGES?
MICHAEL G. SCALES, Ed.D.
Nyack College/Alliance Theological Seminary
Nyack, New York
1 I grew up in a C&MA church and committed my life to Christ as a teenager. However, it was not until college that I realized Christianity is not anti-intellectual. Christ-like thinking and living became a way of life[[a journey, not a destination[[that has included pain, repentance, forgiveness and growth.
Paul, Peter and John made clear the importance of faith and love in the Scriptures. My faith grows as never before, and I am thankful. However, I desperately pray that, above all else, my life is characterized by love.
2 Our students, from more than 60 countries representing more than 30 languages, want to serve others and exalt the name of Jesus[[whether they intend to “give back to their communities” or become involved in neighborhoods unlike their own. A quality Christian liberal arts or professional education is essential to them. These emerging leaders embrace our core values of being academically excellent, globally engaged, intentionally diverse, personally transforming and socially relevant.
Students receive a cross-cultural experience where not just race but also the ethnic, socio-economic and denominational background of our students, faculty and staff is evident. With increasing diversity, 13.5 percent of enrolled students are older than 50 and nearly 100 are above 60. What better environment for developing leaders in the global community who will advance the legacy and vision of Dr. A. B. Simpson?
3 Our objective is to integrate faith and learning. An integration of ministry, business and a field of their choice, for example, education, nursing or counseling, will result in graduates developing self-sustaining health clinics, counseling centers and schools, to name a few. A Nyack/Alliance Theological Seminary (ATS) education is a modern missionary movement[[responding to the Great Commission to be the hands, feet and words of Jesus to the world.
4 With some 32,000 alumni serving in 80 nations, stories of change agents cross my desk regularly.
Sean Pica is the executive director of Hudson Link for Higher Education in Prison, based in Westchester County, N.Y. In 2001, he earned his Nyack degree in organizational management through the college program offered at Sing Sing, a maximum security prison, while he served time for a crime he committed as a teenager. His story isÂ featured in an award-winning documentary “Zero Percent,” scheduled to air on HBO March 31. The titleÂ refers to the recidivism rate for graduates of the Hudson Link program, whichÂ providesÂ college education,Â life skills and reentry support to incarcerated men and women. The program has grown from 65 to more than 300 students enrolledÂ annuallyÂ inÂ fiveÂ New York State correctional facilities.
5 Naysayers forecast the imminent demise of higher education as we know it. Most of those predictions revolve around delivery. But higher education is resilient and will simply incorporate new methods. Ultimately, neither buildings nor technology teach—people teach.
Some of the biggest issues are access and quality. Affordability, which speaks to access, is a critical issue for students. We are not socially relevant if a Nyack education is not affordable. During fiscal year 2013, Nyack and ATS provided more than 16 million dollars in grants and scholarships!
6 Our delivery modes are evolving. We are targeting flipped classrooms where experiential learning gained outside of the classroom is coupled with the wisdom and pragmatism taught within. ATS, with more than 800 students (more than half in the M.Div. program), will partner with healthy churches that can become external learning sites. Existing internship programs will be enhanced and expanded.
The rise of international students on our campuses is proof that a Nyack education is being sought around the globe. Our cross-cultural, multi-ethnic environment will help students adjust to change more rapidly as they work successfully with diverse people groups.
We expect that Nyack, and particularly our city campus, will be a major influence in the role of Christian education and the leaders we are preparing to meet the needs of city dwellers. While adapting to needs and lengthening our reach in society, our emphasis on offering a quality Christ-centered education will not be compromised.
ROBERT MYERS, D.B.A.
Toccoa Falls College
Toccoa Falls, Georgia
1 As a small child, I accepted Christ in a church in North Hollywood, California. I grew up in a solid Christian family and had quite a shock about the nature of sin when I joined a metropolitan police department at a young age. I learned that ideas and worldviews matter. Good ideas—such as those found in Scripture—have good consequences while bad ideas have bad consequences and lead to broken families, damaged bodies, ruined reputations, hopelessness and early death. Our world desperately needs what only God can give. Many of these early lessons formed the person I am today.
2 Students attend Toccoa Falls College (TFC) because we are serious about our motto, “Developing Godly Character With Intellect.” Students receive solid academic training at TFC; U.S. News and World Report, The Princeton Review, Colleges of Distinction, thebestschools.org and others have recognized our academic programs. However, academics alone is not the ultimate goal. When great academic programs are combined with godly character development, we see the power of Christian higher education. It is only this combination that effects life-long, God-directed changes in our students.
3 We have a tremendous responsibility to see that our students will be prepared for impacting both the church and the workplace for Christ. Sometimes parents tell me they are sending their students to a secular college that is less expensive or has tremendous name recognition. Recently, Brown University, an Ivy League school, had a week designated “Nudity in the Upspace,” involving a variety of nude events. The annual cost of attendance at Brown is almost $58,000 a year. I can’t imagine any follower of Christ wanting to pay that price to fund activities that oppose our worldview. Find a Christian college that is serious about developing students intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. Spend your money on something with both educational and eternal value.
4 One of our TFC grads is five-time Dove Award-winner Aaron Shust. Aaron was named Songwriter of the Year by the Gospel Music Association, and “My Savior, My God” was awarded Song of the Year. Yet, the important thing about Aaron is that he spends his life impacting the world for Christ, whom he loves with all his heart. When you talk with him you will find a humble man of God.
I hear from many alums regularly. These folks are serving Christ in isolated and often dangerous parts of the world. The beauty is that they are following Christ. I am thankful for all our graduates who do what God has asked them to do.
5 One of the biggest changes in higher education is government intervention that often infringes on religious liberty. For example, the Affordable Care Act requires Christian colleges Â» to provide abortifacients as part of our employee health care plan. Clearly, this is against our biblical beliefs. TFC battles government organizations that don’t want to provide funding if we teach that the Bible is truth. We expect to be involved in defending our Christian faith in ways that we have not had to do in the past.
Second, I believe that strict lecturing is an old educational model. At TFC we let students do much of the learning associated with lectures as homework. In class, we focus more on hands-on learning that the professors oversee and guide. We are trying to use more simulations, role-playing and group projects in the classroom.
6 At TFC we’re using more technology both in and out of the classroom. TFC students don’t use a lot of e-mail anymore for routine communications; faculty and staff keep in touch with students on Facebook, Twitter and through texting. As we grow our online learning programs, we have the opportunity to share the power of Christ with anyone who owns a computer. These are exciting times for TFC to carry out our mission and engage the culture.
JOEL WIGGINS, Ph.D.
St. Bonifacius, Minnesota
1 My father was a C&MA pastor and led me to Christ when I was 5 years old. I dedicated my life to the Lord when I was 13. I graduated from Crown College and served as a pastor for 16 years. I’ve taught Sunday school, participated in small groups, helped plant churches and been involved in leading Christian executives. My spiritual journey, however, has taken twists and turns I could never have anticipated. Before I came back to Crown as president, I had spent the previous 16 years helping entrepreneurs start companies. I learned as much about God and His desires for the world doing that as I did in my pastoral years. Now, I have the privilege of seeing students’ lives transformed every day. It’s exciting to see God at work, not only in my life but also in theirs.
2 Crown’s faculty members authentically come alongside our students and help them understand how to integrate their faith into many types of professions. More than half of our 1,400 students are enrolled in Crown’s Online and Graduate School, so they can work or raise a family during the day and attend online classes whenever it is convenient. Through our online courses, we’ve seen a significant spike in the number of military students. Increasingly, though, students attend Crown because of our global connectedness. Students want to make a difference in the world now, whether they are studying business, theology, nursing or education. About half of our on-campus graduates last year had an international experience while at Crown. I would like see 100 percent of our graduates spend at least a portion of their educational experience overseas.
3 All are called into full-time ministry for our Lord. Christian colleges help students explore their faith and calling in a safe context. The greatest gift we give to the church and the world are men and women who have been equipped to use their God-given skills, are transformed by the gospel and live in obedience to Christ. Our graduates make a difference, not just a living.
4 John Stumbo, president of the U.S. C&MA, is an excellent example. John graduated from Crown in 1983 with a BA in Bible and Theology. While at Crown, John’s dedication to God was evident, working part-time as a youth pastor at an Alliance church about 40 miles north of our campus. After graduating, John pastored a variety of churches in several states. He also served in varying capacities at the C&MA National Office before experiencing a mysterious health crisis in 2008. Through it all, John remained confident in God’s presence. In his own words, “God is in it and God is good.” By authoring two books and participating in numerous speaking engagements, John has taken his education and training, life of service and Christian faith to help others who are experiencing pain and suffering. “My growing desire is to be a man that walks in the Spirit every day, all day,” he asserts.
5 First, the outcomes achieved with a college education must exceed the rising costs or colleges will and should fail. Second, learning delivery systems are changing to meet students’ needs. Some students prefer to learn on campus; others prefer to learn online. Still others will prefer to learn on location, perhaps in another part of the world. Third, to be relevant to lifelong learners, higher education must become more marketplace focused, open to nontraditional offerings—executive education, certificate programs, niche programs, centers of excellence and so forth. Finally, colleges need to be a resource for the communities in which they serve; two-way engagement is important for a thriving Christian college.
6 We will concentrate our efforts on providing a high-value, transformative educational experience to all Crown College students. For us, that means: 1) spiritual transformation; 2) international experience; 3) experiential learning; 4) life-changing Christian service opportunities; and 5) placement after graduation. Crown College already serves more students online than it does on campus. Our best online professors provide a challenging and media-rich learning environment. Whether a student is on-campus or online, we are making sure that the perceived value of a Crown College education exceeds the actual cost.
ROBIN KEITH DUMMER, Ed.D.
Interim president, Simpson University
1 When I was five years old, I gave my heart to Christ. Along with the rest of my family, I was active in my C&MA church. A near drowning at age 16 taught me that every day is a gift from God and belongs to Him. I went to Simpson College in San Francisco in 1972 with the intention of being a missionary. God had different plans, and looking back I can discern His handiwork. God does not discard experiences, training or education and has graciously used each step in my life to build toward new and sometimes unexpected places of service. My years in banking, the pastorate and higher education have been key components to serving effectively today. God’s grace and love have been more than enough.
2 Most students who come to Simpson University indicate that the school was their first choice because of its Christian atmosphere and focus on service. “Gateway to World Service,” our motto since 1953, is our way of life as Simpson students create a dynamic culture through community and world service. Simpson seeks to create an environment where intellectual and spiritual growth can thrive as students explore career and service opportunities.
3 Christian colleges at their best provide students with a Christian worldview that grounds students in the Scriptures and their faith. This enables them to clearly understand the views of others in the church and workplace regardless of whether they major in pastoral studies, nursing, business administration or other programs. Christian colleges also promote faith, character and leadership development, enabling graduates to be successful in the church and competent in the workplace. This provides a platform for effective witness and the means to influence our culture for Christ.
4 It is difficult to pick just one! Sadie Hess is a ’95 alumna who started COMPASS, a Redding, California-based organization that provides direct care and social services to seniors and adults with disabilities. COMPASS has grown to three regional centers, serving more than 150 clients in seven counties. Sadie said her Simpson University education gave her leadership training, experience and confidence through opportunities for involvement and lasting relationships with faculty and peers. “What an amazing gift to have professors in your life even after you complete their classes and your formal
education,” she said.
5 The proliferation of technology and unbelievable access to information is changing the relationships between students and colleges. Students use multiple mobile electronic devices and expect instant access and rapid response. Online programs, blended programs and massive open online courses (MOOC) are new ways education is delivered. Paper textbooks are being replaced by electronic books, and students tend to search rather than read.
In addition to the challenges of technology, higher education faces growing governmental regulations, some of which affect Christian higher education in particular. The Affordable Care Act has led to encroachment by Health and Human Services into areas of religious freedom. State governments have decreased funding for higher education, so colleges have to provide greater institutional aid or the students must make up the difference. Increasing tuition costs have led to greater percentages of students transferring to four-year schools after attending community colleges, and more are living off campus. It leaves a shorter window of opportunity for effecting change in their lives. Professional programs are in higher demand than are traditional liberal arts programs.
6 Simpson University is committed to its identity as a C&MA school and its mission through Christ to inspire graduates who change their world. While staying true to our “soul” and our mission, Simpson has embraced changes in methodology to include individual online courses and tracks and programs that blend face-to-face instruction with online components. We have invested in institutional technology, and the pace of change in technology means that the need to invest continues to increase. We are completing a science and nursing building in summer 2014 to address the growing need for professional studies. We have increased the level of institutional aid for students and families for affordability while seeking additional avenues of revenue for the increased cost of operations. The growing governmental regulations have led us to make our C&MA affiliation more prominent in addition to our support of C&MA positions on issues and policies. We are addressing the growing transfer and off-campus populations with connection groups and commuter support. In times of change such as these, a fitting mantra is “mission firm, methodology flexible.”
We firmly believe that God has a continuing purpose for Simpson University, and we are working to ensure that we offer an education that challenges minds while igniting hearts so that our graduates will change their world.
More from this Issue
Past Alliance Life Issues
Is God calling you to service? We’re here to help you connect your passion with God’s purpose.
Serve with The Alliance »