Explaining decisions and gauging impacts: Faculty and administrator perspectives on the alternative delivery of theological education at three Protestant seminaries
AuthorDuncan, Tommy LeRoy
AdvisorWoodard, Dudley B.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThis exploratory study uses a qualitative, case study approach to investigate the perspectives of faculty and administrators at three Protestant seminaries about why their institutions decided to embark on programs for the alternative delivery of theological education. Alternative delivery includes all forms of instruction other than to students in a typical classroom on the home campus. The study also explored perspectives on the impacts of alternative delivery programs on the organizational culture and mission of the institutions, as well as on gender patterns and spiritual formation. The author conducted 32 personal interviews with faculty members and administrators at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis; Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis; and Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena. Among the perspectives offered by faculty and administrators about why their institutions decided to pursue alternative delivery programs were: (1) to respond to pastoral shortages, the needs of churches and prospective students, and denominational leaders; (2) to fulfill the seminary's mission; (3) to promote the institution and extend its "reach;" and (4) to grow student enrollments and enhance revenue, thereby strengthening the home campus. Concerning the impacts of alternative delivery programs on the seminaries, faculty and administrators believed that such programs increased enrollment, but disagreed about the revenue effect. Many of those interviewed believed that alternative programs had impacted the organization, technology, operations, personnel, decision-making, quality, and curricula of the seminaries---both positively and negatively. In all three cases, female enrollment appears to be impacted positively by alternative programs, but perspectives differ about whether spiritual formation among students enrolled in alternative programs is comparable to that of students on the home campus---although some interviewees believed spiritual formation is stronger among extension cohorts. Major findings include awareness by faculty and administrators that: (1) alternative delivery impacts the seminary both positively and negatively in numerous, unintended ways; (2) transfer of learning can occur from alternative programs back to the home campus, impacting traditional programs positively; (3) alternative programs can increase female enrollment; and (4) such programs can improve relationships with a seminary's various constituencies and extend the seminary's "reach."
Degree ProgramGraduate College