by C. Mark Batten, Office of Communications
Wake Forest University’s School of Divinity has been recognized as a Seminary that Changes the World, Class of 2016-17, by the Center for Faith and Service.
Each year, the Center identifies a select group of seminaries and divinity schools offering innovative courses, programs, and opportunities for students seeking to engage in social justice and service work while in seminary.
“So much of the talk about theological education and the church is shaped by a narrative of decline, but that is not my experience with our divinity students,” School of Divinity Dean Gail R. O’Day said in a statement to the Center. “Seminaries that Change the World recognizes the positive energy and passion that seminary students can and do bring to the pressing issues of our day and tells a story of transformation and possibility that points a way forward for religious leaders and religious institutions.”
The School of Divinity has been recognized annually by the Center since 2013 as a transformative leader in theological education. With its expanding academic offerings, including a dual degree pathway in management, and innovative community programming, like the Food, Health, and Ecological Well-Being Program, students continue to have the opportunity to engage and help lead in generation-defining issues.
Rev. Patti Parker, a 2014 Master of Divinity graduate, is in the process of opening a pay-what-you-can café in Winston-Salem that will serve healthy, local, and organic food. “I have increasingly become frustrated knowing that the same access to healthy food does not exist for everyone,” she said. “‘Everyone Eats’ will be our motto. There is a set donated price for each meal. Guests who can pay that price usually pay more with the knowledge that they are helping feed someone who would otherwise go without food. Guests who cannot pay will volunteer for an hour in the café.” Parker graduated with a concentration in Food and Faith, the first of its kind in theological education. Her story is one of over 400 stories that illustrate the creative work that thrives at the School of Divinity.
The school’s offerings are enhanced by the rich diversity of the student community and its setting within a nationally ranked top 30 university. With a student body that identifies as 46% ethnic minority and 59% female, and with over 32 religious affiliations and an age span of 21 to 64, what results is a vibrant educational environment where students engage difference so that they can be challenged to learn and grow from others’ experiences. This diverse setting models the communities many graduates will serve.
At Wake Forest University, all full-credit academic courses are taught by faculty, not graduate assistants. Fulfilling the teacher-scholar ideal, School of Divinity professors serve as teachers and mentors who aid students in examining their roles as public leaders in vocations focused on homelessness and poverty, chaplaincy, community organizing, refugee resettlement, disability accommodations, and many more callings. They not only do this in the classroom but abroad in settings like Nicaragua, the Holy Land, and India.
Earlier this year John Senior, assistant teaching professor of ethics and society, took a group of students to Washington, D.C., to examine different ways Christians practice their faith in public and political spaces. They considered how, as future religious leaders, students will need to make hard decisions about the truths they want to defend. “The course gave students on-site experiences with different forms of political expression,” Senior said. “Students were able to see first-hand the advantages and disadvantages of working within political systems to create change.”
The School of Divinity is committed to making opportunities like these accessible and affordable by awarding each student a comprehensive financial aid package. One hundred percent of students at the school currently receive scholarship support ranging from one-third tuition to full-tuition plus a stipend. The school offers finance-related courses and coaching as well as paid internships in an effort to help students engage money responsibly and build financial competency. Moreover, beginning with the 2016-2017 academic year, the school will cap its tuition for the next five years.
The School of Divinity seeks to accomplish its mission of educating leaders to be agents of justice, reconciliation, and compassion by providing a learning community that focuses on professional formation. With accomplished faculty, imaginative courses, meaningful community and spiritual life, and leadership development resources, the Wake Forest difference is lived out in the spirit of the University’s motto, Pro Humanitate, where together students and faculty use their callings to better the lives of others.
View the School of Divinity’s profile »
The list of Seminaries that Change the World is published by The Center for Faith and Service, an organization that works to help seminaries, service programs, denominations and local congregations connect faith with service and social justice work. Reflecting on this year’s list of Seminaries that Change the World, Wayne Meisel, Executive Director of The Center for Faith and Service, remarked, “Anyone seeking to change the world ought to at least consider seminary or divinity school as an option to grow personally in one’s faith and to inspire, sustain and deepen his or her commitment to neighbor, community, country and the world. Through their commitment to collaborate, this diverse group of schools named on this year’s list of Seminaries that Change the World embody the best of faithful and justice seeking communities.”
The Center for Faith and Service also announced this year’s group of seminaries in the Huffington Post.
About Wake Forest University School of Divinity
The Wake Forest University School of Divinity is a dynamic and ecumenical theological institution that prepares men and women to be religious leaders in a changing world. The School currently offers the Master of Divinity degree and several joint degrees in law, bioethics, counseling, education, and sustainability, and a dual degree pathway in management, offered in partnership with other schools of the University. Through imaginative courses and diverse programs of community engagement, students are equipped to be agents of justice, reconciliation, and compassion in Christian churches and other ministries.
About The Center for Faith and Service
Based out of McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, Illinois, The Center for Faith and Service works to develop new programs and identify existing resources that support the church to be present and relevant in the lives of young adults. Through a variety of initiatives, including Seminaries that Change the World, The Center partners with seminaries, summer camps, colleges, youth corps, denominations and local congregations to create programs and resources that help young people connect their passions for service and justice with their faith.