Beginning of Academic Year (or, Panic Hits Campus Once More?)

Beginning of Academic Year (or, Panic Hits Campus Once More?)

August 22, 2007

Summer is almost over and a new school year will start in two weeks.  Ouch!  It seems like the summer went too fast or September is coming too quickly.  Vacations, golf outings, slower pace of office time, working in the yard, bicycling, trips to donors, planning for the year ? all comes to a change with the Workshop (August 23-24) and student orientation and registration (August 30-31).

The fall semester opens on the Tuesday after Labor Day.  But we meet early to prepare for the "beginning."  Different years reflect different emphases for the workshop.  The focus for this year revolves around strategic plan and where we are going with the educational philosophy of contextual education.

Our vision, adopted five years ago, is to become the leader in contextual learning for theological education.  What does that mean?  What are the implications for the faculty, the students, and the curriculum?  How does this vision fit with the DNA of Sioux Falls Seminary?  How does ministry context work near campus in our region or far away in northern California or Cameroon, West Africa?

I will reflect on the strategic plan in one session, musing on what we have accomplished and what we still need to do.  Cory Seibel will take another session to draw together his work on competencies in our individual academic areas.  His research will open the door for substantial movement toward a different approach to doing theological education for us.  We will finally be moving toward "contextual learning," at least in a more than theoretical sense. 

I applaud the courage of the institution and the faculty to think differently about how we equip servant-leaders for the ministries of Christ.

We have two new full-time faculty and two new permanent part-time faculty who will attend the workshop for the first time.  The interaction on strategic plans by these new persons will add excitement to the discussions as we review and project ahead.

More than all this "heady" academic discussion the workshop provides a vehicle to catch up with each other after the summer.  A potluck for families on Thursday night is one of the highlights to the year for me.  I just don't get to see the most important people in our staff's lives except on rare occasions, like the workshop picnic.  Then we encourage everyone to go out to lunch on Friday in groups.  Again, an excuse to help people reconnect.

Panic sometimes lies beneath the surface of the workshop as participants think about all the things they need to do in preparation for class or new students or a variety of other possibilities.  But it is a soft kind of panic that never actually blooms into an all out forest fire.  Welcome to the beginning of 2007-08 year.