By Gary D. Myers
NEW ORLEANS – During the board’s recent December executive committee meeting, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary trustees approved two new degrees, the doctor of education (Ed.D.) and a master of arts in cross cultural studies. NOBTS also announced the creation of a new counseling center designed as a training lab for counseling students and as a service to the New Orleans community, and a plan to move the school’s Graceville, Fla. extension center to Tallahassee, and two new certificate programs in churches.
The board approved the reinstitution of the doctor of education (Ed.D.) degree that was discontinued by NOBTS in the late 1990s with the addition of the Christian education major in the doctor of philosophy program. Later the doctor of educational ministry degree was created to offer Christian educators another option for advanced studies. In the past few years, leaders of the two Christian education doctoral programs have noticed a dramatic increase in potential students seeking Ed.D. programs. The Ed.D. degree is research oriented and prepares graduates for teaching on the collegiate level. NOBTS will retain both the Christian education Ph.D. and the D.Ed.Min. programs.
“I am excited to reinstate the Doctor of Education as an option for graduate study in Christian Education,” said Randy Stone, chair of the Division of Christian Education at NOBTS. “The Ed.D. is an accepted terminal degree for teachers and administrators at colleges and universities, especially at undergraduate institutions. We are expecting headmasters and teachers from private schools as well as instructors and administrators at private Christian and community colleges will find this degree attractive.”
Stone said the 55-hour degree will include majors in teaching, educational leadership and ministry leadership. Foundational components of the degree are shared with the doctor of philosophy program with unique, specialized coursework and practical ministry components leading to the different majors. NOBTS hopes to open the student application early in 2014 pending approval of the degree by the seminary’s accrediting agency, the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada.
Trustees also approved a new 45-credit hour master of arts (cross-cultural studies) degree tailored to the needs of missionaries while they are serving overseas. The degree, developed in conjunction with the International Mission Board (IMB) Macedonia Project, will include a significant mentorship component, pairing students with experienced missionaries. The remaining courses will be split between online courses taken on the field and traditional, campus-based courses at NOBTS once the students return from the mission field.
“We are happy to partner with the International Mission Board for this degree,” said NOBTS Provost Steve Lemke. “This degree meets the specific requirements developed by the IMB. For many people serving in an international setting, not having ‘missions’ in the name is helpful, so that’s why we used the ‘cross-cultural studies’ name.”
NOBTS trustees, in conjunction with the Florida Baptist Convention, voted to move the graduate extension center at Graceville, Fla. from the Baptist College of Florida to Thomasville Road Baptist Church in Tallahassee. By moving the center from the more rural Graceville location to Tallahassee, officials at NOBTS and the Florida Convention hope to provide easier access to current students and with the much larger population of Tallahassee, reach more students in need of theological training.
The board also approved new certificate training programs at Primera Iglesia Bautista Hispana in West Palm Beach, Fla., and New Jerusalem Baptist Church in Jackson, Miss. The two new certificate locations will strengthen the seminary’s effort to create new opportunities for training ethnic and minority church leaders. The West Palm Beach location will serve Spanish-speaking pastors and church leaders, and the Jackson location primarily serves African-American church leaders.
During the meeting, the trustees approved a plan to develop the current William Carey University Nursing Building into a counseling center. Late last year William Carey, a Mississippi-based Baptist school, announced the closure of its New Orleans nursing program which meets on the NOBTS campus. The closure opens a significant amount of space on the campus and the administration sought faculty input on the best uses of the space. The new counseling center was the winning proposal.
The plan calls for the relocation of all counseling and social work offices and class rooms to the former nursing building at the front of the seminary campus. In addition, counseling rooms will be created for students and counseling professors to provide counseling services to NOBTS students and members of the community. The community experienced a loss of counseling services following Hurricane Katrina and seminary leaders believe the center with help address this problem.
“The development of a counseling center represents a new and exciting opportunity for education, counselor training, and community ministry at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary,” said Ian Jones, chair of the Division of Church and Community Ministries at NOBTS. “The center will allow the counseling program to continue to expand, as it provides an onsite training facility for student counselors, but it also will allow the seminary to have an even greater impact on the surrounding community as it provides counseling services, guiding people to biblical solutions to life’s problems.
In his report to the board, NOBTS President Chuck Kelley shared that the school experienced enrollment growth during the 2012-2013 academic year. NOBTS finished the year with 3,849 students, the school’s second largest yearly enrollment number and largest since Hurricane Katrina. Steady growth was seen in the number of main campus students and in the M.Div. and doctoral programs. In the current school year upward trend on the main campus has continued. Preliminary fall numbers show more students are attending the main campus than are attending extension centers for the first time since Katrina.
Kelley also announced that a new resource center/community center will be built through designated gifts of two anonymous donors. To honor the wishes of the donors, the center will be named the Doris Kelley Showers of Blessing Resource Center. Doris Kelley, President Kelley’s mother, died early this year. The resource center will house the seminary homeschool network which currently serves close to 100 families.