By Gary D. Myers
NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary trustees approved a five-year strategic plan for the seminary and voted to establish a new extension center in Columbus, Ga., during their fall meeting. Seminary President Chuck Kelley also shared news of the record enrollment of 3,952 students.
In his report to trustees, Kelley recounted the ways in which God provided for the seminary following Hurricane Katrina. In the 10 years after the storm NOBTS has witnessed the restoration of the campus and the launch of numerous new programs and scholarship initiatives, he said. For Kelley, the most exciting post-Katrina news came at the end of this summer when he learned of the record-setting enrollment of students during the 2014-2015 school year.
Kelley said the Katrina experience helped the seminary learn to be a more resilient institution. Defining resilience as “the ability to continue when normal dramatically changes,” Kelley listed four keys to NOBTS resiliency: a comprehensive curriculum (featuring both traditional and distinctive programs); multiple delivery systems (main campus, extension, online, mentoring, travel courses); enhanced fundraising efforts; and a faculty focused on innovation (developing new skills and new ways to teach).
“This is the new normal of our life at NOBTS and the key features of the way we do seminary today,” Kelley told trustees Oct. 14.
Moving into the business session, Kelley presented the seminary’s five-year strategic plan for trustee approval. The strategic plan, Kelley said, is designed to help leadership focus on important initiatives and provides a mechanism for assessment. The five-year plan covers five keys areas — accreditation, promotion, enrollment, mentoring and income.
The first goal involves completing the re-accreditation process with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) and the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada (ATS), Kelley said. The seminary is currently in the midst of the 10-year accreditation review with both agencies.
The other goals include increased marketing efforts designed to enhance the seminary’s profile; enrollment stabilization designed to increase the main campus headcount; and implementation of the school’s new church-based mentoring program. Kelley emphasized the importance of the final strategic plan goal — developing new income streams. The goal calls for increasing fundraising for student scholarships and the Providence Fund — the seminary’s annual giving fund. The fundraising efforts are designed to offset declining Cooperative Program funding, Kelley said.
The trustees voted to expand the seminary’s accessibility efforts by approving a new extension center in Columbus, Ga., offering both undergraduate and graduate study. The new center, which is scheduled to launch in August 2016 pending accreditation approval, will meet at Wynnbrook Baptist Church in Columbus.
In other business, trustees approved:
- a $5 per course increase for Florida-based certificate programs and a $5 per credit hour increase for undergraduate courses at the South Florida Center. The increases will take effect in January 2016 to offset funding changes related to the Florida Baptist Convention’s recent reorganization.
- the quality enhancement plan (QEP), a SACS requirement designed to improve master’s-level writing at NOBTS. Norris Grubbs, associate provost at NOBTS is leading the QEP planning and implementation team. A key feature of the QEP is a new writing center which will provide writing resources and writing help for NOBTS graduate students.
- a new undergraduate certificate training site in Huntsville, Ala., and a new church leadership certificate training site in Yulee, Fla. The Huntsville site will meet at Legacy Christian University. The Yulee site will meet at the Northeast Florida Baptist Association office.
- sabbatical proposals for Angie Bauman, associate professor of Christian education, and Darryl Ferrington, professor of music education.
- initial plan to remodel and modernize the president’s home. The renovation work will better equip the home for its dual role as a residence and a venue for official seminary gatherings. The project will be funded entirely by private designated giving; no Cooperative Program funds will be used. Final approval for the project requires an additional vote of the full board during the April 2016 meeting.