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10/17/97 Golden Gate master’s degree to be offered via Internet

VANCOUVER, Wash. (BP)–Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary could become the first school in the nation to offer a master of theology degree via the Internet under plans approved by seminary trustees Oct. 14.
In a related action, trustees re-designated nearly $1 million in capital improvement funds from 1995-96 and 1996-97 Cooperative Program gifts to pay for a number of projects including several technological improvements needed to offer the on-line degree program.
“Essentially it means we are going to be radically improving our computer technology,” explained Gary Gober, trustee from Nashville, Tenn. Gober said the seminary will be “upgrading from virtually nothing” and replacing a “rag-tag system” of computers with a network of modern hardware and software.
Pending approval by the seminary’s accrediting agencies, the master of theology on the Internet will begin as a three-year pilot program in the fall of 1998. Designed to be completed in two to four years, the degree program will consist of courses totalling 28 semester hours, a thesis and weekly on-line dialogues among students and faculty on selected seminar topics.
“Nobody else is doing this,” declared Rick Durst, vice president for academic affairs. In response to a trustee question, Durst said students enrolling in the Internet degree program must satisfy normal application requirements and attend an orientation seminar on the seminary’s Mill Valley, Calif., campus.
The $950,871 trustees re-designated for capital improvements was made possible because Cooperative Program gifts from Southern Baptist churches exceeded budget expectations. In addition to funding the computer upgrades, the money will enable the seminary to begin making its library electronically accessible.
Seminary President William O. “Bill” Crews said computerizing library resources will strengthen work at the seminary’s regional campuses, such as the Pacific Northwest Campus in Vancouver, Wash., where trustees held their regular fall meeting.
It was the trustees’ first meeting at that campus since completion this year of the Northwest Baptist Center which houses the seminary’s regional operations as well as ministry offices of the Northwest Baptist Convention and the Northwest Baptist Foundation. Crews told trustees the seminary’s partnership with the Northwest Baptist Convention is the subject of ongoing negotiations on a “memorandum of understanding” between the two entities concerning use of the new facilities.
At issue is a $500,000 gift the seminary made several years ago to help build the Northwest Baptist Center. Crews said he hopes the Northwest Baptist Convention will agree on proposed language that guarantees the seminary would get back up to 75 percent of that amount if the building is sold or the partnership dissolved within five years.
“We don’t expect that to happen. I expect the partnership to continue until Jesus comes,” Crews assured trustees. Ratifying the refund clause, however, will ensure that “whoever occupies these chairs 15 years from now will have something in writing instead of the handshake we’ve had,” he said.
Jeff Iorg, executive director of Northwest Baptist Convention, commented on the memorandum of understanding during a dinner with seminary trustees. “It is an interesting process to put down on paper how we’re going to work together,” he said. “We have worked together relationally so long that it’s hard to distill it into a single document.
“We are grateful for the $500,000 gift Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary gave us,” Iorg continued. “But don’t forget that Northwest Baptists have contributed and will contribute $3.5 million more to get the job done,” he added.
Crews noted that under a sliding scale proposed for the pact no refund would be required if the partnership endures at least 20 years. “We feel like we would have gotten our money’s worth out of it,” he explained.
Trustees voted to honor the donors of a $5.2 million dollar gift to the seminary by naming Golden Gate’s new school of intercultural studies after them. The David and Faith Kim School of Intercultural Studies will be dedicated next year.
According to seminary officials, nearly half of the current semester’s enrollment growth at the Mill Valley campus has been from students enrolling in the intercultural studies program.
Preliminary enrollment figures for the fall semester show 1,649 students enrolled at Golden Gate Seminary, an increase of 3.7 percent compared to a year ago. Crews told trustees the number of new students this fall is 65 percent greater than a year ago. Each of the seminary’s five campuses reports an increase in the number of new students, ranging from 9 percent in Brea, Calif., to 73 percent in Mill Valley. New student increases totalling 20 percent were reported at both the Pacific Northwest and Arizona campuses.
Golden Gate’s newest campus, located in Denver, currently has 17 students enrolled in degree programs.
Increased enrollment also is reported at the seminary’s Dixon School of Church Music, which trustees voted to close earlier this year. The action later was reversed in favor of restructuring the school and reducing its full-time faculty by one-half to stem mounting financial losses. That led to the resignations of music professors Craig and Beth Singleton but apparently did not hurt enrollment, as some had feared.
“I’m thankful that we didn’t lose any students,” Gary McCoy, director of the music school, told trustees. “No one left and we have seven new students.”
McCoy also reported the music school has already taken in more than half of its budgeted income for the current academic year. Trustees greeted the news with applause.
In other business, trustees:
— approved an agreement with the Bonn Bible Seminary to offer the master of arts in intercultural studies degree in Bonn, Germany.
— learned that seminary assets increased by more than $1 million during the past year, primarily due to the sale of the last remaining parcel in a development project involving surplus land at the Mill Valley campus.
— voted to comply with a request from the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee by revising the GGBTS charter to name the SBC as the sole “member” of the seminary’s corporation.

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  • Mark A. Wyatt