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Fall classes continue at New Orleans Seminary

ATLANTA (BP)–Despite the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s campus, the fall semester will continue, Provost Steve Lemke said.

“We don’t want this tragedy to delay the graduation of any of our students,” Lemke said. “We are going forward with fall semester classes and we are going forward with December graduation, so all our students can keep on track for their graduation.”

Classes have continued as usual at the seminary’s 17 extension centers, but New Orleans campus classes also will continue through five delivery systems. The NOBTS faculty met in Fort Worth, Texas, over the weekend to design a way to keep classes going -– regardless of where students are located.

Beginning Oct. 3, most courses that were offered this fall on the main campus will resume as reformatted independent directed study courses supplemented with online discussions. The seminary’s Blackboard program allows students to access a secure Internet site for discussions with others in the class. Students will submit their papers through the secure site or through e-mail to the professor. The revised class schedule will be posted on the seminary’s website (www.nobts.edu) this week.

“Most of our main campus classes will be completed in this Internet-assisted format,” Lemke said. “All of our students are equidistant from our campus, wherever they have gone after the storm, because our campus is now the Internet. Even students whose computers were damaged by the storm can get Internet access at a local library, their church or the home of a friend.”

Four other course options are available to help students complete the semester:

— Students may join any of the seminary’s Internet courses without additional fees.

— Students may attend October academic workshops in Atlanta or other extension center sites, with free housing being made available for New Orleans campus students.

— Students may join Saturday classes meeting in Atlanta and other extension center sites.

— Students may transfer to one the school’s 17 extension centers to take courses.

Already more than 300 students have transferred to the North Georgia extension center near Atlanta, with rent-free housing provided for most of them.

Students may use any mix of these methods to complete the semester, with the seminary waiving some of the extra fees normally associated with these non-traditional course delivery systems. Main campus students can participate in any combination of the course options (up to 18 hours).

“We are very confident that through some combination of these five delivery systems, every student can complete a fulltime load at NOBTS this semester,” Lemke said.

Extension centers and professional doctoral programs continue as scheduled without disruption. However, professional doctoral students who usually travel to the main campus for workshops will shift their primary location to Atlanta.

Students in doctor of philosophy seminars and reading colloquiums also will continue with their current papers. Papers will be submitted to the professor and other class members through the Blackboard system and e-mail. Discussions and paper responses will be facilitated through a secure online site.

Although the John T. Christian Library will not reopen until January, students do have access to theological libraries to continue their studies. The NOBTS seminary library website is still accessible, including a virtual library and a number of scholarly databases. NOBTS students also have access to any of the seminary’s 17 extension center libraries. NOBTS also partners with a large network of theological libraries throughout the country. A complete list of these library resources will be made available to all students on the seminary website.

The seminary has taken a number of steps to ease the financial pressure on New Orleans campus students:

— Tuition for the fall semester is being reduced by 20 percent for all New Orleans students to help them complete the semester.

— Tuition charges in the FACTS (Fast Automated Cash Transfer System) tuition payment plan have been delayed for a month.

— Rent for on-campus housing is not being charged until repairs are completed.

— All additional fees are being waived for students who transfer to other NOBTS courses (including Internet courses, Saturday classes, extension center classes and October academic workshop classes).

Students seeking information about graduate programs may e-mail Ken Keathley, associate dean of graduate studies at [email protected]. Those in the seminary’s undergraduate programs should contact Thomas Strong, dean of Leavell College, at [email protected] for more details.

Help from students’ home churches will be a crucial element in helping many students continue their theological training, Lemke said.

“In addition to their other possessions, many of our students lost their computers, their libraries and the textbooks they recently purchased for this semester,” the provost said. “It would be a great encouragement to these students if their home churches helped them to replace these losses.”

All student aid for New Orleans campus students is being channeled through the North Georgia extension center campus in Decatur, Ga., which has become the seminary’s temporary administrative offices. All New Orleans campus students are urged to call the seminary at 1-800–NOBTS01 (800-662-8701) or (404) 284-1458 for immediate assistance. The help being made available to students includes:

— rent-free housing at locations across the Southeast.

— assistance about how to receive financial aid through FEMA and Southern Baptist sources.

— referral for hundreds of job opportunities.

— counseling for seminary family members who have experienced emotional stress.

To donate to the New Orleans Seminary hurricane relief efforts, call 1-800-662-8701 for more information. Donations can be made online at www.nobts.edu or by mail at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, P.O. Box 1608, Decatur, GA 30031 or New Orleans Seminary Hurricane Recovery Fund, Southern Baptist Foundation, 901 Commerce St., Suite 600, Nashville, TN 37203.

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