News Articles

Midwestern Seminary increases electives while reducing number of required courses

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–The faculty of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has approved curriculum changes that will increase the elective options of students while also reducing the number of credit hours of study required for the various degrees.

Academic Dean Jim Cogdill described the ongoing assessment of all degree programs as vital to the health of an academic institution. “It will allow students the opportunity to specialize in areas of interest,” Cogill said.

With degree changes effective next fall, Cogdill said, “Both faculty and students noted particular areas in the curriculum that they believed needed fine-tuning.” As faculty workgroups studied changes they felt would be attractive to students, Cogdill said their primary concern involved “too few elective hours” in current degree requirements.

In 1998 the seminary overhauled requirements in what was described as a “top-to-bottom curriculum revision.” Cogdill sees the latest refinement as a continuation of the earlier stated goal of equipping students for the task of reaching the Midwest and beyond for Christ.

Over the past two years, courses such as Biblical Backgrounds, Southern Baptist Convention, Christ and Culture, Christian Communications, Computers in Ministry and Christian Family were required within the master of divinity degree. A major change was the requirement of two years of study in biblical languages as opposed to a longstanding practice of requiring briefer studies in Hebrew Appreciation and Greek Appreciation. Separate courses in theology and philosophy of missions have been merged into one required class.

Cogdill said all of the courses will still be offered in the curriculum but will no longer be required, with the exception of a full year each of Greek and Hebrew for the M.Div. degree. Instead of being required to take both worship leadership and an introduction to church music, M.Div. students will choose between the two options. “Some courses may have been moved to elective status, but more elective hours are available.”

Using the illustration of a workman taking care of his tools, Cogdill said, “Curriculum assessment is one way a seminary faculty sharpens the tools needed for educating God’s servants.”

The earlier changes raised degree requirements to 94 hours, more than other Southern Baptist seminaries require, with only six uncontrolled elective hours available. As a result, many of the elective classes did not draw a large enough enrollment to allow them to meet. “Professors often lost their venue to teach their expertise,” Cogdill explained, “when a particular course was an elective.”

He added that the lack of electives discouraged students from following a particular passion such as taking three years of Greek or Hebrew. “If a person is called into missions, that student will have the opportunity to take more mission courses,” Cogdill cited as another example. “This puts us more in line with the other SBC seminaries,” with 18 elective hours available within the revised 89-hour degree.

And with additional course demands, Cogdill said, “The student pool was so divided among the required classes that not only did electives seldom make, but even required courses would sometimes not meet the minimum student requirement.”

Midwestern will also return to an earlier model of supervised ministry that utilized peer group interaction instead of requiring a pre-commencement seminar intended to assess the seminary experience and review achievement of standards.

Similar changes were made to the master of arts in Christian education, with a 66-hour degree reduced to 60 hours, 11 of those being elective hours. The master of arts in church music degree changes from a 64-hour degree to 52 hours, retaining seven elective hours.

Steve Andrews, professor of Old Testament and archaeology, and chairman of the Academic Policies Committee, anticipates the development of several two-year master of arts degrees that allow specialization in such areas as biblical languages, counseling, biblical archaeology and intercultural studies. Proposed degrees will be reviewed at a faculty meeting in February.

Interim President Mike Whitehead said, “Midwestern’s goal is to be personal, practical and passionate. These changes in curriculum advance our goal of helping students grow in personal spiritual relationships, practical training and passionate vision for leadership and service in the 21st century.”

    About the Author

  • Tammi Reed Ledbetter