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President Donald R. Eastman III

Strategic Planning Recommendations

The Role of Religion in Liberal Education

1. PEACE & JUSTICE STUDIES, including contemporary religions' calls for Social Justice, Eco-Justice, and Economic foundations of peace

  • The college should form an interdisciplinary program for Peace & Justice Studies, which undergraduates would encounter initially as a concentration and within several years as a major.
  • We strongly affirm the college's critical and ecumenical study of religions' core texts in WHGC and of religiously-grounded values in courses such as Quest for Meaning and appropriate area and perspective courses. The college's many stakeholders will be well served by a thematic emphasis on peace and justice studies through our Foundations collegium (general education).
  • The college should be seen as a regional resource for peace and justice studies scholarship, both in the curriculum and in The Center for Spiritual Life (CSL).

2. AREA STUDIES, addressing religious dimensions of meaning, value, and policy for the global century.

  • The most strategic addition to the curriculum in global studies would be Middle Eastern area studies, for which we recommend visiting or new faculty in Abrahamic religions (Judaic scholar, Islamist).
  • Both the "Latin Americas" and the "Americas" area studies proposals have merit and should include due consideration of religion in those regions; the faculty would need expertise in religious history or anthropology of religion.

Improvements to Existing Programs:

3. Vocational mentoring, "spiritual formation" study, internships, and study abroad for those planning careers or service in faith communities (through Campus Ministries, Student Affairs, academic mentoring, international education, ASPEC, and the CSL, for residential, special program, and PEL students).

4. Reach out to our community through the CSL, PEL and special seminar extensions (with residential undergraduate participation as possible):

  • honor our covenant relationship, by providing continuing education for ministers, staff, musicians, leaders and lay persons of the Presbyteries of Florida;
  • provide ecumenical programming for area Christians;
  • serve as a regional resource for a continuing interfaith dialog on religion and contemporary issues.

Religion in Liberal Education

Academic approaches to religion are interdisciplinary. The college therefore needs intentional coordination of academic resources and clear mandates to include religion in the general education program. The following areas will need administration:

The Center for Spiritual Life
The college already has established the Center for Spiritual Life, now in its second year of programming and about to have its strategic plan ratified by the Church Relations Council. We are well positioned to be "famous for" this center's programs, but we can act now to take advantage of the CSL's resources to strengthen our academic offerings as well.

Although much of the CSL's mission involves outreach to our church and community constituencies, the CSL is also committed to play an important role in the undergraduate curriculum. The associate dean for general education and the dean of faculty, working with the director of the CSL, can assure optimum use of visiting scholars, scheduling of college program series events, and coverage of religious themes and special topics in course offerings. Advanced juniors and seniors should have reasonable access to the CSL seminars and visiting faculty.

Non-Traditional Academic Programs
There are clear strategic advantages associated with expansion of the college's non-degree academic programs in the area of religion, such as certification of Christian educators, seminars for region-wide faculty development (including secondary teachers), and workshops for church musicians. While the CSL and Special Programs would be responsible for these, we strongly urge participation of residential faculty whenever possible.

Full Articulation among Offices
The offices of student affairs, the CALA, campus ministries, academic mentors in both religious studies and other disciplines, international education, and volunteers from ASPEC can be marshaled to provide the vocational advising and counsel to our students who are "spiritual seekers." The college will need to be certain that the extra-curricular, experiential parts of each student's full education in religion remain visible and attractive to students, while being reliably connected to the academic side.

Funding Sources
The Presbyterian Church (USA) has committed to "Strengthening Partnership" with its colleges and schools; NEH, Pew, Lilly, and other foundations have launched funding initiatives in the areas we are proposing for the college. We envision program development and challenge grant support for faculty positions, similar to our experience in Asian studies, as the college advances in Middle Eastern area studies and Peace & Justice Studies.

The Rhetoric of Our Religious Affiliations
In our public relations, we should regard our religious dimension as an integral part of the college, a wonderful and positive part of the institution. Our academic offerings are squarely in the Reformed tradition of critical inquiry and ecumenical scope. In student life, spiritual learning is invitational: students may explore spiritual issues more fully while living among us (clearly present but not preachy in admissions materials, forthright about religions' value and vitality in our on-campus materials).