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From category archives: In Trust Blog

Crisis

Anti-racism resources for schools, organizations, and individuals

Faces of diversity

Many schools, organizations, and individuals are now seeking to address systemic racism. To spur hard conversations and to help institutions to address the work of justice and inclusion, the In Trust Center has been curating resources from peer organizations.

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Statement from the president

I join my colleagues at the In Trust Center in denouncing racism and supporting #BlackLivesMatter. I am personally sad and angry. And yet I am also hopeful.

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What should you do about the fall semester?

Empty classroom at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary's Charlotte campus

It’s the big question school decision makers are asking: What to do about reopening school in the fall? Some theological schools have already made a decision, while others are waiting for more information.

To help school leaders and faculty make sense of the complex issues surrounding the decision, Inside Higher Ed has published an article by Edward J. Maloney and Joshua Kim, “15 Fall Scenarios,” that lays out many of the options. 

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Evidence of the struggle

Suckling mother dog

For employed academics — especially with those who have school-age children — working from home can be hard. Here are two items that came across my desk this week.

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Is higher education returning to normal this fall?

The Chronicle of Higher Education has been asking individual schools to submit their fall education plans, and the periodical is compiling a list indicating which schools are returning to face-to-face learning. As of the end of April, most schools on the list are planning to return to face-to-face learning in time for the fall semester, but some are delaying the decision until May or June.

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New COVID-19 resources

The John Bulow Campbell Library at Columbia Theological Seminary

The In Trust Center continues to collect resources that may be helpful to the administrators and boards of theological schools during the current COVID-19 pandemic. Here are some that have come across our desks in recent weeks.

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How to lead out of a crisis

Leading out of a crisis

As most institutional leaders have been dealing with immediate challenges — moving classes online and the complexities of transitioning staff, faculty, and students into new spaces — the focus has been on leading during a crisis. But how do you lead during a crisis and simultaneously lead out of one? A new post from the Harvard Business Review offers some guidelines and cautions.

 

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Curated resources for the COVID-19 pandemic

Wesley Theological Seminary library

The staff of the In Trust Center has been collecting resources, and directories of resources, to help theological schools during the COVID-19 pandemic. Below is a curated list of what we have discovered.

 

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Principles for our new reality

Old Well, University of North Carolina

A list of “Principles” written by Professor Brandon Bayne of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has begun circulating online over the last few weeks. The In Trust Center reached out directly to Professor Bayne for permission to share his principles more broadly. His “Principles,” though written for university students, can apply equally well to staff, faculty, and even boards of theological institutions.

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Resources for moving classes online

 

In light of the coronavirus outbreak, many seminaries, colleges, and universities have decided to switch from in-person classes to online instruction.

Here are some online resources that may be helpful.

 

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Two seminaries to close

The 2019 entering class at Christ the King Seminary in Buffalo, New York.

Two seminaries will close this spring.

Earlier this month, the board of trustees of Christ the King Seminary in Buffalo, New York, and members of the seminary corporation voted to close the school at the end of the current academic year.

Also this month, the board of trustees of Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas, voted to close Logsdon Seminary, which offers the school’s graduate programs in theology.

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Your school is likely at risk. What can your board do?

Higher education in North America – all higher education, not only theological education – is in trouble. How can your board be prepared? 

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A board member reflects on the closure of his school

In January of this year, the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond (BTSR) closed its doors for good. Mike Clingenpeel, a BTSR board member, wrote an article for the school’s website reflecting on the closure, and his article was reprinted in the Summer 2019 issue of In Trust. Clingenpeel’s honest reflections offer rare insight into the painful realities of closing a seminary.

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Disruption can drive change that leads to sustainability

A recent issue of Trusteeship magazine features an article by Peter Smith titled “How Should Boards Respond to Disruption.” The article was written primarily for boards of universities and colleges, but it goes right to the heart of what it will take to lead a seminary through the next 30 or 40 years.

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Maneuvering through crises and disruption

When an issue of Trusteeship magazine has the theme of “Institutions in Crisis,” you know you’re in for some great articles on board governance. Handling crises — whether postponing them, mitigating their effects, or managing the fallout — is a big part of leading an institution. And there are all sorts of events and circumstances that may qualify as a crisis.

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Student enrollment by the numbers

If you are a leader in theological education, you are already familiar with overall trends in seminary enrollment. Usually, reports about enrollment are gloomy, with a half-hearted silver lining that suggests, “Well, at least we’re not the only ones struggling.”

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Resource roundup: Succession planning

Succession planning isn’t just for a school’s presiding officer. Having a plan for transition and succession that applies to the entire institution can reduce stress and avert ad hoc emergency decision making when change inevitably occurs. 

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Communicating hope amid disruption

The illustration and type on the cover of Fuller Seminary's magazine pretty much says it all. Rather than an evocative photographic portrait, as usually graces the cover, this one sports a photoshopped bird – gold and in flight – which forms the first “I” in the 200-point Century Bold italicized title that reads: DIS RUP TION.

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Why do university presidents lose their jobs?

In a recent article in Inside Higher Ed, William G. Tierney, professor at the University of Southern California, posits the question of why university presidents resign or are fired. Using examples of recent high-profile presidential resignations, Tierney argues that commonly blamed factors are not the true cause of presidential downfalls. 

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Must you let people know that you're closing?

Every institution runs on confidence. Startups need investors to believe that their money won't be wasted. Banks need customers who trust that their savings won't be lost. Schools need students who are confident that the school will be around long enough for them to graduate. And the donors to these schools need to feel confident that their contributions are not being tossed into a black hole.

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How can a seminary react to financial stress?

Unanticipated financial setbacks sometimes become little deficits. And the response to little deficits can shape the course of a school’s future. What are the options? 

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Learning from the past: Schools that thrived during the lean years


In 2014, the Auburn Center for the Study of Theological Education published Through Toil and Tribulation: Financing Theological Education 2001-2011, an analysis by Anthony T. Ruger and Chris A. Meinzer of revenue and spending of theological schools during a period that encompassed the Great Recession as well as declining levels of formal religious affiliation. The fifth in a series of studies of revenue in theological education, this report told a tale of hard times and the ways in which some schools were able to strengthen their financial position in spite of a poor economy and changing religious environment, and it outlined best practices in the institutions and leaders who saw improvements during these years.

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An American icon that fell victim to the “competency trap”

The New York Times has run an obituary of sorts for Xerox, the American corporation that is merging with Japanese behemoth Fujifilm Holdings. The company prospered and innovated for decades, but then they began to fall behind. What lessons could we in theological education learn from their example? 

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Small religious colleges are struggling



A recent Religion News Service article chronicles the struggles of small religious colleges, saying that lacking substantial endowments, many are teetering on a financial cliff.

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When do you declare a state of emergency?

What is "financial exigency"? This is one of those phrases a board would rather avoid, even when declaring financial exigency is the responsible next step for a school in trouble. 

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