In May, the city of New Brighton approved the sale of United's campus to Global Academy. With the move approaching, President Lew Zeidner and Dean Kyle Roberts have come together to answer a few questions about United's academics, being in an urban setting, and the challenges and opportunities of relocating to St. Paul.
Kyle: So, Lew, as we anticipate moving to a new context in urban St. Paul from suburb in New Brighton, what do you see as the opportunities, and the challenges as well, for the training of our students for ministry in this new setting?
Lew: My hope for the new space is that it will allow several things in addition to our good academic work. It will create a smaller, more intimate space, which will allow us to interact with the community more actively internally. And then, we'll also be in a more active urban setting, which will allow us to engage our neighbors and other organizations in the community more effectively. Those in combination with our tried and true academic programs will allow our students to have both the academic side and the practice side all together.
Lew: So, one of the questions that I know I've heard is, how much can students expect the academic program to change as a result of the move. What are your thoughts about that?
Kyle: Yeah, and that's a really good question. I think the first thing I'd say is the faculty is working on a curriculum alignment process, and so we're just making sure that the curriculum that we're offering students is predictable. It's coherent. It makes sense, and it's not changing all the time on a dime. That the outcomes that we set for our students we're able to achieve for them. At the same time, the new setting will provoke new questions. Context will raise new conversations, fresh connections to different organizations, and churches. So, there could be new courses that emerge as a result– I imagine – of being in that new setting, maybe even new programs or concentrations that come about because of new partnerships. So, there will some changes. I anticipate those will be very positive changes for our students.
Lew: Great. Another question that's come up frequently is, because we're moving into an urban setting, do we anticipate that we're going to be training students for urban-setting ministries as opposed to rural settings? What are your thoughts there?
Kyle: Yeah, just as we've been in New Brighton, a number of our students have gone into urban ministry, even as we move into an urban context, a number of our students will be going into rural settings, and a lot of the challenges and opportunities are similar across different contexts. We won't be training students exclusively for any one or the other of the contexts, but we will be providing an education that enables them to do contextual ministry, wherever they end up. But, again, the context will be exciting, and enlivening, and create some really good opportunities for us.
Kyle: What would you say to people who may be anxious or just not sure what to think about our move to a new place?
Lew: That's a good question. I know I'm excited. I'm excited about the opportunity. I'm excited about what it allows us to do as an institution and the training of chaplains and ministers. I think anxiety is a natural part of change, and the move will create change, but I'm confident that we will retain the core essence that has been United and its good qualities.