Midwestern Seminary and Spurgeon College announced today (May 26) its intention to reopen its on-campus classes and be fully operational for the fall semester. In light of sensitivities to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local government social distancing measures, that reopening will look slightly different than it has over the school’s 63-year history.
According to President Jason Allen, an initiative, known as Residential Plus, will be implemented for the fall semester. Under the plan, an innovative new platform will be introduced that combines world-class residential lectures with cutting-edge technology, resulting in one of the most flexible class experiences available.
Additionally, Allen noted that student, faculty, and staff safety is of paramount importance, and measures will be in place to not only meet but exceed public health guidelines.
“Our ambition to have residential classes this fall has never changed,” Allen said, “But we’ve deliberated significantly about how we can ensure the learning experience is safe from a public health standpoint and is also delivered with excellence regardless of what COVID-19 may throw at us.
On the safety front, Allen shared that Midwestern Seminary and Spurgeon College are taking steps, like extensive cleaning and implementing social distancing policies on campus, that students and their families would expect to be in place so that students can study in a safe environment.
In addition to safety, Allen said Residential Plus offers flexibility. He explained that a main question asked in the planning process was, “How do we adjust if COVID-19 spikes this fall or inhibits residential instruction in some way?”
“This fall we hope against that,” Allen said. “But we do anticipate the need to have an institutional dial that we can turn based upon what public health guidance and city and national officials are telling us about residential education.
The schools’ desire, Allen shared, is that every class takes place and that every student is able to attend those classes in person on campus this fall, “but if COVID-19 spikes, then we can seamlessly turn the dial, so to speak, and respond to that—delivering those classes live and interactively.”
Allen emphasized, “Regardless of what COVID-19 throws at us, ministry is too important. Ministry preparation is too urgent not to be strategic during this season. At Midwestern Seminary and Spurgeon College, we’re being strategic, and we want our students back in the classroom training and preparing for their ministry calling.”
One other aspect considered by the schools’ administration when developing Residential Plus was the individual student’s comfort level and health considerations when it comes to social-distancing guidelines.
Allen explained that Midwestern Seminary and Spurgeon College will be understanding and sensitive in this area. He said, “After consulting with their professor(s), if a student doesn’t feel comfortable coming to class due to social distancing or individual health concerns, he or she can still take the class as normal via live, interactive delivery.”
John Mark Yeats, dean of students, noted that Residential Plus enables the fall semester to launch with a semblance of normalcy, but “with a modified structure that enables us to reduce physical class sizes and enhance the ‘new normal’ of digital classroom engagement.” He added that this hybrid model enables synchronous (or live presentation) class meetings during the normally scheduled class times.
These capabilities, Yeats acknowledged, are the best way to keep all of Midwestern Seminary and Spurgeon College’s students involved and pursuing their God-called theological education. He said, “We know this fall may be a bit different than what we are all used to, but it will be an incredible opportunity to show our students how much we care about their health and safety while affording them the instruction and preparation necessary for serving in a lifetime of ministry.”
In the weeks ahead, Midwestern Seminary and Spurgeon College faculty will also undergo training measures to ensure they are prepared for students’ return to classes. Provost Jason Duesing shared that there will be some issues to work out in preparation for the fall; however, he’s confident the Midwestern Seminary community is up to the task.
“One of the great joys I’ve had while serving here is seeing the growth of innovation as a key facet of the Midwestern Seminary mindset,” Duesing said. “From deans to faculty, there is a readiness to climb the next mountain and find new ways to do so ‘for the church.’ This mindset is vital for the present and future of Christian higher education—and Residential Plus is a fine example of that.”
Duesing also noted that while both schools’ on-campus experience will be slightly different this fall, Midwestern Seminary and Spurgeon College’s Online Studies Department is not impacted by Residential Plus and will continue business-as-usual.
The bottom line, according to Allen, is that “students can register for fall on-campus classes with confidence”—knowing that Midwestern Seminary and Spurgeon College are prepared for them and able to adapt to virtually any scenario.
To register for classes at Midwestern Seminary or Spurgeon College, visit www.mbts.edu/fall2020.
This article was originally published by Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary at mbts.edu