The Fuller faculty recently approved the largest curricular change in the school’s history. Pending accreditor approval, we are planning to offer a new version of the Master of Divinity (MDiv) starting in Fall 2014 and new versions of other master’s degrees in Fall 2015. In the articles accompanying this one (listed at right), our faculty describe the changes that were created by a team of professors under the exemplary leadership of Dr. Love Sechrest. The purpose of this introduction is to explain the rationale for the changes—in short, we did it because we listened to our graduates.
Students coming to Fuller want to become better Christians and better leaders. We built the updated curriculum around the discipleship practices it takes to become better Christians and the leadership practices it takes to lead as Christians (this goes beyond “leading Christians” because many of our graduates lead outside the church). There are three discipleship practices: worship and prayer practices (reflecting our stance toward God); community practices (reflecting our stance toward one another); and mission practices (reflecting our stance toward the world). Every Christian aims to grow in these practices.
There are four leadership practices: interpretative practices (especially interpreting Scripture); theological practices (especially understanding theology and how theology interprets life); ministry practices (how to minister in God’s name no matter where God plants you—not just as a pastor); and contextualization practices (how to connect your learning to specific cultures and contexts—including race, class, gender, and ethnicity). These three discipleship practices and four leadership practices interlock like threads of a fabric. We wove the curriculum out of these practices because our students tell us they want to be better Christians and better leaders.
#sectionStudents come to Fuller because they want to answer the call of God. But they often do not arrive knowing how to define that calling. So, we have built into the curriculum a required first course (called the Touchstone Course) that will help students understand the meaning of vocation, help them seek out their own vocation, investigate their gifts and deficits pertaining to that vocation, and help them make an educational plan to prepare them for that vocation.
Our graduates also asked us to be more explicit about integrative learning. They told us that they were happy with any particular course, but that they often had a hard time after graduating with integrating all the learning across the courses and using that learning in specific circumstances. So we created four required courses that emphasize integrative learning. The Touchstone course and one course on each of the discipleship practices will focus on integrating the curriculum.
And, finally, we listened to our students when they told us about accumulating too much debt. Supports that allowed students in the past to pay for their education have collapsed in recent years. Student debt is soaring—it has risen 50 percent among MDiv students in just three years. So we are easing the financial burden on students by reducing the number of units we require. We cannot saddle our graduates with so much debt that they cannot afford to exercise their vocations.
Why, then, did we change the curriculum? Because we listened to our graduates. We have focused on practices that make for better Christians and better leaders. We have highlighted vocation and built integrative courses. And we have eased the financial burden so that graduates can pursue those vocations.
The articles listed at right will explain more in depth how we are preparing generations of women and men to exercise their callings for the sake of the world.
Scott Cormode is academic dean, responsible for implementing the updated curriculum . . .