On October 16, the first cohort of Nigerian students gathered in the city of Jos to begin their studies with Bethany Theological Seminary, making the new educational partnership between the Seminary and Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN) a reality. The group made a video connection via Zoom with faculty and staff on campus at Bethany.
Five women and four men comprise the cohort and have traveled to Jos for a three-week orientation. During this time they are receiving instruction to increase their proficiency in English, with class sessions being taught by five faculty members from the English and Linguistics Departments at the University of Jos. A second study course being offered is preparation for the Test of English as a Foreign Language, which international students must pass to be eligible for study at Bethany. This course is being taught in daily ninety-minute sessions by Mr. Dele Alabi, northern Nigeria administrator of the TOEFL. Students will take the exam on November 4, at the end of their orientation.
A third focus of the orientation period is an introduction to Bethany itself. For an hour each afternoon, the students are connecting with selected faculty and staff to receive information all Bethany students receive as well as information pertinent to their unique circumstance. Academic advising, accessing Earlham’s Lilly Library online, use of Bethany’s academic software platform, the semester timeline, syllabi, course expectations, research and writing, and Bethany’s partnerships with Earlham College and Earlham School of Religion are all covered. In addition to meeting Bethany employees, the students will connect with members of the board of trustees on October 27 as they gather for their fall meeting.
Amy Gall Ritchie, director of student development at Bethany, designed the orientation program for the students. “We cannot overstate how exciting it is to begin this educational partnership with the first cohort in Jos. To be in dialog with global partners expands our own understandings and pushes us past our assumptions, and the cultural exchange is timely. Thanks be to God.”
Ritchie is a member of the Seminary’s Nigeria Task Team, which has been working for months to arrange logistics of the educational program and oversee selection of students for the first cohort. Additional members of the task team are Dan Ulrich, Wieand Professor of New Testament Studies; Steven Schweitzer, academic dean; Mark Lancaster, executive director of institutional advancement; Musa Mambula, international scholar in residence; Lori Current, executive director of admissions and student services; and Bailey Schroeder, administrative assistant for admissions and student services.
Dan Ulrich is team teaching the cohort’s first course in January 2018—Global Perspectives on Scripture: 1 Corinthians—with Pandang Yamsat, chief executive director of the Center for Value and Attitudinal Reawakening. A New Testament scholar, Yamsat recently retired from the faculty of the Theological College of Northern Nigeria.
During the first week of November, Ulrich and Musa Mambula will join the cohort in Jos as they complete their orientation. In addition to interviewing each student, a standard part of Bethany’s admissions process, Ulrich will be joined by Mambula in leading a discussion about theological diversity and expansive language, a topic the task team thought could best happen face-to-face.
Ulrich will also help students prepare for the January intensive course, assisting them in accessing course documents online. There are additional issues regarding the availability of textbooks—“some of the complications of teaching students in both Nigeria and the United States at the same time,” says Ulrich. A commentary on 1 Corinthians published in the United States will not be available in time for Nigerian students to purchase in Jos. Similarly, Pandang Yamsat’s commentary on 1 Corinthians is difficult for American students to get. While traveling to and from Nigeria, Ulrich plans to carry copies of each commentary to the respective student groups that need them.
The start of class in January will also mark the opening of the new technology center in Jos, where all future sessions and classes with Nigerian students will be held. Groundbreaking for the facility took place in July 2017, and it is expected to be completed by early December. Similar to technology at Bethany, cameras will allow each student to be seen individually on a screen in the Richmond, Indiana, classroom, just as North American students will be seen in Jos. At least ten Bethany students are expected to join the Nigerian cohort for this unique course, to be conducted in real time.
Photos of the construction process can be seen by following the link on www.bethanyseminary.edu/EYNPartner. Information about a dedication ceremony for the new facility in January will be available at www.bethanyseminary.edu/webcasts.