Bethany Theological Seminary’s fall semester has begun with the largest group of new students in a number of years. Sixteen are beginning studies at Bethany for the first time, and four alumni with graduate certificates from the Seminary are returning for a degree. Program enrollment includes five in the MDiv, three in the MA, seven in certificates, and five in the new Master of Arts: Theopoetics and Writing. Two occasional students have also enrolled. Thirteen students are from the Church of the Brethren, with Lutheran, Quaker, Universalist-Unitarian, Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN), and Evangelical Church Winning All (Nigeria) traditions also represented.
The new student group includes five Nigerians through Bethany’s educational partnership with EYN. They are part of the first Nigerian cohort to enter an academic program at Bethany, the Certificate in Biblical Peacemaking. Developed with the interests of EYN members in mind, this certificate can be completed entirely at a distance. Their first course was the August intensive Gospel of Peace, cotaught by Dan Ulrich, Wieand Professor of New Testament Studies at Bethany, and Nyampa Kwabe, an Old Testament scholar on the faculty at the Theological College of Northern Nigeria. Kwabe joined the students in the city of Jos and connected to the Bethany campus by synchronous video. He is currently the Seminary’s international scholar in residence for the fall semester.
Ulrich says that a valuable part of the students’ experience is the interaction of people with different perspectives and that having the collaboration of Kwabe as a Nigerian was personally important to him. Their different teaching styles were complementary, and Kwabe contributed a new emphasis on covenant that enhanced the course a great deal. “Students in North America are challenged to think about their concept of peace in light of the violence that Nigerian students have witnessed and experienced,” Ulrich said. Eight Nigerians and seven enrolled at the Bethany campus, including two auditors, took the course.
Bethany’s Pillars and Pathways Residency Scholarship program is full to capacity this fall with twelve students. A cooperative effort between the student and the Seminary, the scholarship gives recipients the opportunity to complete their seminary studies without incurring additional educational or consumer debt. In addition to maintaining eligibility for the Academic Excellence Scholarship, the recipients commit to living in the Bethany Neighborhood, engaging in group reflection and campus activities, volunteering in the Richmond area, earning a set amount through employment and/or work study, and living within their means. As the program continues to grow, Bethany is pursuing options for additional housing near campus.