Progress report on Trinity Lutheran Seminary/Capital Reunion | Capital University, Columbus Ohio


    • Latest Update: Trinity Lutheran Seminary-Capital Resurgence

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      June 16, 2017

      Dear Colleagues, 

      Our work toward reconnecting Trinity Lutheran Seminary with Capital University is challenging. It takes constant effort, ingenuity, and adaptation. Loss and grief are felt. And grace is needed, all around.

      Our commitment and goal are clear: The Seminary will have a sustainable model for continuing and thriving. The world needs us.

      Two weeks ago, I was inspired by a conversation with the Region 6 Bishops who expressed – unequivocally – their steadfast support of our work, their respect for and understanding of the challenges and pain of necessary change, and their belief that the opportunities our work opens are vital. And I am heartened by the continuing support of Bishop Elizabeth Eaton who shares the vision for rejuvenation of the Seminary, Church, and the world.

      Recent Progress
      Significant positive progress has been achieved in the last week.

      Building on the authorization of the Trinity Board of Directors at its May meeting to continue toward resurgence, the Capital University Board of Trustees at its June 11-12 meeting reevaluated this initiative and again committed to the goal of reconnecting Trinity Lutheran Seminary with Capital University. The Board actions followed full review of stringent due diligence, careful consideration of financial and legal risk analyses, and a vigorous strategic discussion.

      Stephen Graham, Senior Director of Programs and Services at the Association of Theological Schools (ATS), participated in part of Capital’s Board meeting, sharing data on trends in seminary education, preliminary findings from the vast Educational Models and Practices in Theological Education study, and observations about opportunities opened by our collaboration.

      On Monday, we received notification that ATS approved our petition for the continuation of Trinity Lutheran Seminary as part of Capital University. Importantly, the ATS approval also stated that the sustainable business model created through the resurgence fulfills the ATS requirement that the Seminary file a report on its ability to maintain financial equilibrium.

      The Higher Learning Commission team visited June 8 and 9 and commended the thoroughness of our application, as well as the thoughtful engagement of many throughout the Trinity and Capital community. I share below a summary of the visiting team’s oral observations; their official report will be received in a few weeks. Their concluding observations summarize well where we are in our complex process and the next important steps we must take together:

      1. Define the Capital and TLS integrated team. Meet regularly, with a facilitator, to achieve integration. 
      2. Clarify organizational restructuring. Revise the organizational chart, outlining roles and functions from July 1 through December 31, 2017, and from January 1, 2018, on. 
      3.  Create a place on the website to post defining and updating documents.
      4.  Define the role, structure, and reporting line of the TLS Advisory Board that will be created as of January 1, 2018.
      5. Describe the strategic planning process for the University and detail how the plan with address TLS. 
      6. Define how TLS will be incorporated into Capital’s organizational and governance structure.
      7.  Align and integrate policies throughout the institution.
      8. Address a plan for TLS dean appointment (interim, permanent).
      9. Outline each degree program and requirements. Develop a full accounting of each program, with current student enrollments. Define a curriculum plan that meets the requirements of core degree programs and a full- and part-time faculty plan that supports curriculum requirements within the ATS-recommended student-faculty ratio parameters.

      Next Steps
      Integrating supports and systems
      Thank you for all efforts to date to learn together and define how best to continue Trinity’s mission through integrated operations. A basic framework has been structured. Now, more detailed collaborative work needs to fill out the framework, so that our aligned missions don’t just continue but are strengthened.

      It is time to define more united leadership for this advancing work. Our shared commitment to our students must unite us in collaborating constructively to ensure their support, learning, development, and success.

      To achieve these goals, I have appointed a work group including staff from all areas responsible for student-impacting functions. This work group will be led by a steering team composed of Assistant Vice President for Enrollment Services Susan Kannenwischer (Chair), National Recruiter for Seminary Admissions Kayla Aspeslagh, and Dean of Students Jennie Smith. This group will meet weekly to ensure that we are defining and creating a sound model for supporting our students and the fulfillment of our core mission.

      Academic Dean Brad Binau and Senior Associate Provost Terry Lahm will continue to work with faculty to define (a) a curriculum plan that meets the requirements of sustainable degree programs, (b) a full- and part-time faculty plan that supports curriculum requirements within the ATS-recommended student-faculty ratio parameters, and (c) ideas to explore for advances in programs and activities that will enhance mission-fulfillment and attract inspired students.

      Provost Jody Fournier, and everyone in the Provost’s office, look forward to meeting with faculty to learn and get to know one another more fully, and to further explore how we can work together to enhance our academic and formation programs. Interdisciplinary program development and collaboration will be important to our combined, sustainable future together.

      Vice President for Advancement Jennifer Patterson will continue to work with Director of Development Chris Norman on fundraising, alumni engagement, and other outreach initiatives. Jennifer and I have both had wonderful conversations with Kim Hester, president of the TLS alumni organization, and we are planning some virtual discussion sessions later this summer to engage with alumni. Recently, I brought greetings to two Synod Assemblies. And I am preparing a video, at the request of the Region 6 Bishops, that they can put on their websites to help Region leaders understand the intentions of our work – a long, positive, thriving future for our Seminary.

      Vice President for Strategic Enrollment Management J.P. Spagnolo and the admission team will continue to advance Seminary recruitment and enrollment strategies, procedures, and systems. Our community draws such fascinating and wonderful students! Strategic Enrollment Management is a whole-university collaboration. Thank you, all, for being a positive partner to attract students and enhance their learning experiences.

      Director of Facilities Paul Matthews, will continue his work in coordinating facilities management, addressing deferred maintenance, and realizing environmental sustainability advances across all campuses.

      The role of University Pastor has been redefined with a university-wide scope of responsibilities and goals. The position will be posted next week. A search committee is being appointed now, under the leadership of Dr. Steve Bruning.

      And, a University Master Planning process is beginning in July and the university strategic planning process is rolling out in August, both of which will include Trinity.

      Dean Search
      To address the need for forward-moving leadership of the seminary, we will have two stages of leadership to move our institutions through transition and into a reunited, mission-focused whole:

      Interim President. With the August retirement of President Rick Barger just ahead, I am working with Church leadership through Jonathan Strandjord, the Director for Seminaries at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (and representative to Bishop Eaton), the Region 6 Bishops, and the TLS Board of Directors to define an interim leadership plan as the search for a Seminary dean continues. It is expected that an interim president will be appointed shortly.

      Dean Search. To continue the search for a dean to lead the seminary within the university, I am appointing a group to advise me:

      • Jody Fournier, Provost
      • John Karanja, Professor of Church History
      • Bill Gafkjen, Chair, Conference of Bishops; Bishop of ELCA Indiana-Kentucky Synod
      • Judy Leidy, TLS Board member
      • Gary Sandberg, Pastor, Bethany Lutheran Church, Cherry Hills Village, Colorado
      • Jonathan Strandjord, representative to Bishop Eaton, Director for Seminaries, ELCA

      And constituent input will be sought on candidates of interest. As the dean must be called by the ELCA, I will consult with Bishop Eaton, the Region 6 Bishops and the TLS board and will then make the final appointment.

      Now is the time we must all come together, focused on mission, with a spirit of goodwill and collaboration, to raise up the reunited University and Seminary to be a place of purpose in our world and for our students. Senior leadership and I are dedicated to collaborating with all to ensure that Capital and Trinity Lutheran Seminary thrive. Join us.

      Thank you.