Interview with Dr. Rodger Y. Nishioka
Benton Family Associate Professor of Christian Education
A committee of faculty and staff have worked for three years to bring about the most significant changes for the seminary’s curriculum in nearly 30 years. The new curriculum launches with the academic year 2014-15 beginning in July. Following the second full year of the new curriculum, the faculty will assess what changes need to be made both in the near and the long term. Vantage magazine sat down with committee chair Dr. Rodger Nishioka to learn more.
Vantage: Rodger, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule. I suppose the first thing most people will want to know is: what do these new curriculum changes offer our students?
Rodger: Thank you for this opportunity to share what we’re doing! This was definitely an important exercise in re-examining the needs of our students, so an important thing which came up again and again is “flexibility.” Overall, there are changes to the schedule which will allow greater flexibility for all students, but especially MDiv students who come here from denominations other than the PCUSA. This curriculum acknowledges the fact that our student body is becoming increasingly diverse ethnically and denominationally.
There are also less required courses and more electives. This helps us seize pedagogical opportunities afforded to faculty and students by the Broyles Leadership Center and the new ways students are learning. It allows more options for commuter students and others who are trying to organize around other important things happening in their lives.
Additionally, the new calendar aligns Columbia Seminary more closely to the ITC and Emory calendars allowing for easier cross-registration.
Vantage: How do the new changes reflect our Quality Enhancement Plan of “educating imaginative, resilient leaders for God’s changing world”?
Rodger: The changes very much embed the seminary’s Quality Enhancement Plan into the MDiv curriculum, and frame the course of study with action and reflection to start and close their particular journey at Columbia Seminary. We hope to prepare students, not just for ministry in today’s context, but the kind of contexts they may face in the future. We need to recognize change as events unfold and meet them together.
We want to privilege the practice of ministry and the integration of theory and practice in a new way. This enables students to study and experience a more holistic understanding of the Bible and the Church. One way we accomplish this is by scheduling internships simultaneously with classes, so that students are making direct connections between what they are learning and what they are doing.
The new schedule also supports a more consistent faculty advisor-student relationship and helps develop a deeper mentoring relationship between faculty and student.
Vantage: So what do these changes say about the values of Columbia Seminary?
Rodger: On one hand, we’re still holding on to Hebrews 13, right? Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. On the other hand, ministry is not always the same. Our call hasn’t changed, but our context has. We’re looking for ways to continue living faithfully in a way that produces a sustainable model of church. Rather than looking backward to “the great day of the Church,” we want to stand on the rich tradition we have and move forward into the future. Welcoming modern technology, yet still affirming that we are embodied souls who meet and learn in community. Holding all of this together is what we value.
This article is a sneak preview from the spring issue of Vantage magazine already available online! To see the full version of “Spiritual Pioneers,” please visit our website at: http://www.ctsnet.edu/vantage?id=38