April 28, 2016—Columbia Theological Seminary President Leanne Van Dyk announced the creation of a new leadership position this week, Vice President of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. Dr. Van Dyk further announced the appointment of current Executive Vice President and Dean of Faculty Deborah Flemister Mullen to serve in the new role. As part of the new leadership position, Dr. Mullen will create, plan, and implement comprehensive strategies to impact the culture of the Columbia Seminary campus.
Dr. Mullen will transition from her role as Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty this summer. She will then be on sabbatical from summer 2016 to summer 2017, at which time she will return to take up the new role. The Board of Trustees has authorized the formation of a search committee for a new academic dean, with plans to appoint an interim dean in process.
“This appointment is a bold step forward because of the vital priority that intercultural leadership and diversity are for our community, the church, and the world,” said Columbia Seminary President Leanne Van Dyk. “I am thrilled that Deb Mullen feels called to this new opportunity. I am looking forward to working with her on these goals.”
In her own comments, Dr. Mullen stated, “Throughout recent transitions, I have encouraged everyone to realize that we are here, ‘For such a time as this!’ We must continue to be aware of the moment in which we serve appreciating the great progress made in recent years, yet still reaching for further growth and development toward the ‘Beloved Community’ God calls us to be.”
“Deb Mullen’s leadership has been invaluable for so many of our core efforts,” noted Rev. Dr. Tom Walker, Chair of Columbia’s Board of Trustees and pastor at the Palms Presbyterian Church in Jacksonville Beach, FL. “It is my hope that this change broadens her impact throughout the community to realize a new level of formation for our students and the Church beyond.”
Dr. Mullen was the first African American woman to hold the position of chief academic officer at any of the ten seminaries of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Since her arrival at Columbia Theological Seminary in late 2010, she has led the faculty in curriculum and accreditation reviews including the development of a quality enhancement plan (QEP). Dr. Mullen has also engaged in the development of strategic partnerships with Presbyterian theological institutions in South Korea, Ghana, Kenya, and South Africa. In her time at Columbia Theological Seminary, she also served as Acting President for several months after then-President Steve Hayner was diagnosed with cancer.
During her tenure, 11 faculty were appointed during Dr. Mullen’s term in office. More than half of these recent hires are people of color representing what is becoming the “emerging majority” in the United States, including voices from around the world:
Faculty of color now constitute about 40% of the faculty, with similar growth among staff and students.
In addition to her roles as Executive Vice President and Dean of Faculty, Dr. Mullen is also Associate Professor of American Christianity and Black Church Studies. Her work actively engages the ongoing debates in American religion and civil society surrounding race, sexuality and social justice. In the academic field, she has focused on the creation and leading of graduate theological education curriculum that prepares religious leaders for ministries throughout the world and promotes growth in academic institutions.
Dr. Mullen received a B.A. from the University of Rochester in 1972, a M.Div. from Colgate Rochester Divinity School/Bexley Hall/Crozer Theological Seminary in 1982, and a Ph.D. from The Divinity School at the University of Chicago in 2003. She was ordained in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in 1983 and served as the Interim/Stated Supply Pastor for Trinity Emmanuel Presbyterian Church during 1983-1987. In 1987 she moved to the University of Rochester where she became the Associate Dean of Students and Director of Minority Student Affairs during 1987-1989. She also taught there as a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Religious and Classical Studies. Mullen served as the Dean of Masters Level Programs and the Associate Professor of Ministry and Historical Studies at McCormick Theological Seminary during 1989-2010. Here she also served as the Founding Director of the Center for African American Ministries and Black Church Studies.
Columbia Theological Seminary “exists to educate and nurture faithful, imaginative, and effective leaders for the sake of the Church and the world.” As an educational institution of the Presbyterian Church (USA), Columbia is a community of theological inquiry and formation for ministry in the service of the Church of Jesus Christ. Columbia offers seven graduate degree programs and dozens of courses and events as a resource for church professionals and lay people through the Center for Lifelong Learning. For more information, please visit www.CTSnet.edu.
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