Below are answers to recent questions regarding the School of Theology and Ministry. This is a work in progress, please check back for updates.
The Board of Trustees passed a resolution closing the School of Theology and Ministry (STM) as a freestanding school and authorizing the university administration, in consultation with faculty, students, and other relevant stakeholders, to develop and implement a comprehensive transition and communication plan which will include the sunsetting of degree and certificate programs, integrating academic programs into existing university programs, and developing teach-out plans for affected academic programs.
Seattle University’s review of STM was an internal process carried out consistent with our system of shared governance and involved several key stakeholders, including the Working Group on Restructuring STM, Academic Assembly, Academic Assembly's Program Review Committee, Provost Martin, President Sundborg, the Academic Affairs Committee of the Board of Trustees, and the Board of Trustees. The university did not engage in direct outreach with external partners in this review. Going forward, the university will establish a transition committee to look at future opportunities for ministerial and faith formation and will consult with a broad range of stakeholders, including denominational partners, in this work.
STM has in fact been an early adopter of SU’s efforts to leverage technology to deliver academic programs, including attempting to create the university’s first fully operational “distance learning classroom” on campus.
The University has made significant investments in its Center for Digital Learning and Innovation which provides faculty with technology tools, resources and training on best practices for delivering a high quality and transformational Jesuit education online. However, the challenge for STM is that many other seminaries have been offering and perfecting fully online programs for several years. There is much competition and significant production costs exist in launching such efforts. Given national enrollment patterns for graduate theological education, it is unlikely that any effort by Seattle University to launch an online degree program would achieve the enrollment numbers needed to make the program financially viable.
Seattle University has generously supported the efforts by STM over the past two decades to adapt to the changing landscape of religious higher education. These efforts have attempted to build on the ecumenical and interfaith ethos that has made STM nationally distinct. The school has employed a number of strategies over the years, including creating new degree and certificate programs, developing continuing education resources, engaging in community outreach efforts (e.g., Search for Meaning Festival, Faith and Family Homelessness Initiative), establishing scholarship endowments, expanding its theological diversity and strengthening its commitment to include interfaith perspectives in classes and launching several marketing strategies.
Seattle University seeks to make all major decisions in alignment with Jesuit values and Ignatian teachings. As an independent university, both academic and financial elements necessarily play a significant role in our decision-making.
As noted above, SU’s review of STM was an internal process carried out consistent with our system of shared governance and involved several key stakeholders. Going forward, the university will establish a transition committee to look at future opportunities for ministerial and faith formation and will consult with a broad range of stakeholders in this work.
For the 2019-2020 academic year, Provost Martin convened a university-wide working group co-chaired by Dean Mark Markuly and Dr. Donna Teevan and charged it with making recommendations to re-envision the work of STM’s academic programs, and possibly even the restructuring of STM itself. At its April 30, 2020 meeting, the Board of Trustees voted to close STM as a freestanding school and authorized the university administration to develop and implement a comprehensive transition and communication plan, in consultation with faculty, students, and other relevant stakeholders. Beginning summer quarter 2020, STM formally ceased recruiting and enrolling new students in the professional ministry focused programs impacted by Board of Trustees’ decision.
The Working Group evaluated and considered a range of options as it developed its recommendations for the future of STM. The Board of Trustees made the decision to close STM as a standalone school based on the university’s recommendation. STM’s low enrollments and revenue losses over several years and the changing market for religious and ministerial education were important factors in this decision.
As stated above, the review of STM to date has been an internal process. The next step in the process will involve engagement with key stakeholders including students, alumni, donors and denominational reps.
$7m was the projected revenue loss of the university in Spring FY20. Most of the revenue loss came from residence halls and fees because of the actions taken in response to COVID-19. $1m was the operating margin loss of STM in FY19, when the total operating margin loss of the university was approximately $2m. In FY19 there were schools contributing positively or negatively to the operating margin of the university.
After 3 years of operating margin losses (FY18, FY19, FY20), the university has consumed part of its operating reserves and quasi-endowment to the point that a financial repositioning is required to minimize or eliminate operating margin losses over the next few years and strengthen its financial position. A five-year plan has been built to support this transition.
Seattle University funds its intercollegiate athletics program at no more than 5% of the university's annual budget. Division I Athletics draws to Seattle University hundreds of student athletes, managers, trainers and other involved students and is a key element of our student recruiting and retention strategies. In addition, intercollegiate athletics engages our alumni and supporters, cultivates school spirit, and contributes to our overall student experience. For these reasons, the pursuit of excellence in athletics is affirmed in the university’s strategic plan.
SU Athletics is committed to providing a holistic educational experience for our student-athletes so they can compete at the highest level on the field while excelling in the classroom. For Spring Quarter 2020, the cumulative GPA for all student-athletes was 3.56.
SU will review and consider the possibility of merging certain STM programs with academic programs in other SU schools and colleges. This work will be done in the coming months by the STM transition committee.
Yes, discussions at all phases of the review process included consideration of the broader impact of the School of Theology and Ministry. This impact made the necessary decision to close STM more difficult. Outreach to stakeholders in the broader community will be an important part of the university’s determination of its path forward in these areas.
STM’s legacy is its graduates, who have entered different areas of society with a vision of the human person and world that is broadly inclusive and committed to deep reflection, especially theological reflection. Alumni can continue this legacy in their on-going work as chaplains, religious leaders, and advocates in the community working for prison reform, an end to homelessness, an on-going re-imagination of the role of faith in promoting the common good, and the hard work of inspiring communities of faith to commit themselves to shared values. More concretely, alumni can continue the school’s tradition by remaining linked to each other and supporting one another’s commitments to a faith that does justice.
Universities are typically comprised of multiple academic units called schools or colleges. Besides STM, Seattle University has seven other schools and colleges: College of Arts and Sciences; College of Nursing; College of Science and Engineering; Albers School of Business and Economics; School of Law; College of Education; and School of New and Continuing Studies.
As part of STM’s transition, the university will consider the possibility of STM academic programs merging with programs in other schools and colleges.
There is no plan to open a new school or college at this time.
It is important for all academic programs including STM to align with Seattle University’s mission, vision and values. In addition, a program’s financial standing is another significant factor. As stated above, STM’s low enrollments and revenue losses over several years and the declining market for religious and ministerial education were important factors leading to the Board of Trustees’ decision.
SU will move forward with the STM transition consistent with our Jesuit values particularly in how we care for our students and aligned with the vision and goals outlined in our Strategic Directions for Seattle University 2020-2025: A Jesuit University of Distinction for a Time of Change.
Seattle University will continue to honor Archbishop Hunthausen in the building named for him and through the University’s most prestigious honor, the Hunthausen Award. The Hunthausen Award recognizes the outstanding undergraduate and graduate student and commends them for their service, leadership, academic excellence and pursuit of social justice within the University and global community.
The University’s work through the Institute for Catholic Thought & Culture, Center for Jesuit Education and Campus Ministry will also honor and carry forward Archbishop Hunthausen’s spirit and message.
SU is committed to community engagement and strengthening our relationships with our diverse neighbors and communities. In its final report, the Task Force on Diversity and Inclusive Excellence identified community engagement as one of the goals of an inclusive excellence action plan and described the University’s aspiration to “model to our students how to live, learn and grow in partnership with others and to become change agents for the common good.”
The Seattle University Youth Initiative is one of the University’s distinctive programs and focuses on uniting the University and the wider Seattle community to develop successful youth, thriving communities and an engaged neighborhood.
The University will continue to invest in providing service learning and community engagement opportunities for our students through the Center for Community Engagement, Office of Multicultural Affairs, Campus Ministry, Access to Justice Institute, Center for Leadership Formation, Center for Environmental Justice and Sustainability, Indigenous Peoples Institute and Center for Student Involvement.
SU recognizes the diversity of our educational community as an integral component of academic excellence. The voices of our students matter as we move forward with transitioning STM and building a Seattle University for the future. As part of the process of engaging with stakeholders and developing an STM transition plan, the University is committed to listening and learning from our Black students, students of color and LGBTQ students.