Joanne Sanders has spent much of her career in higher education. Working as the Associate Dean for Religious Life at Stanford University in California, her work encompasses a mission to guide, nurture and enhance spiritual and religious life within the university community.
Looking to explore and deepen her own leadership, Joanne appreciated the opportunity the School of Theology and Ministry offered to pursue a Doctor of Ministry degree while maintaining her job at Stanford. The Doctor of Ministry degree created a path that would allow Joanne to integrate her own research, academic interests, and passions into a vocational context as a religious leader in higher education. “I am also deeply appreciative of Seattle University’s strong commitment to Jesuit education, which is so aligned with my own values and experiences from an academic and religious perspective,” Joanne adds.
For Joanne, the Doctor of Ministry degree would further strengthen and deepen her expertise and credibility, while providing a way to remain actively engaged in theological and religious education.
“I specifically chose a DMin rather than a Ph.D. because of the contextual, integrated, and interdisciplinary learning and leadership that I wanted to engage and explore at this point in my career,” Joanne explains. “A Doctor of Ministry will help create possibilities for more advanced roles in higher education and beyond.”
In addition to academics and career paths, Joanne’s sense of spiritual and religious leadership has been uniquely strengthened through her time at the School of Theology and Ministry. She explains, “It is validating and encouraging all at the same time as we work to help others flourish and live whole lives. I have gained much confidence in leadership and my own ability to authentically bring my whole self into the work I do at Stanford. This growth has made me a more grounded and empathic leader as well.” She also has found her classes to be relevant to those working in a wide range of fields, and she appreciates the depth and breadth of religious leadership training in a secular environment.
Joanne sees the School of Theology and Ministry as an institution that will transform and transcend people’s expectations. She reminds others, “In the midst of full lives, there will be times when you wonder whether or not you can do this. You can, and you will be deeply enriched by the commitment and diligence you encounter not only within yourself, but those around you. You have chosen a place that will illuminate the relevance and need for thoughtful spiritual and religious leadership, which is so essential to our future as a global and human community.”
Although he is officially retired, Larry Walls, student in the School of Theology and Minstry’s Doctor of Ministry program, is a life-long learner. After a 25 year career as a Naval Officer in the Submarine Force (during which he completed a BA in business), Larry retired from the Navy and began working as a volunteer chaplain at Harrison Medical Center in Bremerton. He eventually took over as Head Chaplain, which brought him to the School of Theology and Ministry for the first time. He completed a Master of Divinity degree at the school in 2013, and upon leaving his position as Head Chaplain, was unsure what his next step in life would be. However, as Larry describes it, the Doctor of Ministry Degree chose him, and he joined the very first cohort of Doctor of Ministry candidates.
Larry was attracted to the diversified student body and staff, and has found it to be a rich opportunity to learn from others of different faith traditions and theological backgrounds. However, opening himself up to other belief systems proved to be difficult for him at times. When he began at the school, Larry was steeped in the learning of his own tradition. Others had warned him of the possibility that he would be swayed by a “liberal school.” He decribes himself as arriving with his fists balled up, ready to fight off any attempt to move him from the dogma of his beliefs. He recounts a moment of transformation when one of his professors looked at him and said, “Larry, unclench your fist!” Larry says this was just what he needed to hear in order to allow himself to learn and grow in the rich and transformative environment that the school offers.
Larry hopes to continue to use his doctoral studies to serve other communities. He believes that a study of theology at the lay level of churches could prove to be transformative in moving church communities into the future.
Larry sees the School of Theology and Ministry as a place for students to deconstruct what they know so that they can then reconstruct with new insights. His hope for future students is that they will come ready to be challenged and learn, so that by the end of their studies, they too can hold their traditions, beliefs, and practices in their hands as an empowered choice.
Vicki Jo Farley found herself at the School of Theology and Ministry because of a desire to work in the area of spiritual formation and end-of-life care. After completing her Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies degree at the School of Theology and Ministry, Vicki focused on her career and gained experience in the field while completing continuing education courses to become a board-certified chaplain. With a desire to continue her education and ministerial leadership development, she chose to pursue the Doctor of Ministry program because of its flexibility in on-campus and online courses.
With a passion for growing her spirituality, Vicki envisions this degree aiding in a career of spiritual care and formation. Vicki reflects that the classes offered at the School of Theology and Ministry are practical and challenging. “The classes brought together the strength I have in my religious voice and how to use it in different social contexts and the public square.”
She continues, “These classes have expanded my horizons regarding how I engage patients as they come to the end of life. I am cognizant of their social context and the Gospel values they have experienced both positively and negatively. I have used the concept of restorative justice in helping them reconcile relationships.”
Vicki has experienced personal growth throughout the program, and is looking at spiritual formation at the seminary level to guide others on their spiritual path. “I have found my voice and am using it to engage patients and families around relationships, justice, and what they value in the Gospel of their choosing.”
Scott Anderson’s longstanding relationship with the School of Theology and Ministry traces back long before he decided to pursue the Doctor of Ministry degree. With each experience and interaction, Scott was drawn more deeply into the mission and vision of the school, becoming more convinced of the richness of its ecumenical vision and in-depth scholarship around questions of leadership and spirituality. When the School of Theology and Ministry developed a Doctor of Ministry degree program, he says, “The choice was easy.”
In his time at the School of Theology and Ministry, Scott has valued the school’s big-hearted community that is religiously, socially, economically, sexually, and racially diverse. Describing himself as “a person who is privileged by just about every standard,” he has appreciated the opportunity to grow in his understanding of privilege among a community of such grace. He hopes it is making him a better disciple of the Christian Way, and an agent for justice and reconciliation in the world.
One lesson Scott has learned from his professor, Dr. Lê Xuân Hý, speaks to the challenge of developing an understanding across cultural divides. Dr. Lê Xuân Hý taught how the diversity within is bigger than the diversity between. For Scott this meant, “We share far more as humans than we have differences. Paying attention to our similarities enable us to draw insight and strength from what makes us different.”
Scott’s education and church leadership continually impact one another. The school has connected Scott with a community of people working for justice. Many of his colleagues are also graduates of the School of Theology and Ministry. Together, they are engaged in developing non-profits closely partnered with churches to address questions of homelessness.
In addition, his experience as a pastor guides the questions he asks in his academic work, and he uses what he has learned in class to address current church issues. Scott has recently added some teaching roles that are a direct result of the completion of his degree. He has also used his studies to help his congregation and denomination understand and navigate the seismic changes that all churches and institutions are currently facing.
Scott says his experience has convinced him that we need new ways of being that recognize, and then strengthen, our deep connections without losing what is unique and extraordinary about each of us. He adds:
“The School of Theology and Ministry, more than any educational institution I have encountered, is engaged in pioneering theological formation that prepares leaders and their institutions for the rapidly shifting landscape we are all trying to navigate.”