Board of Directors Meeting for Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago Highlights Strategic Direction and New Initiatives

The May 2024 board of directors meeting underscored LSTC’s commitment to strategic growth, addressing current challenges, and enhancing its educational offerings through innovative initiatives. This meeting, which took place from May 19-21, opened with a call-to-order by Greg Lewis, vice-chairperson of the board, followed by devotions led by board member Janette Schumm.

President James Nieman began the meeting reporting about the campus evaluation by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) regarding the assessment of our campus relocation and, more importantly, the comprehensive evaluation report since 2019. Results of this report are very positive but cannot be specifically shared until the HLC Commission acts upon the report in summer 2024.

President Nieman then presented about Project Starling, the seminary’s innovative program aimed at enhancing LSTC’s educational offerings through an asynchronous learning platform and its distinctive resources. Nieman’s update included the announcement of a new vendor, Noodle, who will support faculty with the development and design of course content. President Nieman also shared a detailed timeline for the project, which is set to launch specific products in early 2025.

Looking ahead, an all-campus kickoff event for the launch of our faculty’s work with Noodle was scheduled for Tuesday, 2 July, at 11:00am. This virtual meeting will last for about one hour and introduce faculty and staff to key support persons with Noodle. In the coming months, LSTC will begin developing asynchronous offerings, marking a significant step forward in its mission to provide inclusive, flexible theological education to a global audience.

Strategic Plan 2024-2029

Erik Christensen, pastor to the community and director of strategic initiatives, presented the seminary’s updated strategic plan, designed to guide LSTC’s growth and development over the next five years. The plan takes effect on July 1, 2024, and runs through June 30, 2029, aligning with LSTC’s evolving mission, vision, and dynamic context. Emphasizing diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice, the plan outlines four primary initiatives: (1) Asynchronous Learning, (2) Philanthropic Campaign, (3) Policy Review, and (4) Staffing Strategy, each selected for their potential to drive substantial growth and transformation at LSTC. According to Christensen, these initiatives will enable the school to navigate future challenges and opportunities, ensuring our continued leadership in theological higher education. The board approved the plan with revisions, and its progress will be reviewed during the August 2024 online meeting.

Revising the Mission Statement

The board also focused on revising LSTC’s mission statement and participated in an exercise to help stimulate ideas. Board members and advisors discussed the effectiveness of the current mission, vision, and values, and identified areas for improvement. A task force will be appointed to collect data and develop a proposed new statement, which will be reported back to the board in November 2024.

Admissions Enrollment, Student Services, and New Positions

During the board meeting, Cassandra Olivier, director of admissions, presented her report of key statistics and future plans for LSTC. For fall 2024, the institution expects to welcome a comparable number of incoming students to fall 2023, with a demographic breakdown of 10 white students and 12 BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) students. Although this represents a slight decrease in overall enrollment compared to last year, it signifies a positive increase in the diversity of the student body and a higher proportion of BIPOC students. Additionally, LSTC is poised to expand its reach through the upcoming asynchronous learning platform, set to launch in early 2025. This innovative platform will facilitate the enrollment of TEEM (Theological Education for Emerging Ministries) and SAM (Synodically Authorized Ministry) candidates, broadening the institution’s impact and accessibility in theological education.

In order to support international students and our commitments to intersectionality, the work of the Pero Center will be supported by Marvis Hardy serving in the role of International Student Services and Pero Center for Intersectionality Studies Coordinator. Additionally, efforts are being made to improve communication with student services and address issues such as student employment, debt, and security.

Approved Board Actions

Several significant actions were approved across various committees that reflect our commitment to academic excellence, transparency, and recognition of contributions. The Academics and Community Committee recommended and secured approval for the promotion of Dr. Marvin Wickware to the rank of Associate Professor, affirmed the appointment of Dr. Linda Thomas as Dean and Vice President of Academic Affairs, approved Dr. Mark Swanson’s sabbatical proposal, and reappointed Dr. Candace Kohli for a second three-year term as Assistant Professor of Lutheran Systematic Theology and Global Lutheranism. The Audit Committee’s recommendation to approve the Audit Engagement letter with Baker Tilly for the fiscal year 2025 was also affirmed. Finally, the Marketing and Fundraising Committee was affirmed in renaming a new chair in scripture studies that honors both Rev. Herbert W. Chilstrom and honors the gift of Mr. Thomas F. Bickley to support th study of New Testament manuscripts, a chair now to be known as the Bickley – Chistrom Chair in New Testament Studies.

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