LSTC’s Board Discusses Future Strategic Planning and Innovative Learning

February 26, 2024

At its February 15 board meeting, the LSTC board of directors met for a fruitful discussion about the seminary’s educational and operational future. The meeting set the stage for an array of forward-looking discussions and decisions that stand to redefine the seminary’s trajectory in the coming years.

In President James Nieman’s opening remarks, he reported on the upcoming accreditation visits from the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) and the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), and the status of Project Starling, LSTC’s new asynchronous learning initiative. Regarding the accreditation visits, Nieman noted that they mark a critical role in the seminary’s future and that preparation for ATS and HLC are in full swing, with draft reports and focused sessions underway underscoring LSTC’s readiness for the esteemed accrediting bodies’ evaluations.

President Nieman also updated the board on the status of LSTC’s new Project Starling initiative, sharing that the Operations Team is engaged in weekly meetings to support a successful launch. Currently, the team’s efforts are concentrated on creating and posting a crucial instructional designer role and planning for Phase 1 of the initiative, which will focus on meeting the needs of TEEM and SAM learners through distance learning modalities. Project Starling aims to shifts the seminary towards a modern, flexible learning model that accommodates diverse range of educational needs and audiences.

The board also reviewed the seminary’s financial status, as presented by by LSTC’s Vice President of Finance and Operations Richard Vivian, and they received a proposed strategic plan initiative presentation from Pastor Erik Christensen who oversees strategic initiative planning at LSTC. 

The plan outlines four strategic initiatives: asynchronous education, the philanthropic campaign, policy review, and strategic staffing. The board aims to provisionally approve the strategic plan by May 2024, underscoring the seminary’s proactive approach to long-term goals and while also taking immediate action steps. This plan involves the identification of leaders for the initiatives, shaping a five-year vision with annual objectives, and establishing a robust annual review process.

Goff, Chairperson and point of contact for board queries, is set to collaborate closely with President Nieman and Pastor Christensen, ensuring that the four strategic initiatives receive the necessary board input and refinement before finalization. 

In committee reports Harry Mueller, chair of the Finance and Operations Committee, referred to the presentation and report from Richard Vivian.

Bridget Jones, chair of the Governance Committee, highlighted the ongoing recruitment efforts for board members, focusing on Northern Illinois, Western Iowa, and Nebraska synods. A proactive approach to committee chair  and officer succession and onboarding was suggested, possibly involving bylaw amendments to formalize the process.

Maryjeanne Schaffmeyer, chair of the Marketing & Fundraising committee, recommended that John Kotovsky be appointed to serve on the Foundation Board of Trustees, which the board approved.

Finally, the Academics & Community committee, led by Kristi Ferguson, addressed faculty housing benefits, and updated admissions enrollment, setting the stage for a full report in the May board meeting.

As LSTC moves towards its 164th commencement and beyond, these developments underscore a period of transformation and commitment to nurturing a community of faith that is responsive to the evolving landscape of theological education.

For more in-depth information on the board’s report and strategic initiatives, visit www.lstc.edu/board.

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