"Starr King School — the next generation." That's how I've been referring to the school's next phase of strategic growth and development.
Our abiding mission is clear: educating people for Unitarian Universalist ministries and for progressive religious leadership for society. Our modes for fulfilling that mission are being re-designed through a comprehensive process of evaluation and planning. Over the course of the next several months we will be refining our plans for a new approach to theological education and we expect to be able to unveil our re-designed educational model in the spring of 2008.
The new approach will have positive advantages for students and for the excellence of education that they can receive through Starr King. Starr King will become a school with moveable walls — people can study "at" Starr King from their computer at home, in local churches across the country, in community settings around the globe, and in Berkeley.
The Starr King learning community will become multi-local. We will maintain a center in Berkeley for residential study, but students will be engaged in multiple sites of learning, while remaining connected to one another and to the faculty through the use of new educational technologies and opportunities for the whole learning community to gather for shared intensives one or two times each year.
As we refine this new design, we will be working to assure that our core values inform the new approach.
It will embody Unitarian Universalist values in the way we do education, as well as in the content of our curriculum.
It will be grounded in the importance of congregational life and oriented to ministries that touch the heart, enliven the mind, heal the soul, solace the brokenhearted, and advance justice for the oppressed.
It will give special emphasis to advancing our Unitarian Universalist commitments to the "journey towards wholeness" — to education that promotes wholeness and liberation, counters oppressions, and prepares leaders who for the work of creating just and sustainable communities.
It will make multi-faith engagement and understanding foundational to our curriculum.
It will be oriented to the preparation of religious leaders from diverse, progressive faiths along with Unitarian Universalists.
It will carry forward Starr King's long heritage of education that is personally transforming for our students, and socially relevant to the issues of the day and the challenges of the future.
It will offer a radical yes to each person's gifts and calling, and empower agency, creativity, and responsibility within the interdependent web of life.
How are we going about this redesign? We currently have six sub-committees at work on Curricular Goals, Curricular Vehicles, Faculty, Students, Resources, and Planning/Evaluation. Each subcommittee includes faculty, student, trustees, and graduates of the school. The Steering Committee for this work is co-chaired by David Dezern (director of faculty services) and myself, and committee members are Tom Disrud (chair of the board), Betty Jeanne Rueters-Ward (M.A.S.C. student), Makanah Morris (vice-chair of the board), Ibrahim Farajajé (director of Starr King's Luce Project for Multi-Religious Theological Education), Michelle Favreault (adjunct faculty and graduate), and Dorsey Blake (acting dean of the faculty).
We have two professional consultants assisting the school — Dr. Vic Klimoski, an expert in online education and faculty development and Chuck Sizemore, an expert in fundraising. Our redesign process includes evaluation of our current approaches, and re-imagining of every dimension of the school's life. It is coordinated with our ten-year self-assessment in light of the Association of Theological School's accreditation standards and will culminate in a strategic plan for the school, along with an accreditation visit from the ATS.
Through our redesigned educational model, Starr King will be able to serve a greater number of Unitarian Universalists who wish to receive a UU theological education and could do so if sufficient flexibility were available to them. Our new approach will make a Starr King education more effective and more accessible for those who cannot afford the expense of uprooting themselves and their families to move to Berkeley for three or four years of a traditional residential seminary program.
Beyond Unitarian Universalist students, this model will allow Starr King to be an excellent choice for progressive people from a diversity of faiths who would benefit from education at a seminary such as ours that is explicitly committed to multi-faith understanding, and to education that counters oppressions and promotes just and sustainable community.
Stay tuned! As we move forward with our redesign we will be contacting graduates, donors, denominational leaders, and friends of the school for input on a wide range of assessment and planning issues. If you hear from us with a request to respond to a survey, participate in a focus group, offer your perspective, or contribute your expertise, please say yes and help us chart our course. If you have thoughts you'd like to share with me, please be in touch — my phone number and email are below.