It can be summed up in one word: school.
And oh, how I love it!!!
Some of you know that I enrolled in the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY back in the fall of 2007. I did some extension center courses, online courses, and one class on campus. I wanted to get an MDiv or an MA in theological studies, but we want to have kids soon, and it would just take too long. I took 12 hours worth of class there, including a really awesome course on biblical hermeneutics (which I believe is one of God’s main reasons for having me go there). I definitely want to continue formal theology training at some point.
This spring I began my journey with the Oxford Graduate School in Dayton, TN. I will be working toward a Master of Letters (same thing as a Master of Arts) in an integration of Family Life Education and Organizational Leadership. I really need to gush about this school a bit. Because it is amazingly awesome. Here are just a handful of reasons why.
1. This is the first place I’ve experienced true adult learning.
Imagine “class” going like this:
You go on campus (which is adorable, by the way) for a week, called a Core. You take several classes while you’re there. The class is made up of just a handful students. The professor comes in and you all sit around a table for a few hours. Very little lecture, but instead, a guided discussion among scholar-practitioners (or at least those of us who are scholar-practitioners in training!). When you go home, you work on your assignments, which involve lots of reading and writing due at different intervals (and no exams). And the best part is, as long as you stay within the objectives of the course, you can read and write about just about anything you want or need to. The point is to broaden your knowledge base of the subject, including viewpoints that are contrary to your own, so that you can excel in your field.
I get to go at my own pace. I will complete 32 hours of coursework by October/November of this year and begin writing my thesis shortly after.
2. The students and faculty are extremely diverse and authentic.
The faculty represents just about every Christian denomination you can think of and are some of the most educated (and humble) people I’ve ever met. Everyone is accepted as equal and is encouraged to explore one another’s ideas and viewpoints. The students come from all walks of life—everything from school teachers to nonprofit founders to tax coaches. The students also come from just about every ethnic background—of the eleven of us who began our work in March, only 5 of us were white. We all got along so well it was like being with long lost family members.
The time I spent getting to know my fellow students and the faculty was like a breath of fresh air. I have always loved being in an academic setting, and I felt a certain freedom at OGS that I’ve never quite experienced anywhere else. Questions were expected and tangents were utilized for learning. It was sort of like being in a scholarly/church camp/boot camp/therapy session for a week.
3. They really believe in me.
This part kinda gets me a little emotional. I have always been good at school. When it came to school, “I could just play” (to steal a line from the wonderful film Good Will Hunting). I’ve always loved learning and I’ve always impressed my teachers. I didn’t realize what a huge source of my self-esteem this was until I graduated from college. In the past few years I’ve really wrestled and come to terms with this—that my worth is not based on my brain or my grades!
All that to say—the professors of OGS see potential in me. They think I can be great. They think I AM great. And they expect me to think of myself the same way and would never see me as stuck up for it. They want me to change the world in God-sized ways and really, truly believe I will. And not in a pat-you-on-the-head kind of way; in an I’m-dedicated-to-seeing-you-do-this kind of way. And it is just so… relieving. Refreshing. Energizing. Freeing.
So. If what I’ve said has gotten you interested in pursuing education with OGS, I obviously highly recommend it. (You need to be VERY disciplined and a self-starter, because no one is going to remind you that you have an assignment due. You’re a grown up at this school.)
All right. Now I need to get back to reading.