FAQ about the new MDiv

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about the new MDiv

If you would like to offer feedback, please email: CTSMDivFAQ@cts.edu.

November 13, 2015

What is the new MDiv?

CTS has re-imagined the Master of Divinity (MDiv) degree program to meet the urgent need for church and community leaders who are prepared to address the educational, social, cultural, economic and technological shifts in church and society today. The new MDiv is also an intentional and prayerful effort by the faculty and administration to bring the practices of ministry to the center of theological education. Traditional MDiv programs were structured around three academic disciplines: theology, biblical studies, and history, with practices of ministry woven through this structure. CTS’ new MDiv program is instead structured by five key practices of ministry, anticipating what pastors and community leaders actually do: inspire, lead, serve, love and live—with the academic disciplines of theology, biblical studies, and history woven into each practice. With this restructured degree come new credit hour requirements (72 credit hours), new course formats (including weekend and weeklong intensives that utilize both face-to-face and online interaction), and an emphasis on cohort learning and supervised ministry experiences.  For more information, please review this description, http://www.cts.edu/library/documents/Admissions/CTS-MDiv-2015.pdf, available on CTS.edu.


Why did CTS adopt the new MDiv now?

Theological education in the twenty-first century needs to look different than theological education in the twentieth century, and the MDiv degree at CTS has not been substantively revised for decades. The CTS faculty believes that the practices of ministry should be at the center of theological education, and that the MDiv degree should be accessible to students who live on campus, who live nearby, and who have significant work or family commitments.  Once the vision was clear, the faculty and administration moved forward to begin the new curriculum, realizing that it would take a full four years to roll out the new program. We hope to educate students through the very best practices of leadership education today, including exposure to practical excellence, accessible class formats, online tools and resources, and education centered on the practices of ministry.

When did work on the new MDiv begin?

CTS faculty began working to develop a new MDiv curriculum in the Summer of 2014 after many months of laying important groundwork.  CTS trustees reviewed the proposal in January 2015 and approved the final proposal from the faculty in March 2015.


What is the timeline for the development and roll-out of the new MDiv?

Faculty and administration have been at work on the new curriculum and its roll-out since the summer of 2014.  Immediately after the proposal was officially approved in March 2015, the faculty began training around new online platforms and new pedagogies. 

By the end of May, the Dean had consulted individually, and through information sessions, with over 60 current students about their options regarding the new MDiv. Approximately 30 students chose to shift their educational path to the new curriculum, while the remaining students affirmed their continuation under the previous curriculum.

The seminary decided to roll out the new curriculum over a four-year period, beginning by offering up to 12 courses in new formats during the first year, 2015-16. The purpose of the four-year roll out is to allow time for rigorous assessment of the curriculum, the new formats, the adjusted calendar and other impacts, while also allowing for ongoing training for faculty teaching and course design. 

The Curriculum Assessment Team (CAT) was appointed in the early fall of 2015 to undertake the initial assessment work on the new MDiv.  The team:

    • contacted every student going through the new curriculum, met with all who were willing face-to-face (approximately 85%), and heard from an additional 10% by the end of the month.
    • sent a survey to all new students plus others in Weekend Intensive courses.   
    • met individually with MDiv faculty members to gather their assessment. 

met with the Student Council on November 4, 2015, and is committed to continuing engagement with the Student Council throughout the assessment period.

The CAT will make a report including recommendations to the President and the faculty on December 7, 2015.

The Dean and President also began meeting with students in the early fall of 2015:

    • The President hosted a lunch with the new students during their first Weekend Intensive, on September 18.
    • The Dean hosted his annual lunch with new students the following week.
    • The Dean also surveyed new students beginning September 10.

Professor Helene Russell surveyed the new students as well during the second Weekend Intensive session.

One response to this initial feedback was to increase both faculty and student training/orientation to the new technology platforms supporting the Weekend Intensive courses. The technology assessment is ongoing.


What formats for classes are available under the new MDiv?  What formats will be available in the future?

In the past at CTS, MDiv courses have been offered primarily in two formats:  the traditional 15-week format and the Weeklong Intensive format.  Under the new MDiv curriculum, courses are available in three formats – the traditional 15-week course, the Weeklong Intensive format, and the six-week Weekend Intensive format – depending on the course.  During the four-year roll out of the new MDiv, these three formats will continue.  There are no plans to discontinue the traditional formats.  The ongoing assessment process will help the Dean and faculty determine the format and cadence of courses in the future.

Will the 15-week course format continue at CTS?

Yes.  In the new MDiv curriculum, students must take at least 24 classes – and of those 24 classes, only the five Gateway courses, which are in the six-week Weekend Intensive format, are required.  For the other 19 courses of a student’s time in the MDiv program, students may elect to take courses in a variety of formats, including the 15-week format.


How was information about the new MDiv communicated to students?

For current students, CTS hosted multiple “town hall” style meetings in Spring 2015 after the new curriculum was approved.  The Dean then met with over 60 MDiv students before the end of the academic year to discuss their options regarding the new MDiv.  All current students were required to confirm in writing which curriculum they would continue under, the new curriculum or the previous curriculum.  For incoming students, the recruiting team communicated electronically with all incoming students about the new curriculum; the recruiting team also met one-on-one with many incoming students.  Additionally, as students registered by phone over the summer, there were more opportunities to discuss the new curriculum and formats.


How has CTS supported students adjusting to the new curriculum?

In addition to the conversations, policies and support efforts described above, the Dean has met with students one-on-one to provide support.  CTS has also offered complimentary counseling at the CTS Counseling Center for any students who have experienced increased anxiety at the start of their seminary experience.


How are new students reacting to the new curriculum?

Thus far, we have received a complex variety of feedback.  Some students feel strongly and do not prefer the new course formats; others strongly prefer them, including some who could not enroll in the program without them; and still others are open to multiple formats.  We will continue to respond to concerns students raise and work diligently to find solutions wherever possible. 


Will the new MDiv be sufficient for me to meet the requirements of ordination in my denomination/church?

Yes. CTS is committed to helping students meet the requirements for ordination established by their denominations and churches as it has been for many years. We believe the new curriculum will strengthen ordination preparation. If you have specific questions about the requirements, we strongly encourage you to talk with the Dean.


Specifically, will CTS continue to offer Greek and Hebrew, denominational polity courses and theology courses like Systematic Theology, which I need for ordination?



What is there in writing about the new MDiv?

The Dean, faculty and administration are working diligently to put in writing as much of the information about the new MDiv as possible. (In case you haven’t seen it, please review this description of the new MDiv.) Since the program is new, more written material will be forthcoming.  We are grateful for your patience.

I am a dual degree student. How will the new MDiv and the counseling degree requirements be integrated?

Balancing classes for a dual degree can be complicated, and dual degrees with the new MDiv are no exception. The Dean is working with degree directors to finalize degree requirement sheets for dual degree students. We encourage you to talk with your advisor at this time.


Is CTS considering the option of offering an MDiv degree through evening courses only?

As in the past, there is currently no plan to offer the MDiv degree exclusively through evening courses. However, the faculty and administration will be assessing format options during the four-year roll out of the new curriculum. 


Will I be expected to do reading and assignments before the start of an intensive course?

The Weekend Intensive format limits course work to six weeks, plus one additional week to finish final assignments as needed.  The Weeklong Intensive format typically involves some reading and writing assignments prior to the face-to-face week-long meeting.  The professor teaching the course determines the syllabus. 


How much time should I expect to spend on a three-credit hour course?

You should expect to spend anywhere between 100 and 140 hours per three-credit hour course. This includes class time, reading, writing, research, off-site or immersion experiences, study groups, face-to-face meetings with the professor, etc. Other seminaries and graduate schools of CTS’ caliber require a similar amount of work per course.


How do courses get designed?

Professors develop courses which will support the aims of the new MDiv and will fulfill Student Learning Outcomes for the new MDiv. Every course that is offered is approved by the Academic Council and Faculty. Specific courses are designed with several things in mind:

1. how the course will contribute to the overall MDiv experience and the development of pastoral leaders,
2. what resources (textbooks, experiences beyond the classroom, class guests, classroom teaching and learning experiences, etc.) will be most helpful in engaging the outcomes and aims of the MDiv generally and this course specifically,
3. how time will be used in and outside of class to accomplish the outcomes and objectives of the course,
4.  what assignments will support the objectives of the course and allow students to demonstrate their grasp of the material and its implications for ministry, and

5.  how work and class participation will be evaluated.

Professors reflect on courses once they are completed and often make changes based on class experience, student feedback, emerging thought and practice in a particular area, and new opportunities for ministry.


How do the Gateway courses work with the new curriculum?

The Gateway classes introduce students to some of the fundamental aspects of theological education before they move fully into the Practice courses that are at the heart of the new curriculum.  The intention of the new curriculum is that new students will take all five Gateway courses in their first year so that they are fully prepared for the Practice courses. In order to make these required courses accessible to a wide range of students, Gateway courses are currently in one of two formats – Weekend Intensive and Weeklong Intensive.  To be considered full-time for purposes of scholarships, a new student needs to enroll in 24 credit hours per year (8 courses).  During the first year, they will need to take three courses in addition to the five Gateway courses.  Those three courses are available in various formats, including the traditional formats.


When will the academic calendar for 2016-2017 be available?

The Dean and faculty are working on the 2016-2017 academic calendar now.  It will be available in Spring 2016.


Why are the Weekend Intensives scheduled for Thursday through Saturday rather than Friday through Sunday?

Many CTS students are significantly involved with congregations that worship on Sunday mornings.


What if I don’t get enough time off from my work to participate in the Weekend and Weeklong Intensives?

In order to be enrolled in 24 hours of credit per year (eight courses @ three credit hours per course) and take only Weekend and Weeklong Intensives, you will  need to be on campus a total of eight weekends per year (one per month), which includes one Friday per weekend, plus two weeks in January and two weeks in May/June. As an alternative, you may enroll in some 15-week courses during the year; however some meet during the day and some in the evening.  If necessary, you may also reduce the pace of your studies, extending what is typically a three-year degree to four years or more. The pace of a student’s studies should be discussed with the student’s faculty advisor and needs to take into account scholarship eligibility.


What changes are in process for the new MDiv?

The Curriculum Assessment Team is reviewing the MDiv and will make recommendations about changes to the President and the faculty in early December.


Why did we choose the technology platforms that we did?

Faculty and administration chose to use Google Classroom, Voice Thread and Skype for Business, three online platforms that are widely available, rather than adopt a complex Learning Management System that students could not continue using after graduation. Voice Thread is already in use among some faculty and provides easy interactivity, and Skype for Business is a video conferencing platform that already integrates with CTS online systems.   


What support will we provide for technology challenges?

In addition to orientation and training for faculty and students, we have created two new teaching assistant positions for online learning.  Our ‘Online Teaching Assistants’ are available to help you with new technologies. Also, Alan Rhoda is the seminary’s Systems and Academic Technology Librarian.  He works closely with the seminary’s IT provider, DAST.

If you have issues with technology in a course, please reach out to the OTAs, to Alan, or to DAST directly.


Do I have to live on campus?

You do not have to live on campus unless you are part of The Discipleship Project (TDP).  TDP is a program designed around intentional community and provides scholarship stipends to enable students to live on campus. If you are in TDP, you are encouraged to talk with your mentors or the director of the program about the residency requirement.


How does the new MDiv impact community life at CTS?

Community life on campus is an important component of any learning environment. The shift to the new MDiv has impacted community life in a variety of ways, and the CAT will make recommendations about cultivating community life at CTS. These recommendations will likely include some structural and programmatic changes as well as supporting student-initiated informal activities.


Where do I go to get my questions answered?

Your faculty advisor is a logical stop for questions relating to all things academic, but any professor can help you with questions about the seminary.  The Dean’s office is also a logical stop. The Dean’s Office (Academic Dean and Dean of Students) is responsible for academic life at CTS, and they stand ready to help work through any particular issues that arise. Additionally, you can reach out to the members of CAT, the President, and other key staff leaders.  Members of CAT are Frank Thomas (chair), Faculty; Bill Kincaid, Interim Dean; Brenda Freije, Vice President of Networking, Recruiting and Admissions; Anthony Elia, Director of the Library; and Verity Jones, Exec. Vice President.