Leadership and Service Highlight International Conference
BY STEPHEN CHAVEZ, Adventist Review
“Servant Leadership, Sacrificial Service,” an international conference for Adventist college and university presidents, was held March 24-27 at the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.
The conference, sponsored by the Education Department of the General Conference, brought together more than 150 college and university presidents, education directors, and GC administrators from each of the 13 administrative units of the world church.
According to Lisa Beardsley-Hardy, director of Education for the General Conference, the conference was planned to highlight four priorities essential for the success of Adventist tertiary education: reinforce Adventist identity and mission; strengthen leadership and administration; increase the capacity of all teachers to carry out the redemptive purposes of Adventist education in their classes; and provide opportunities through which students may become more dedicated disciples of Jesus Christ.
In the more than 20 years since the last international conference, changes in education, and society in general, have made assembling Adventist educators an essential ingredient in maintaining the high quality of Adventist education. Beardsley-Hardy points to the need to train educators to be more effective in promoting the mission of the church in their educational settings. “The Adventist [educational] system has grown tremendously. We’ve added a lot of graduate and professional programs, and as a system we have 1.8 million students in a much more complex environment than ever before,” she said.
She added, “People value Adventist education. We produce good graduates, so there’s tremendous pressure in terms of people wanting a quality education in a safe environment for their students.”
John McVay, president of Walla Walla University appreciated the opportunity to embrace a shared vision with his peers. “There is value in being in the same room and saying, ‘Yes, this is what we’re about in Adventist higher education.’
“There’s a fresh transparency in higher education that is coming about for a lot of reasons,” said McVay. “We’re all being asked to be forthright about our data, who we are, who we’re becoming, and what we’re accomplishing for our students. I think we’ll be more overtly Adventist a decade from now.”
For James Makinde, president of Nigeria’s Babcock University, the conference provided opportunities to reflect on the purpose of Adventist higher education. “We started out thinking that the purpose of Adventist education was to educate Adventist children, to build a kind of monastery to protect Adventist children from the influences of the world,” he said.
“But the purpose of every Adventist organization must be to make disciples. You can’t make disciples out of those who are already disciples.
“I tell people, ‘Babcock University is actually a giant baptismal class, where people pay to attend baptismal classes over a period of four years.’” Makinde reports that of its nearly 8,400 graduate and undergraduate students, anywhere from 500 to 1,000 students are baptized each school year. In addition, he says, “We have friends everywhere.”
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