MSA Team Impressed

“Extraordinary commitment” and “remarkable dedication” at UTS

Dr. Elizabeth Chang is one of the commissioners of the Middle States Association (MSA), the regional accrediting body to which UTS has been applying for the past four years. Her visit to UTS on October 14 was therefore very significant. The purpose of the visit was to assess the Seminary’s progress in three areas of concern identified by the MSA team during last year’s visit: financial stability, physical plant and governance. These concerns had caused the MSA to defer accreditation pending a follow-up evaluation of improvements. Dr. Chang, who is a professor of mathematics and Special Assistant to the President for Strategic Planning at Hood College, Maryland, was accompanied by Mr. William Craig, Vice President for Finance at Monmouth University, New Jersey.

On a sunny Monday morning with the Fall foliage at its peak, the Seminary looked beautiful and the two visitors seemed to be impressed by all the improvements which have been made in the past year. Several of the Trustees were on hand to meet Dr. Chang and Mr. Craig and the day’s meetings and tour of the facilities appeared to go very well. When the Cabinet members waved good-bye to the visitors that afternoon, the general consensus was very optimistic and the report which arrived the following week confirmed that impression. In a letter which accompanied the team’s report, Dr. Chang told President Shimmyo, “You and your cabinet have brought about significant gains in the management of the Seminary, in its financial health, and in its physical facilities since the Evaluation Team visit in 1995. That you have accomplished so much in such a short period of time speaks highly of the remarkable dedication and ability of all of the people - employees, trustees and students - of Unification Theological Seminary.”

In the report itself, the team noted that, “The Seminary is a community in the truest sense of that word; we met faculty, staff, students and trustees who demonstrate an extraordinary commitment to the Seminary and to its, and their, mission.” Most importantly, in all three areas of concern, the report noted that significant improvements have been made in the past year and that the team members “were impressed by the thoroughness of the follow-up report and by how much the Seminary has accomplished in just little more than a year.”

The MSA commissioners will review the report and UTS’s application for accreditation at their next meeting in late November and their decision will be conveyed in mid-December. When the report’s introduction noted that, “the team hopes to offer observations that will help the Seminary build an even stronger future,” the author was responding to a hope which members of the UTS Administration themselves expressed during the visit. Peer evaluation can be a stressful experience but the effort to gain accreditation appears to have been a very positive experience for UTS since it demands self-evaluation, planning and improvement and sets a time frame within which all of this must happen. When and if the MSA grants accreditation, the next step will be the national level and the Association of Theological Schools. G.D.