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From the President’s Desk

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Over the last twelve months we have seen real progress in the developments so much hoped for by Dean Guder and me, and brought about through hours of work by the Curriculum Review Committee and the new Faculty Evaluation and Promotion Committee. Both committees brought proposals to the faculty retreat in January that were accepted unanimously and with a sense of excitement and expectation. Curriculum change is a difficult process wherever it is attempted. The curriculum tends to be “where the dead bodies are buried.” Someone aptly described it to me as “relocating the cemetery.”

But the world is changing fast, as is the church that we attempt to serve. One thing I learned is this: we made most progress when we thought together about revision of the faculty manual (our understanding of the process of tenure, promotion, and review) and revision of the curriculum. When people have a greater sense of their own involvement and of responsibility for their own development, they are more willing to be innovative and even to take risks.

Our plan is to reduce the credits required for the M.Div. degree from 90 to 78. This is not a dilution of standards. It is to enable more thorough student learning and the ability to breathe. We also hope to introduce changes in the academic calendar, moving from a pattern of two fifteen-week terms to a pattern of twelve weeks plus three, followed by twelve weeks plus three. This would permit intensive courses in the two short terms, which would lend themselves to crosscultural experience and allow us to invite new faces to the campus, thereby extending and diversifying the kinds of courses that can be offered. This is a way of expanding a residential school. I really thank God and the faculty that such deep structural change is being welcomed, owned, and implemented.

Over the last year, we have sent out two large questionnaires to our alumni/ae. It is overwhelmingly clear that Princeton’s academic strength is appreciated, especially—and unsurprisingly—in Bible and theology. We aim to retain that strength, and as I write we are nearing the end of three important faculty searches. We also learned through the questionnaires that we could do more in teaching leadership and offering courses on church finances. We are addressing these needs and others through Continuing Education.

We are sharply aware of our obligation to reach out. Steve Crocco in the Seminary Libraries has—with the help of a broadly based committee—produced a very exciting plan for renewing and expanding our existing library buildings. This will be at the heart of our bicentennial campaign, and through digitizing will stretch the concept of a bricks and mortar library, much as our hoped for short terms will stretch the concept of a fully residential school. You will hear more about these plans in the coming months.

Yours sincerely,

Iain R. Torrance