In late summer 2007, things really got moving. At some point, it was determined that the new degree proposal would have to go through some existing channel, the most appropriate of which was the Department of Graduate Ministry under Russ Gunsalus. This shift brought a number of things into play. First, it meant that a financial viability study (a “pro forma”) would have to be made. Second, it meant that the courses we had created would have to be fitted with appropriate outcomes.
Allyn Beekman was our hero for the financial study. He and Russ worked together to set up a realistic prediction of the financial needs of an MDIV degree housed in the College of Graduate Studies. The great financial boon of the new degree would be the existing infrastructure. IWU was known for distance education, for its online capacity and models. It had a robust Information Technologies wing. It had systems in place for enrollment management and marketing. All these processes already existed in a wing of the university known at that time as Adult and Graduate Operations. Cynthia Tweedel, assessment czar, both helped us set up a survey monkey for alumni and helped fine tune our outcomes for courses to bring to the Faculty Senate, which ultimately approves new programs.
We were also making decisions in the Task Force toward format. We knew we would go with the cutting edge of seminary education rather than the dying traditional seminary. The President charged us to design a seminary in accordance with where seminaries were headed rather than where they had been. So we designed it to be possible to take two thirds of the program online, as Asbury was at the time. Like Bethel, we would cover the TATS residency requirement in intensive courses taken in the summer, principally in August, but we would also have onsite starts in January and May.
The new degree was approved August 22, 2007 by the Faculty Senate and then announced to the Board of Trustees in October. Then Russ went into gear as Director of Grad. Min. There were course numbers to create, financial aid decisions relating to the government (if you do not go with a semester based system, you have to register students for an entire year at a time to receive adequate financial aid, leaving a particular window of time at some point between “years”). He went to recruiting Nate Lamb from Denver seminary, the best recruiter the world has ever known.
In February 2008, Russ gathered the old MDIV committee together to team write the first course, Missional Church. We went off on retreat for the weekend, with a cameo by Bob Whitesel, who would teach the course onsite the first time. Norm Wilson, David Smith, Russ, Keith, and I were in the early stages of developing a course writing process. After the weekend, Norm would be tasked to take our chicken scratch and put it together into a full course.
That Spring, President Smith convened a Seminary Task Force to think about whether we should not only have an MDIV but in fact a distinct seminary. I was chair, but the Task Force included members of the IWU board (Carl Shepherd, Ed Hoover), denominational leaders (Kerry Kind–who resigned from the Asbury board to serve on the task force–and Aron Willis, DS of Indiana North). It had Bud Bence (then VPAA of traditional campus), Bob Whitesel, and Jim Fuller (Dean of College of Graduate Studies), as well as Russ, Keith, and Norm. Ed Hoover led a financial subcommittee that did a new pro forma that was not just a grad program but a self-standing seminary. I led a structure study. In a nearly unprecedented event, all three General Superintendents at the time came to campus and met with the Task Force. One brilliant move from President Smith was the idea of giving the 1.1 million dollars in educational funds the Wesleyan Church gives to IWU for scholarships in the seminary. In the end, the university decided to match that gift to the seminary, so that it still went to undergraduate students.
Meanwhile, we found out that we would have to have a site visit from the Higher Learning Commission, which took place later in August. This required us to postpone making a recommendation to the Board of Trustees that April. The Board was informed of our doings instead. That summer David Wright came on as Provost of the university, the chief academic officer. Having just been Dean of Haggard School of Theology, he brought a wealth of experience in such matters. We would have the site visit and we would get a firm approval January 2009.
The summer of 2008 was the General Conference of the Wesleyan Church and we made presentations both to the District Superintendents of the church and to the other college presidents. During the summer there were also some facilities meetings with Brendon Bowen, Todd Voss, and some charettes made for a building. The economic crisis at the end of the year probably put some of those trajectories on hold, but we were initially looking at a 6 million dollar building for the south side of campus rather quickly. We are only now seeing those conversations wind back up.
Our course writing process would be perfected over the course of the year. We eventually shifted from a lead writer, to the assignment of individual components–or “widgets,” as we called them–to individual writers at an a la carte rate. A scope and sequence day would put together the sixteen weeks of a course with a standard of four assignments each week. One of them would be either Bible, theology, or church history. From weeks 3-14 they would do an “Integration Paper” that moved from a pastoral problem to Scripture to theology to church history to the contemporary situation. They would have an “Application Paper” in the final week where they strategized for their church going forward in the future. These were components we decided to put into the courses while on retreat.
So each week would have practical readings and assignments, action research on their local congregations, Integration Paper components and a relevant Bible, theology, or church history assignment. All these assignments would be roughed out in the scope and sequence day, then each widget assigned to individual writers, to be reassembled by a Lead Editor, generally me. As full time faculty are hired, they are given greater and greater freedom with the practical assignments. This is the current state of our curricular philosophy.
The restructuring of the university was approved by the IWU board April 2009 with the seminary as its own “principal academic unit” within the university, at the same level as the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Adult and Professional Studies, and the School of Nursing. We were in a faculty search that Spring for two faculty, of which Dr. Charles Arn was the choice.
July 1, the seminary officially existed with Russ Gunsalus as Acting Chief Operating Officer, myself as Dean, Bob Whitesel as full time faculty and Chip Arn as Visiting Professor. August 3, the first MDIV class began with 30 students, with Russ Gunsalus teaching “Pastor, Church, and World.” Our first “All Seminary Convocation” took place August 9 with Keith Drury speaking on “From Great to Good.” Then Norm Wilson taught the next week’s intensive, “Cultural Contexts of Ministry.”
At the October board meeting, the fledgling seminary finally got a name: Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University. The President had suggested the first part of the name way back during the Seminary Task Force, but the rest of the name was included so there was no confusion with other Wesleys out there. We were now free to start marketing the seminary full tilt, and ads with the seminary’s name started as soon as was possible a few months later.
Russ had always been on loan. The President was looking for a permanent head to the seminary. Keith and Russ had driven up in the Spring 2009 to ask Wayne Schmidt if he would consider teaching for the seminary. He did not feel released from his church of 30 years, a church he had planted, to do that. But he did come to feel released and he stepped out in faith before any certain relationship with IWU was made. Eventually, as President Smith approached him to become the head of the seminary, he discerned it to be God’s will.
Wayne began as Vice President of the seminary (which is the head position) January 1, 2010.