Baylor University is considering merging George W. Truett Theological Seminary with the John Leland Center for Theological Studies in Arlington, Va.
The proposed plan would allow Truett to take over operations of the Leland Center and allow students admitted to either school to take up to 49 percent of their required classes at the other school.
Although the plan is still in its initial stages, the program could begin as early as the fall 2016 semester.
Dr. Todd Still, Truett dean and university interim provost, presented a report of the conversations between Leland and Truett to the Baylor Board of Regents in February. The merger could be approved at the next meeting in May.
“I would like to stress that we are still early in this process and that no binding commitments or decisions have been made,” Still said. “The administration has yet to place a proposed plan before the board of regents — who alone serve as fiduciaries of Baylor University for their consideration. There is, therefore, much information that needs to be shared with the board and much conversation that needs to occur among the board before any action might be taken by the board.”
The Waco Tribune-Herald reported that Leland President Mark Olson will discuss the program at the Board of Trustees meetings in March and June. Olson said he hopes a deal will be made and believes both universities bring unique resources and strengths that can benefit both programs.
“Both schools are Baptist,” Olson told the Tribune-Herald. “Both evangelical with a religious connotation. They have a strong commitment to authority of Scripture and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”
The Lariat reached out to Olson and the Leland Center for comment but received no response.
Brian Brewer is an associate professor at Truett and was also part of the first graduating class of Truett Seminary in 1996. Brewer has been teaching at Truett for nine years and is concerned about the integrity of the program if the merger goes through.
“Whenever a program creates a satellite there is a temptation to water down the material and mission of the university,” Brewer said. “I don’t want Truett or Baylor to ever do that. If we allow students to graduate with a Baylor degree without taking their classes at Baylor, we would not be producing the same product.”
Brewer said that Baylor is the largest Baptist research university in the world with a seminary and fears that expanding to a satellite campus would degrade the program and not benefit the students.
San Antonio Truett student Hannah Smith said she thinks it could be beneficial to students at both universities.
“Through this relationship students who want to work in politics can get their foot in the door in D.C. while taking classes and working toward their Baylor degree,” Smith said. “Although this program may not be for me it would be great for so many students, I really hope it happens and I hope students take advantage of it.”
Odessa first year Truett student Collin Smith is excited about the possibility of being able to take classes at the Leland Center and would strongly consider utilizing the program should it be made available to him.
“I would love to experience education outside of Texas while still getting my degree from Baylor,” Smith said. “As the decline of seminaries across the nation occur, it’s a great idea to merge and strengthen our institutions across geographical locations.”