It’s been more than a year since our lives were upended by the COVID-19 pandemic. Through it all, here at Union, we’ve pressed on. Over the days, weeks and months, our faculty remained committed to providing our students with a world-class education. And our students, no matter where they were in the world, remained engaged, eager learners. In fact, we didn’t just get through it —in many ways we thrived, through grace and God’s power. Our Class of 2021 is a testament to that, and to them I offer a hearty congratulations!
As an administration, we took the opportunity this past year to not only rethink the various ways we offer a UTS education, but also to reimagine the future of theological education. As the pandemic forced us to adapt to different pedagogies in the move from in-person instruction to online, we learned some valuable lessons about our capabilities and the ways in which UTS needed to grow. One thing became clear: Our ability to offer hybrid and/or online courses did not diminish the quality of our rigorous and dynamic curriculum, and by continuing to offer online courses, we could make a Union education available to far more people who may not, for various reasons, be able to come to New York for a residential program.
I hope you’ll read our cover feature, “The Future of Theological Education at Union and Beyond”, written by alumnus Isaac Sharp, Ph.D. ’19, Visiting Assistant Professor and Director of Certificate Programming. In it you’ll discover how we have moved forward with developing new online advanced certificate programs in Social Justice and Interreligious Engagement that will begin this fall. We will also be offering a one-year Master of Arts in Religion in 2022. Additionally, we added a new position for online education and learning innovation to facilitate the creation, design and delivery of new online and hybrid educational programs.
Theological education is needed now more than ever as our world is beset with so many challenges —climate change, systemic racism, income inequality, attacks on LGBTQ rights, voter suppression and so many others. Union stands ready to continue its mission of preparing its students for committed lives of service to the church, academy and society. And I feel confident that the future of Union and the future of theological education is strong.
The Rev. Dr. Serene Jones
President and Johnston Family Professor for Religion & Democracy