Monday, July 8, 2013

For eight months I have had the privilege of serving as the interim Associate Dean of Students. There is no teacher like first-hand experience. Let me take this opportunity to share some of what I have learned.
    1. No one knows as much as Dr. Amy Dyer about the operation of VTS. Twenty-five years of dedicated service to this institution have made Amy the all-round “go to” person. It was impossible to fill her shoes, an honor to walk in her footsteps, and an adventure trying to figure things out for myself.
    2. The central mission of VTS, to form men and women for lay and ordained leadership within community, would not happen without the competent Academic Administration and Student Life (AASL) staff. The volume of detail and behind-the-scenes administration necessary to be an exemplary, accredited graduate school with structural supports for healthy community is staggering. It is easy for faculty, Seminary trustees, or students to imagine new programs but they do not become sustainable realities without the focused, collaborative work of our AASL staff.
    3. I have never worked in a place that has more meetings, or where such a high percentage of the required meetings are actually enjoyable! Good decisions are made because the Seminary’s core leaders respect each other and value mutuality.
    4. Many of my most significant moments have occurred on the Seminary margins – beyond classroom, chapel, lunch – where students encounter life-shaping challenges and demonstrate enormous courage, creativity, and strength. I have watched with awe as student after student has exercised baptismal resilience, “I will, with God’s help,” in the face of discouragement, loss, or despair. I have been a quiet witness to the universal priesthood – watching siblings in Christ graciously bear each other’s burdens.
    5. I am concerned about the frenetic pace of our common life. We have so much for which to be grateful, and yet too often I hear people describe feeling overcommitted to such an extent the very quality of their learning and formation is compromised. We are a vibrant institution that cannot be all things to all people.       It must be OK to say, “no.” Building on our strengths is important, and being able to prioritize our efforts is essential. I view the forthcoming Seminary strategic planning process as a timely opportunity for communal discernment.
Dr. Lisa Kimball, Ph.D.
Interim Associate Dean of Students
Director of the Center for the Ministry of Teaching