Dwayne Uglem’s dream for the future of Briercrest College and Seminary is a simple one.
“Christ-centred education,” he said without hesitation.
That focus directs his steps as he leads Briercrest through two major projects with the provincial government.
In response to a study launched by the provincial government last spring, education consultant Alex Usher recently released a report recommending that degree granting powers be expanded to institutions beyond the province’s two universities.
A working group with representatives from the government, University of Regina, University of Saskatchewan, SIAST and Briercrest College and Seminary will now be set up to consider the recommendations.
The result could change education policy and legislation which would allow Briercrest to offer degrees beyond theology. A decision in this area should come by spring 2012.
As the government considers becoming more involved in quality assurance and degree-granting, Briercrest has been named one of two case studies. This process requires an institutional self-study, a program proposal, and an external peer review.
“We are in the midst of working through a preliminary process of degree review,” Uglem said. “The degree we’ve put forward is the BA in Humanities (because) it’s specifically designed to ladder into further university study.”
As Briercrest moves into the future, Uglem says it looks for the best way to serve its historic interests today.
“Our historic interests revolved around students training in the Scriptures . . . character formation . . . capacity to learn . . . love and appreciation for the church . . . and preparation for life,” Uglem exclaimed.
Uglem describes the unfolding process that has led Briercrest to this place.
“We’ve moved from seeing ourselves as an institute to seeing ourselves as a Bible college, to seeing ourselves as a Christian college to seeing ourselves increasingly as a Christian university,” he explained. “We are working really carefully as to what it means to steward our values . . . to pursue these historic interests in the context of a Christian university environment.”
Uglem states that the rising cost of education and the need to maximize the value of college degrees has led Briercrest to this conclusion.
“While many wonderful things can happen in a year, a lot of work that we want to do with our students takes two and three and four years,” Uglem insisted. “For students to be able to afford that, they need to get that value plus advantage in their higher education.”
“Our goal in seeking a wider range of recognition for our degree programs is based on our conviction that our programs already represent a quality that is comparable with university programs,” the president remarked. “In that light, new recognition advantages all of our students as they seek transfer credit for their studies at Briercrest.”
Uglem says even ministry majors will benefit from this potential change.
“Approval to grant additional degrees beyond theology will enable a broader curriculum that could mean that our ministry majors will have new electives available to their programs (e.g. education, history, psychology, business, etc.),” he said. “This range of curriculum will better represent the diversity that we find in most communities and hence advantage our ministry graduates.”
“So we’re looking for degrees that will be most helpful to students,” Uglem explained. “Hence the Education program (in partnership) with Minot State and the exploration of other degree offerings.”
As Uglem gives himself to the detailed work that these processes require, he is clear about the ultimate work that God has given Briercrest to do.
“The work of Briercrest is to help our learners understand how their thinking and their disciplines must be conformed to Christ,” he said. “That’s going to lead them to master the Scriptures . . . to master their persons and their character. It’s going to lead them to work to be humble learners and ultimately it’s going to lead them to be productive citizens in both His kingdom and in our communities.”