The process of matching advisors is a joint effort between the School’s Director of Admissions and Associate Dean of Academic Affairs. During the process of admission, the Director of Admissions makes initial suggestions to the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs based on the prospective student’s academic and vocational aspirations as well as denominational ties. The Associate Dean then makes all final advising assignments based on those suggestions and taking into account overall faculty advising load, sabbatical leaves, and other factors. The Associate Dean generally assigns students who are considering or preparing for ordination an advisor of the same denomination who will be adept at guiding and encouraging the student’s ordination preparations. Students receive a letter of welcome from the Associate Dean during Orientation, which includes the name and contact information for their program advisor.
Advising responsibilities in the School of Theology vary according to degree program, but always include a high degree of mentoring, support with vocational discernment, and, in the case of advanced degree programs, an apprenticeship relationship between advisor and student. In 2010, the School of Theology implemented a new curriculum for first-level masters students (MDiv, MTS, and MSM) that is shaped by the conviction that prophetic, practical, religious leaders, thoroughly grounded in the wisdom of their traditions, are essential to the work of on-going transformation of the church and the world. Though each of the three degree programs has a distinctive goal and structure, they all seek to prepare students to contribute as religious leaders to diverse communities in a way that creatively engages complex and evolving local and global contexts with a full array of theological resources. While each of the three degree programs provide students a set of core requirements and a structure for more deeply understanding the texts and traditions of faith communities, for more creatively engaging contemporary contexts, and for exploring and adapting theories and practices of leadership, the programs of study are at the same time highly customizable within various tracks and specializations, affording students the ability to take up to one-third of their degree programs outside the School of Theology in the wider University, through the Boston Theological Institute, or by approved transfer credits from other schools. This customization and flexibility requires a high degree of faculty advising – thinking through course selection carefully and in a way that will produce a cohesive curriculum alongside ongoing discernment of the student’s vocational interests. Advising at the School of Theology, therefore, is not a mere checking off of requirements and is utterly integral to the curriculum itself and to the aims of student formation.