Last Monday, January 23, The Seattle School community gathered as Dr. Keith Anderson, President, delivered the 2017 State of the School address. This was the 8th time that Student Council has hosted the annual event, which has become an important rhythm in the life of the school and is a manifestation of the values of accountability and transparency. Students, staff, and faculty came together for a chili dinner offered by Student Council and the opportunity to hear Dr. Anderson share updates about institutional initiatives, budgets, staffing, accreditation, and more.
Borrowing from a radio lecture by Dag Hammarskjöld, Dr. Anderson said the theme for this year’s address was “Old Creeds in a New World.” “We face a political and social milieu that is as complex and contested as any I can remember,” he said, arguing that it is instructive and revealing to see how an institution responds to changes and conflicts in the surrounding culture. What guides it? How does it conceptualize and express its identity? What are the foundational principles that form its ethos and practices?
For Dr. Anderson, those questions always lead back to the mission of The Seattle School. “Our strength is most deeply found in the clarity of our mission and fidelity to the DNA which forms us,” he said. That mission is “to train people to be competent in the study of text, soul, and culture in order to serve God and neighbor through transforming relationships.” It is a bold invitation, one that Dr. Anderson stewards and continually guides the community back to in his role as President.
Dr. Anderson highlighted two aspects of The Seattle School’s identity that are rooted in our mission and seem especially vital in our complex and changing culture: we continue to claim the conviction of an institution that is “unashamedly Christian,” and we continue to declare that we are a place of discourse. Those two values—conviction and discourse—are not mutually exclusive, argued Dr. Anderson. “Nothing is more urgent and breathtaking than being a place of both conviction and discourse.”
Our strength is most deeply found in the clarity of our mission and fidelity to the DNA which forms us.
The address also highlighted advancements of The Seattle School’s strategic plan in the past year, including these priorities: articulating our institutional identity, marked by both conviction and discourse; strengthening the school’s position as a credible thought leader in theological education, as evidenced by the Stanley Grenz Lecture Series, the publication of The Other Journal, faculty publications, and more; fostering sustainable organizational health through the stewardship of human capital, marked by investments in IT infrastructure, an internal culture survey to identify areas of needed growth, expansion of the Registrar’s office, the formation of the Institutional Support department, the development of a new website coming later this year, and more; developing a culture of financial sustainability, which is made possible through tuition, donors, grants, events, and innovations—like online courses—that are both missional and financially sound; and a strong prioritization of alumni development, which has led to the formation of chapters and hubs across the country, expansions to the Office of Students & Alumni, the annual Symposia gathering, and more. “We’re creating an infrastructure across the whole country for how we are going to work with alumni moving forward,” said Dr. Anderson. “This is really significant work.”
In conclusion, said Dr. Anderson, “We are committed to be an organization working on formation—of our staff, of our faculty, of you, as students, and of the communities to which our alumni go to serve. […] To accomplish our formational work, we continue to be a learning organization. We don’t believe solutions are always formulaic, programmatic, and merely technological but require that we learn more about ourselves, how we are growing, where we are stalled, and what adaptive work we can do. It is another remarkable part of our DNA.”