The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, regional body for the accreditation of degree-granting higher education institutions, has recently given Southern its blessing to begin enrolling students for a new interdisciplinary studies graduate program. The Master’s of Science in Global Community Development curriculum emphasizes research, entrepreneurship, empowerment, and Christian witnessing as key components in creating sustainable change.
The degree will combine online courses with mission projects in the field and was designed with several types of students in mind: recent graduates, international development professionals, and local indigenous students seeking a U.S degree to better serve their own communities.
Sharon Pittman, professor in the School of Social Work and director of the Global Community Development program, has experience working with each of these groups and has seen firsthand the need for increased education among mission workers. While managing a $24 million development effort in Madagascar, Pittman’s team was comprised of medical doctors, agriculture experts, engineers, and other professionals. None of them had taken even a single course in community practice, and it showed. They created 640 community groups, but only 15 of those remained active once government funds to build them were exhausted after five years.
“We need to do a better job of engaging and mobilizing communities so they can take ownership of our development assistance,” Pittman said. “It is our hope that this program will help create new and more successful mission opportunities for the next generation of Adventists.”
And the university is actively engaged in seeking partners to help create those opportunities. A memorandum of understanding signed with World Vision International last year outlines the organization’s intent to create internships and jobs for Southern students and graduates.