Seminary Program Enhanced by Diversity

February 7, 2012 | 1:23 p.m.

By Alennah Westlund '14

One of many Bethel Seminary cohorts.

Many of Bethel’s programs draw students from across the nation and around the world. But one Bethel Seminary cohort boasts the “most globally diverse group we have ever had,” says Denise Muir Kjesbo, professor of children’s and family ministry and lead faculty.

Students in this M.A. in Children’s and Family Ministry cohort hail from across the globe: Uganda, Albania, Kyrgystan, Switzerland, Guatemala, Spain, South Africa, Dominican Republic, and Kenya. Others in the group come from New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Texas, Nevada, and California.

This group is diverse in other ways, too. Students come from an array of ministry and church contexts, including early childhood, children’s ministries, outreach/missional ministries, and youth ministries. And as they have gotten to know each other, they have discovered personal differences and varying career backgrounds, as well. The group includes two marathon runners, a theatre arts writer, a director, a performer, and those with backgrounds in public school teaching, guidance and counseling, and sales and marketing. These learners' pets are even diverse. They include the usual cats and dogs—but also a turtle, a bearded dragon, and a python.

The diverse background has enriched Rozeta Gabriella Hoppe’s experience as a student in this cohort. Coming to the group from the Eastern Orthodox Christian Church in Albania, Hoppe says she now has a fuller understanding of the Christian faith. “We can fully experience the Body of Christ,” Hoppe explains, “only when we experience the diversity of its members from around the world and across Christian traditions.”

Kjesbo says that the program has been blessed by global diversity from its inception, and appreciates the learning that comes from exposure to a range of perspectives and backgrounds. “Tremendous richness comes when people gather together from many contexts to learn,” she says. “Students contribute to the learning process by sharing from their ministry contexts, so having global voices makes the learning an even richer experience for all.”