FAITH IN LEARNING
One hundred and twenty-six years ago, David Lipscomb and James A Harding – both ministers in the Churches of Christ – spent a summer formulating a plan for a new kind of school. This new educational institution, to be set up in their home city of Nashville, Tennessee, would encompass three key areas: academic knowledge, professional know-how and the development of faith. Today, that educational institution is Lipscomb University, one of the fastest growing universities in the southeast of the US.
Lipscomb University is listed in the top 20 regional universities in the South and ranked eighth Most Innovative in the South by US News & World Report rankings, and student numbers in its graduate programmes have grown over the past decade from 200 to 1,700.
“This speaks to the relevance of our academic programmes,” says Dr Craig Bledsoe, Provost. “These are what the university terms ‘smart programmes with smart curricula’ because they are specifically designed with the labour market in mind.”
ADDRESSING THE MARKET
“We’ve been very attentive to what the market needs on a graduate level,” says Dr Bledsoe. “We’ve had very open conversations with industry professionals and brought them into the development process of our programmes. This has resulted in degrees that better match changing employer demand, as well as a number of working professionals delivering content.”
Today, more than 4,500 students are enrolled at the university in programmes of study that range from bachelor’s degrees, to pre-professional programmes and accelerated evening and online adult degree programmes. Lipscomb also offers master’s, education specialist and doctorate degrees.
Studying at Lipscomb is a global learning experience. There are opportunities to complete semesters abroad, as well as shorter more intensive trips to China and Europe. Students can also choose to undertake “mission trips” – service-oriented trips either within the US or overseas – a fact that led the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching to recognise Lipscomb as a “community-engaged campus”. It makes Lipscomb one of just over 300 colleges and universities across the US to receive this honour.
Lipscomb seeks out community projects that its expertise will most benefit. For instance, students from the university’s Raymond B Jones School of Engineering constructed a 104-ft-long pedestrian bridge in San Esteban, Honduras, that allows school children to cross a busy highway safely.
“The idea behind our programmes is to get the students to think about what they’ve learned and see some practical applications for that knowledge, either in the workplace or in the international field, to get them involved in a more global perspective,” says Dr Randy Bouldin, Vice Provost, Academic Affairs and Graduate Studies.
“There are some who look for a strictly academic education, but we add character and spiritual values,” he adds. “Faith influences what our students do and how they do it, and our faculty and staff model their faith and integrity to our students. We are also known for our pragmatism, because we insist that our degrees take our students to their next step. We want our students to leave understanding that while they are not the centre of the universe, they have a part to play in the universe – one that is key.”