The Office of Faith, Work and Economics (OFWE) at Asbury Theological Seminary is one office with a single mission operating across three campus contexts. The OFWE has seen significant development and growth with major faith and work program initiatives at our Kentucky and Florida campuses, including our Memphis extension site and online students.
Our expansion across three campus contexts has allowed us to: 1) increase awareness of the OFWE; 2) garner greater student, faculty and external constituent participation in our programs and curriculum; and 3) allow creativity to tailor unique offerings at our campuses (product and service development). This development has also included partnerships with the rich landscape of the faith/work communities surrounding our campuses, resulting in fruitful and mutually beneficial relationships. While multiple campus contexts can be a challenge, we view it as a strength. It affords us the opportunity to be innovative in our resources, programming and engagement among diverse student demographics, campus and community topography.
The Orlando campus places a strategic emphasis on building external partnerships, actively extending programs and resources to business and faith communities, and building brand awareness of work-and-economics-related degree programs – such as our OFWE Doctor of Ministry and Masters of Leadership programs. Throughout the year, OFWE-Orlando hosts various activities that engage students, faculty and community members. Chapels, Lunch and Learns, and learning communities in and outside the classroom feature guest speakers who are thought leaders and active practitioners in faith/work integration.
This March, OFWE-Orlando hosted its Orlando Faith + Work Summit with over 200 participants. The Summit attracted Christians from various professions along with Asbury students and academicians to learn, share best practices, and explore collaborative partnerships for kingdom-minded initiatives in the marketplace, church and community. The event featured Asbury President Timothy Tennent, William Messenger and Amy Sherman, as well as several key Orlando faith and marketplace leaders as presenters, panelists and vendors. For many attendees, this was their first introduction to Asbury, leaving an extremely favorable impression of the seminary. This further positioned Asbury as a leading resource for academic excellence and integrating faith into work and business in Orlando.
The OFWE has six Oikonomia student interns who are involved in meaningful mentoring through on-site job shadowing. In addition, three students and one faculty member are conducting OFWE related research this year. Also, thirteen students are participating in the Small Business Incubator, which helps students to start small businesses on campus during their seminary experience. Of particular note is the new DMin concentration launching on the Florida campus in summer 2017. Fourteen students will participate in this new initiative. OFWE activities are creating expanded awareness of the seminary’s mission and vision in Wilmore and Orlando, and more recently this fall at the Memphis extension site.
A highlight on the Wilmore campus is the Asbury Project, a social entrepreneurship incubator. Students submit business plans and then make business pitches to fund their businesses that both create a profit and address a social issue. Some of these businesses have gone on to win at other business competitions.
Asbury Project winners, Oikonomia interns, Small Business Incubator cohorts and Social Entrepreneur Club members across three campuses are all meeting together regularly. Multi-campus events keep everyone connected to each other and to business leaders in the community, such as Dale Ditto of Wealth Advisory, Eric Hartman from KY Innovation Networks, Jon Cortines, Mark Stuart (former lead singer with Audio Adrenaline) and more.
The OFWE, in collaboration with Christians in the Visual Arts, created a traveling art exhibit that is now in its third showing. The BL Fisher Library at Asbury has worked hard to install such an exhibit for the first time ever. The positive feedback from staff and students has been enormous. The exhibit has created a great environment and culture of thought.
Asbury’s curriculum committee has approved “Faith, Business, and Money” as a summer travel course. This course, which meets at Acton University, has been successfully piloted over the previous two years, and it is now an official course. Presently, there are eighteen students signed up for the course this summer. In addition, Jason Vickers recently taught the course “Theology of Work and Ethics,” which had 32 students in the spring intensive week on the Wilmore campus.
This flurry of activity is an integrated part of one faith and work mission across three campuses.