Hartford Seminary will undergo a number of bold and exciting changes over the next few years, which is no surprise to anyone who has studied our history or followed the most recent strategic planning process. These changes were in development before the coronavirus pandemic hit and before our national reckoning with racial injustice, but these two crises have helped to clarify the importance of realigning our programs and broadening our reach around the globe.
Through the extensive strategic planning conducted in 2019-2020, the Seminary learned a number of important things:
- Our current model is rooted in older models of seminary education and is not sustainable long-term. Enrollment is declining across peer theological schools nationally, while our programs face new competition for students.
- The need for interreligious understanding is growing, and growing strong. Many of the world’s most pressing problems can be traced to conflicts rooted in religious intolerance and a lack of religious literacy. In addition, communities and families are becoming increasingly diverse and interreligious.
- Our unique legacy calls us to even greater leadership. Hartford Seminary has a strong history of cutting-edge religion research and hosts pioneering programs in interreligious understanding, peacebuilding, and spirituality. Going forward, we will incorporate an even greater focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion into all of our work.
Thus, a new era begins with this strategic vision:
By 2025, Hartford Seminary will be the nation’s leading resource for interreligious education, research, and peace studies, providing cutting-edge research and immersive learning opportunities that enable leaders and institutions to thrive in a religiously complex world.
To achieve this, we will focus our institutional investment in four interrelated areas:
- Religion Research– We will build upon our legacy of rigorous applied research on congregational and institutional religious life while expanding efforts to pursue a public-facing, institution-wide research agenda toward interreligious understanding guided by a core of religiously diverse, public intellectual scholar-practitioners. Implementation is being co-led by Dr. Scott Thumma, Professor of Sociology of Religion, and Dr. Allison Norton, Faculty Associate in Migration Studies and Congregational Life.
- Interreligious Peace Studies – Our academic portfolio will include redesigned academic and professional Master’s programs, which include new and exciting paths for our historic Islamic Chaplaincy and International Peacemaking programs, and the evaluation of a reconfigured Ph.D. program, as well as other sustainable programs. Implementation is being led by Rev. Dr. David Grafton, our seminary’s Chief Academic Officer, Dean, and Professor of Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations.
- Global and Community Partnerships – As a global and local hub for interreligious understanding, peacebuilding, and spiritual life, we will cultivate local, national, and international partners and become a leading voice in those areas. This area is being led by Dr. Deena Grant, Associate Professor of Jewish Studies.
- Executive and Professional Education– We will respond to the growing demand for professional competencies around religious diversity through trainings that reach audiences in corporate, government, education, healthcare, and religious settings, and we will continue to equip religious leaders and communities for interreligious understanding and collaboration. This area will be led by Rev. Dr. Shanell Smith, Associate Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins, and it is anticipated that additional leadership will be enlisted as planning progresses.
Overall, the Seminary will retain a strong commitment to Islamic, Jewish, and Christian studies even while we branch out into new areas to support other religious traditions, seekers, and the non-religious. We will lead and serve the world in new ways while retaining the core of what makes Hartford Seminary unique.
Updating our Brand Identity
These changes provide the perfect opportunity for Hartford Seminary to develop a new brand identity, which is to say, how we communicate who we are as an institution. To that end, we vetted a number of excellent agencies and selected the Pittsburgh-based firm Elliance to help us navigate the rebranding.
Elliance, under the direction of CEO Abu Noaman, has experience working with many institutions of higher education with different religious perspectives. The agency’s staff will build upon the work of rpk GROUP, the consultancy that helped us develop our strategic vision.
Elliance will soon launch a period of discovery that incorporates rpk GROUP’s extensive research and adds to it. We look forward to including as many community members as possible as we develop this new brand identity together.
More News to Come
In addition to these exciting initiatives, please also stay tuned for updates on new centers at the Seminary that will grow and enhance our Black Ministries Program as well as the work of Dr. Miriam Therese Winter in Transformative Leadership and Spirituality. These seminary partners are an integral part of our future as we embrace our bold strategic vision.
As you can undoubtedly imagine, these changes represent a huge undertaking, in a challenging environment. But we are convinced that Hartford Seminary is headed in a new and exciting direction that will propel and sustain the important work that we do. Change and reinvention are the lifeblood of our 186-year history. Blazing trails is what we do.
Please look for additional announcements in the coming months that will offer more detail about our new direction. In the meantime, please email Susan Schoenberger, Director of Communications, at email@example.com with any comments or questions.