March 29, 2014

Leadership and Service Highlight International Conference

BY STEPHEN CHAVEZ, Adventist Review

“Servant Leadership, Sacrificial Service,”
an international conference for Adventist college and university presidents,
was held March 24-27 at the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist
Church in Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.

The conference, sponsored by the Education
Department of the General Conference, brought together more than 150 college
and university presidents, education directors, and GC administrators from each
of the 13 administrative units of the world church.

According to Lisa Beardsley-Hardy, director
of Education for the General Conference, the conference was planned to
highlight four priorities essential for the success of Adventist tertiary
education: reinforce Adventist identity and mission; strengthen leadership and
administration; increase the capacity of all teachers to carry out the
redemptive purposes of Adventist education in their classes; and provide
opportunities through which students may become more dedicated disciples of
Jesus Christ.

In the more than 20 years since the last international
conference, changes in education, and society in general, have made assembling
Adventist educators an essential ingredient in maintaining the high quality of
Adventist education. Beardsley-Hardy points to the need to train educators to
be more effective in promoting the mission of the church in their educational
settings. “The Adventist [educational] system has grown tremendously. We’ve
added a lot of graduate and professional programs, and as a system we have 1.8
million students in a much more complex environment than ever before,” she said.

She added, “People value Adventist
education. We produce good graduates, so there’s tremendous pressure in terms
of people wanting a quality education in a safe environment for their

John McVay, president of Walla Walla
University appreciated the opportunity to embrace a shared vision with his
peers. “There is value in being in the same room and saying, ‘Yes, this is what
we’re about in Adventist higher education.’

“There’s a fresh transparency in higher
education that is coming about for a lot of reasons,” said McVay. “We’re all
being asked to be forthright about our data, who we are, who we’re becoming,
and what we’re accomplishing for our students. I think we’ll be more overtly
Adventist a decade from now.”

For James Makinde, president of Nigeria’s
Babcock University, the conference provided opportunities to reflect on the
purpose of Adventist higher education. “We started out thinking that the
purpose of Adventist education was to educate Adventist children, to build a
kind of monastery to protect Adventist children from the influences of the
world,” he said.

“But the purpose of every Adventist
organization must be to make disciples. You can’t make disciples out of those
who are already disciples.

“I tell people, ‘Babcock University is
actually a giant baptismal class, where people pay to attend baptismal classes
over a period of four years.’” Makinde reports that of its nearly 8,400
graduate and undergraduate students, anywhere from 500 to 1,000 students are
baptized each school year. In addition, he says, “We have friends everywhere.”