PROVIDENCE UNIVERSITY COLLEGE: SOME QUESTIONS
David H. Johnson, Provost
June 17, 2011
On Thursday, June 16, 2011 under the leadership of its current President, August (Gus) Konkel, Providence took a large step in gaining recognition for Providence graduates and has advanced the kingdom of God in Canada. By unanimous approval of the Manitoba Legislature, Providence College is now Providence University College.
This recognition marks the end of a long process that began more than twenty years ago with the first recognition of a large number of courses for transfer credit at the University of Manitoba. Providence University College opened its doors in Winnipeg in 1925 as Winnipeg Bible Training School and was soon renamed Winnipeg Bible Institute. A Manitoba charter gave the school the ability to grant theological degrees in 1949; it began the accreditation process in 1963 and was named Winnipeg Bible College. In 1970, the school moved to a much larger location outside Winnipeg and increased enrolment to about 300 full time students. The school changed its name in 1992 to Providence College and Theological Seminary to reflect its broader academic mandate. The process included more recently a vote by the University Senate to recognize Providence undergraduate degrees in applications to post-baccalaureate programs. It also included the recognition of Providence undergraduate degrees by the department of education for teacher certification in Manitoba public schools.
The public news release about the name change can be read by clicking here.
What does the addition of the word 'University' mean for Providence students and alumni?
For College students and alumni it means that their education is now recognized for what it is. Our students have told us that they want a Christian university education. A university education signals a breadth of learning that one would not receive in a technical school or in a more narrow Bible college. Our students take typical university courses such as psychology, sociology, mathematics, business administration and leadership, fine arts, history, philosophy, and physical science.
What does the addition of the word 'University' mean for Providence Faculty?
College faculty will continue to take the lead in exploring the integration of faith and learning with Providence University College students. It is the commitment of the faculty to this vision of quality Christian higher education that allows Providence University College to offer this transformational education. The addition of 'university' to our name may open some doors for faculty to participate in the broader academy that the simple college designation did not, since in Canada the word 'college' often implies a technical school or sometimes even a high school. In the end, the name change will not affect faculty all that much because our name now actually reflects what Providence has been for over twenty years.
What does the addition of the word 'University' mean for Providence programs?
College programs will continue to explore the intersection of the Christian faith with all other aspects of education. We are not subtracting any biblical studies requirements from the curriculum. However, maintaining the amount of biblical and theological studies in the curriculum and at the same time offering full-fledged university degree programs will necessitate the gradual phasing in of more four-year degree programs. Manitoba is one of the few places in the world where it is still possible to earn a three-year undergraduate degree. Three-year BA programs are being phased out at the University of Manitoba and the same will happen at Providence. The Providence University College administration has determined to emphasize more and more the four-year BA program as its gold standard.
About thirty years ago one of the largest majors in the College was in Biblical Studies. This has not been true for a number of years now. Other majors such as Business Administration, Youth Leadership, and Social Sciences vie with Biblical Studies for the largest number of majors. The Providence student population has become more diverse. This is what it means to be a Christian university. Graduates are leaving Providence to work in all kinds of jobs where they can be salt and light for Christ. We believe that a Christian university should prepare students for marketplace Christianity.
What does the addition of the word 'University' mean for the Christian ethos of Providence?
Essentially it does not change anything for our Christian ethos. We will continue to invest in every student's spiritual development as we always have. All of the hallmarks of the Providence experience will remain and be revitalized, including our chapel programs, our discipleship programs in residence, and the availability of Christian counselling for students who desire it. Missio Dei, our annual missions conference, will continue to gain a higher profile as we have opportunity to discuss with students how they can be involved in the mission of God in the world.
Providence is a voluntary community where its members agree to live by a Covenant of Community Life and agree to be taught in a context where the faculty and administration subscribe to a Covenant of Faith. It has always been this sort of community and will continue to be so, even with the addition of the word university to describe what sort of college we are. Our faculty are not perfect Christians and neither are our students. But our intention is to live according to the two institutional covenants which you can find by clicking here and here.
Providence has always been a Christian academic community in the evangelical tradition that teaches people to grow in knowledge and character for leadership and service. The mission of Providence University College remains to teach Christians at a university level to think, live, and serve in church and society. We offer a Christ-centred education in a Christ-centered community. As Dr. Konkel stated in the recent press release "Providence will continue to develop ethically-based leaders... leaders who are able to see through the hopelessness of situations in order to transform them into opportunities of hopefulness. By exposing students from across Canada and around the world to each other, we allow them to develop personal leadership styles that will help them venture forward... We have demonstrated the commitment and determination to make a difference in the past and we believe we can do much, much more in the future."
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