Eight months after Andover Newton Theological Seminary and Yale Divinity School announced a potential partnership, a permanent affiliation is becoming more of a reality.
In April 2016, Dean of Yale Divinity School Greg Sterling and President of Andover Newton Martin Copenhaver DIV ’80 announced that Andover Newton, the country’s oldest graduate seminary, would have a visiting presence at the Divinity School for the 2016–17 school year. If the visiting phase goes smoothly and negotiations are successful, Andover Newton will move to the Sterling Divinity Quadrangle and become permanently affiliated with the school, starting in the 2017–18 academic year.
“We’re doing a lot right now as if [the affiliation] is going to come through and become consummated,” Copenhaver said. “We’re aware that there are still some things to be resolved, we aren’t looking past that, but we are doing everything we can and are encouraged that this will end in a more permanent agreement.”
As part of the visiting presence, four professors and two administrators from Andover Newton are working at the Divinity School for the year.
According to Sarah Drummond ’93, visiting professor at Yale Divinity School and vice president for Academic Affairs at Andover Newton, any students interested in applying to Andover Newton for the upcoming school year will apply directly to the Yale Divinity School.
If the affiliation negotiations are successful, admitted students will go through an additional process designated for those preparing for ministry in the congregational tradition. However, Yale will be the sole degree-granting entity, Drummond said.
The partnership came after Andover Newton announced in Novembefr of 2015 that it would sell its 23-acre campus in Newton, Massachusetts, due to financial pressure. The school is currently in what is called an “internal teach out” period, meaning that the school stopped accepting applications 18 months ago and will grant degrees to its last class of students in May 2018. Andover Newton is in the final stages of securing a temporary extension site for the 2017–18 school year so that current students can finish their studies and receive a degree.
Sterling said the affiliation will enable Andover Newton to continue its mission of training ministers of the congregational faith. In return, the affiliation will help ensure that the Divinity School — which Sterling said often tends to have a proclivity towards the academic rather than the professional — pays attention to the applied training of people to serve as ministers, as one-third of Divinity School students graduate with degrees in ministerial studies. Furthermore, the addition of Andover Newton’s endowment will help the Divinity School reach its goal of providing full scholarships to those with full demonstrated need by 2022.
“Andover shares our concern to provide financial aid to students,” Sterling said. “We don’t want them to go into debt to such a point that their level of indebtedness determines where they can go when they graduate.”
Drummond said Andover Newton’s visiting year has focused on adding courses to the Divinity School’s curriculum that are rooted in the congregational church tradition and continue internal affiliation negotiations. According to Drummond, the visiting phase is of great importance to the affiliation process because it helps the two communities foster relationships.
One of the ways in which Andover Newton is achieving this is by hosting Thursday dinners and worship services in which Divinity School students are invited to participate in conversations, Bible study and worship sessions. Drummond added that working with Divinity School students has been gratifying, as they all have a “hunger for learning.”
“I’m very hopeful [about the affiliation] and the welcome that the visiting year has brought out from the Yale Community has been really encouraging and heartwarming,” Drummond said.
William Goettler, Divinity School associate dean for assessment and ministerial studies, said students are excited about the possibility of an affiliation, particularly those training to be ministers in the congregational and Baptist traditions in which Andover Newton specializes. Though he is not involved with the final negotiation process, he said that he and the rest of the Divinity School community are hopeful that this affiliation will come to fruition.
Jordan Rebholz DIV ’18, the vice president of the Yale Divinity School Student Council and a member of the student steering committee for Andover Newton at Yale, said the committee meets with Drummond, Copenhaver and other visiting professors from Andover to plan what the affiliation will look like, including planning a new curriculum and a possible certificate program specific to Andover Newton. She said Divinity School students are already “falling in love” with the visiting faculty from Andover Newton.
“It’s been a really beautiful experience of blending communities,” Rebholz said.