Alternative training options for officership
LT. COLONEL DIANE O’Brien (r) teaches a class at the School for Officer Training.
While the foundation stones for training Salvation Army officers in the Western Territory are still spiritual nurturing, academic and practical preparation for the ministry, and personal transformation, these stones are being laid in some new patterns in the School for Officer Training at Crestmont College.
Providing comparable training is the key, no matter what training model is used, says SFOT Dean Captain Steve Smith. “The traditional two-year residential program for cadets is still preferred, but now officer training leading to a commission, ordination, and an A.A. Degree in Ministry can be completed at Crestmont through one-year expedited residential training for candidates with sufficient academic credits, ministry experience and Salvation Army background, or three-year flexible–primarily offsite–training for candidates with extraordinary family or financial circumstances, or even further flexible options,” Smith said.
“By fall of 2002 there will probably be some cadets entering the flexible training category.”
Like Crestmont’s upper division (B.A. degree) program, the flexible A.A. degree option includes a heavy dose of distance learning coursework accessed through the college’s website. “These courses are developed by individual Crestmont faculty members, who receive ongoing training in the mechanics of online education,” Smith said. “The instructors maintain close personal contact with students through the use of threaded discussions and other online communication vehicles and, because online courses are offered concurrently with residential instruction, all students–residential and flexible offsite–can interact.”
Other required elements include an on-the-job practicum supervised by the corps and divisional officers, says Smith, and a small residential component that brings students to the campus for two weeks in two successive summers. “The resident period is an important opportunity for one-on-one mentoring and to provide offsite students a sense of community,” Smith said. As dean of the School, he recognizes that flexible training poses special challenges for both students and faculty.
“We’re trying to pack everything we do here on campus into three years of distance training, but it’s still not the same. Cadets who spend such limited time at the college inevitably miss some of the enculturation process into the Army,” he said. “Another problem area is simply getting so many courses online in a short period of time. But the challenges are minor compared to the benefits of opening officership to people who have previously been unable to receive our training.”
The application and admission process, currently under review, involves submission of the standard application packet. The Western Territorial candidate’s council makes the final determination about assigning candidates to traditional or alternative training.