Opportunities abound at Crestmont College

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BA program reflects changing needs of Army leaders


Change in education comes slowly, but the BA degree program at The Salvation Army’s Crestmont College is a notable exception. For the Western Territory’s training college in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, responsiveness and innovation keep this upper division academic program dynamic. This means being very student-focused, according to Director of Degree Programs Major Brian Jones.

“We realize the importance of individualizing the program for each student,” Jones said. “We are continually evaluating the curriculum to make it practical for Salvation Army leaders, and also academically substantive to satisfy the high standards of the Christian and secular accreditation we are seeking.”

Jones, who has a Doctorate in Ministries from Azusa Pacific University, says the program’s original target population in 2000 was newly commissioned officers; today the 149 students currently enrolled in the five-year BA degree program also include experienced officers from the field as well as soldiers and employees from across the territory. “We anticipate 180 students in the program by next year,” Jones said. “And we would like a good percentage of this number to be non-officers because we really want to meet the educational needs of all people who function as Salvation Army representatives and leaders.”

The number of individuals who participate in educational and other programs each year at Crestmont reflects the college’s commitment to serve a broad population that includes not only BA students but also cadets in the AA degree program, conference center participants year round, individuals throughout the territory assisted by Crestmont in outside academic programs, community members and others…as many as 3,000 individuals each year.

The college is hoping to expand its residential capacity through a capital campaign that will enable Crestmont to accommodate more students, including BA participants during their annual intensive class sessions that take place on campus during the summer months. While most general education classes are taken online, BA participants return to Crestmont for 10 days of on-site instruction in core course topics, which include concentrations in areas of business management, theology, counseling and social work. New this year, said Jones, is a fourth concentration that combines elements of all three.

Other innovations in the program feature greater flexibility in entrance requirements, whereby applicants may now apply up to a third of the 90 units required for entry to the college from their relevant work experience. Also, the recently piloted online “Spanish in the Workplace” curriculum is designed not only for BA students but also for other officers, soldiers and employees on a course-by-course basis, at $200 per 10-week quarter. “The course will provide a virtual classroom for live discussion that includes Salvation Army vocabulary and how to use the language in a social service context,” Jones said. “We’ll offer Spanish I and II this fall and winter, and participants may take the class for continuing education units or regular college credit.”

In addition to flexibility and relevance, quality is a primary goal, says Jones, noting that approximately half of current teaching staff have doctorates and that all instructors, including those from other institutions, are professional teachers.

“The academic expectations for the BA program are high, as at any four-year college,” Jones said. “The Salvation Army recognizes the more complex demands of ministry today, and our own commissioner has told us that the BA, not the AA, is now the standard for the territory educationally. But a BA degree from Crestmont is a bargain…for officers, who pay nothing to enroll, and for employees, who pay only 25% of the cost. We continue to look for scholarship sources for soldiers, who currently pay the full cost of $2,500 per year for the program.”

For Jones, who personally counsels and guides many BA students each year, most rewarding has been watching the program come together and seeing the excitement build. “This week I heard a student say ‘I can directly apply everything I have learned in the summer intensive when I return to my appointment,’” said Jones. “And my favorite student comment was, ‘Wow! I’m really learning!’”

For information, or to submit an application, contact the School for Continuing Education at (310) 265-6110 or go to www.crestmontcollege.edu

Why don’t YOU go to Crestmont College?

It’s the opportunity of a lifetime! Whatever your personal, professional or educational goals, there may be something for you at The Salvation Army Crestmont College in Rancho Palos Verdes.

First, Crestmont has a breadth of offerings…from residential instruction to online education and distance learning…from programs designed just for officer candidates to programs that welcome employees, soldiers, volunteers and friends of The Salvation Army…from flexible programs leading to an AA in Ministries degree or a BA in Ministries degree with a choice of specialties… to dynamic informal education.

Second, Crestmont is a community of learners, of Salvationists and Christians, of students and faculty, of officers and lay people, all of whom come to share their knowledge and faith and to strengthen themselves spiritually and educationally. In serving as Crestmont College’s Provost and a faculty member, it’s my privilege to witness the transformation of each individual who comes through the college.

Third, Crestmont prepares leaders for mission, and this means the integration of faith, education and service. A strength of the college is the combination of Bible and doctrine, academic excellence, and practical preparation for ministry.

I have been in higher education for 38 years, and I have never felt more excited about the possibilities and opportunities, the relationships with students, or the interactive environment than I feel today at Crestmont. I believe this is because the college allows me, as an instructor, a psychologist and a Christian, to offer the perspective of The Salvation Army as it applies to the various interests and “callings” in my life. Through teaching or team-teaching courses such as Introduction to Psychology, Social and Multicultural Psychology, Personality and Motivation, and Counseling for the Dying and Bereaved, I have the opportunity to combine secularly acquired knowledge with my faith, beliefs and instincts in the self-knowledge of a living, loving God and Son! And, with other Salvationists and Christians in a shared communality! What an opportunity, one of my favorite words!

Is Crestmont for you? Whether or not you have ever felt the call to officership, how can you prepare yourself for Christian education?

• Be an experiential learner: Take classes at a local community college. Stay involved in a variety of Army activities at your own and other corps, to help you find out your own call to a Christian education and service to others.
• Do your homework: Attend a SOAR event at Crestmont or just arrange a visit to the campus to get a first-hand impression of the setting, the instructors, the students and the classes. (Rule #1 – never attend a college or university without visiting it first to assess its “fit” for you!)
• Read: Read God’s word, for personal teaching and as a real study, and read works in topics related to Salvation Army mission…psychology, sociology, theology, social work, ethics and Christian leadership and management.

Again I stress the word “opportunity,” and if you want information or an application please get in touch with us now. This may be the optimal time for you to truly learn, to improve, and to apply and practice the skills and abilities God has given to you. As an academic advisor to literally thousands of students, and as a Christian educator and counselor, I feel at Crestmont a symbiosis of mission unsurpassed! What I do here is what I love. God and I, working together, have prepared me for this avenue of service. Could it also be for you?

You can visit the college’s website at www.crestmontcollege.edu or feel free to contact me directly at dennis_vanderweele@usw.salvationarmy.org to talk about your educational plans and aspirations.

Students learn to SOAR with Crestmont seminars and retreats

“Meeting needs and exceeding expectations” is the buzzword for Crestmont College’s dynamic informal educational series, Seminar Opportunities and Retreats (SOAR), begun in 2001 and offered fall through spring each year to officers, employees, volunteers and friends of The Salvation Army.

“SOAR conferences are practical and hands-on, and are designed to equip people throughout the territory with skills they can apply immediately in their personal and professional lives,” said Captain Brian Saunders, director of continuing education at Crestmont College, who along with Major Donna Ames, director of personnel development, coordinates the SOAR program. “Most topics have come out of suggestions from the field, and faculty include officers, premiere Christian educators and authors from across the country.”

The 2003-2004 series includes such diverse offerings as a Pastoral Care Seminar, Heritage Conference, Spiritual Retreat, Business Administration Seminar, Prepare/Enrich Marital Inventory, Prayer and Revival Summit, and more.

A Leadership and Conflict Resolution Seminar will be the second of four annual seminars in the overwhelmingly popular Leadership Studies Seminar Series leading to Crestmont’s Diploma Certificate in Leadership Studies. Some conferences can also count toward college credit, according to Saunders.

SOAR events are typically held on Crestmont’s idyllic 44-acre campus, perched on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, although a unique “Crestmont Extension” program brings selected events directly to the divisions.

“Our goal is to make SOAR easily accessible throughout the territory, and to reduce cost and time constraints,” Saunders said. “We want to encourage the territory to take advantage of this innovative program for spiritual and educational development.”

SOAR brochures for 2003-2004 will be available in every corps by the end of August. For information go to www.crestmontcollege.edu or call (310) 544-6419.

SA employee seeks God’s call at Crestmont

Regina Verdugo, youth pastor from Sacramento Citadel, is a new Crestmont College Bachelor of Arts student who says she doesn’t ever want to stop learning. “I don’t know where God is leading me, but my passion is people and serving God,” Verdugo said. “At Crestmont, I feel I’m getting a solid foundation in Bible and Christian Ministries to help me better proclaim the word to others.” Nine employees and soldiers are taking advantage of Crestmont’s BA degree program, offered to employees for the first time this year.

The BA program is intense, says Verdugo, but she can relate everything she learns to her youth work at the corps. “My three classes this summer gave me new insights, knowledge about how to share the vision and motivate others, and the reassurance, as a relatively new Christian, that my theology is sound.”

This winter, Verdugo will begin general education courses from home through Crestmont’s online education component. “They do everything possible to accommodate your schedule,” Verdugo said. “For example, online classes start in winter quarter because corps are so busy in the fall. And I have three assignments from the on-site summer session that aren’t due until August, to give officers who are moving time to adjust to their new corps. I think that’s one reason the BA program works so well.”

Verdugo says she appreciates the support of her officer employers, her husband and three children. “I had been trying to complete my AA degree at the local community college but I was too busy and I felt the course had no relation to what I wanted to do. Crestmont has a really quality program; teachers have a wealth of information…that was apparent in every class. And with the Army’s financial support to employees, it’s only costing me $640 a year. That’s not bad when our local Christian college would cost me $13,000 a year.”

What about the future? “I will feel successful when I achieve my BA degree goal,” Verdugo said. “Then who knows? Maybe a Masters!”

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