By Kara Witherow, Editor
A new partnership between Wesleyan College and Emory University’s Candler School of Theology will make it easier for students to pursue theological education and earn seminary degrees.
The collaboration, which will see its first student begin classes at Candler this August, gives Wesleyan College students guaranteed admission and scholarship opportunities to Candler. To be eligible, students must have a 3.0 grade point average and have majored in religion or philosophy.
“There’s a lot of anxiety surrounding life after graduation, and if students are interested in pursuing additional degrees, there’s a lot of anxiety around applying and getting in,” said Dr. Tyler Schwaller, Chaplain and Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Wesleyan College. “This way, there’s this connection to a great school that they know is there if they work hard and do well.”
Just this past spring, Zamoria Simpson was applying to law schools and had plans to become a lawyer. Now she’s just a few weeks away from starting classes at Candler.
Simpson, who graduated from Wesleyan College in May with a degree in political philosophy, will be the inaugural student of the Wesleyan-Candler partnership. She first learned of it from her philosophy professor and, after much prayer and discussion with her parents, decided to apply.
“I could really see where Wesleyan, my theological classes, and my professors had prepared me for this,” she said, noting that the guaranteed acceptance and proximity to her family in LaGrange was a draw. “I don’t want to be closed off to any possibilities; I want to be open to whatever God calls me to do.”
The partnership isn’t just for those called into full-time pastoral ministry, Dr. Schwaller says. It’s perfect for those who are, but it’s also a great opportunity for students who are interested in non-profit work, social justice, or social engagement. Students have the opportunity to learn about and engage in that kind of work on Wesleyan’s intimate campus and then continue their education at Candler.
“This brings together the serious intellectual and rigorous spiritual formation traditions within Methodism,” he said. “My aim is always to help students connect what they’re learning in the classroom with what that means in the world. This partnership helps bring that together as well, to highlight for students that there are a variety of ways that they can be deeply engaged in transforming the world – in making disciples, in bringing about justice, in increasing compassion in the world – and that’s not something that’s divorced from academics, but they’re tied up in one another.”
Simpson, whose father, Rev. Marlon Simpson, is a pastor at Burns United Methodist Church in the North Georgia Conference, plans to earn a Master of Divinity degree from Candler and pursue a career in social justice, perhaps at a law firm. She hasn’t yet discerned whether to take the elder or deacon route, but says she’s letting God lead her.
“I want my faith and my love and passion for social justice to come together to have the perfect career I know God has planned for me,” she said. “And I think that’s what Candler will best prepare me for.”