America’s seminaries continue to work toward diversifying the racial and ethnic makeup of their faculties. "While the number of racial and ethnic scholars among theological education faculty remains small nationwide, we continue to address this issue through our programs," says Sharon Watson Fluker, who directs FTE’s doctoral and dissertation-year programs and shepherds Fellows through completion of their degrees. "One of our primary goals is to support doctoral candidates by providing financial support and professional development opportunities." Dissertation-year fellowships awarded by FTE in 1999 recently helped put the letters Ph.D. behind the names of four scholars who are teaching and ministering.
After completing her doctorate in Hebrew Bible and legal theory at Vanderbilt University in Nashville and writing her dissertation on biblical laws and their treatment of women, Cheryl Anderson teaches Old Testament at Garrett-Evangelical Seminary in Evanston, Ill.
A former United Methodist pastor and lawyer who found a way to “bring it together," she’s happy to be participating in shaping the way seminary education is done. I want to help students be able to transfer what they learn to their lives as pastors."
Anderson says her introductory year as a seminary professor, "felt overwhelming at first. There’s so much work, but everyone says the first year is the roughest.” Her advice for current FTE Fellows is to try, “to finish the dissertation before you start teaching."
Anderson says her FTE fellowship helped her to devote a year to "doing nothing but writing" her dissertation and prepared her for making presentations outside the classroom and writing articles for theological journals. "I’ll always be grateful for the dissertation-year fellowship," she says, "and look forward to mentoring an FTE Fellow."
A passion for the archaeology of ancient Israel and Palestine and his interest in the Hebrew Bible led Teddy Burgh to pursue a doctorate in Syro-Palestinian archaeology at the University of Arizona, Tucson.
He completed his dissertation last year and was offered a job at Notre Dame University. There he is writing and conducting research and will be ready to begin teaching an archaeological survey of Israel and Palestine in the fall.
While he already had a master’s degree from Howard University’s School of Divinity, focusing on archaeology, "wasn’t a switch," he says. "I knew where I was going to go." Burgh enjoys approaching archaeology from a theological perspective. This summer he makes a return trip to the Middle East to excavate on the Madaba Plains project at the biblical site of Tel Hisban.
Burgh says his work on his doctorate helped him understand the sacrifices involved in graduate studies. "I gained new insight on how valuable family time is." He praised FTE for its support and called his dissertation-year grant "the best fellowship I ever had. I felt really cared for."
Stephanie Crowder also has become familiar with the sacrifices necessitated by family responsibilities. "I’m not like many who have graduated," she says. I'm married and have a 13-month old baby." When Spelman College offered her a teaching job in Atlanta, there wasn’t a pastoring job available for her husband to make the move possible. Instead, Crowder remained in Nashville, where she earned her doctorate in biblical studies at Vanderbilt, and found a job outside a college classroom. She directs a project funded by the Centers for Disease Control to help middle-Tennessee churches run programs for people affected by the AIDS virus.
While she taught as an adjunct instructor at American Baptist College, Crowder says, "There are other things you can do with a doctorate in biblical studies. This is ministry. I wanted to help bridge the gap between the seminary and what goes on in congregations." Crowder encourages current Fellows "to be open to what comes next," and “take time to work at finding a position that suits you."
Crowder found that an FTE Fellowship is more than "handing out money. It offers an opportunity to network with both faculty and peers.:"
As a new assistant professor of theology at Loyola University in Baltimore, Arthur Sutherland says, "the most challenging part is learning to teach. I spent a lot of time in graduate studies learning to listen."
With two graduate degrees in theology from Yale University Divinity School, Sutherland pursued a Ph.D. in the history of Christian doctrine from Princeton Theological Seminary. For his dissertation he studied the sermons of Karl Barth.
"The best part of teaching is creating new syllabi, creating new courses," for the undergraduate students, he says. Sutherland has taught Introduction to Theology, African-American Religious Thought and Christianity and Its Critics.
He advises FTE Fellows to "follow Jesus' instructions to Judas: 'What you do, do quickly.' I think writing a dissertation is a formative process, asking you to do things as a scholar, a researcher and a writer. You need to see it for that and not get hung up on getting it right, but get on to the business of teaching. For me, it’s all joy."
Sutherland says he "couldn’t have made it without FTE. It’s not just the financial support; it’s the exposure to a network of people that made a difference."
Thanks to the Fund for Theological Education for permission to reprint this article first published in the Winter 2001 Horizons Newsletter. For more information about the programs available through FTE, visit, http://www.thefund.org/ or email them at: firstname.lastname@example.org.