Monday, 26 January 2015

Strategic Directions

Several months ago, the Board co-chairs (Henriette Thompson and Aileen van Ginkel) and the Leadership Team (Ed Hayley, Ron Kuipers and Doug Blomberg) formulated a statement of three “strategic directions” for ICS. This summarises the outcomes of extensive consultation among faculty, staff, Senate and the Board of Trustees. In brief, these priorities are advancement, partnering and online education. Of course, each has long played a part in the execution of ICS’s mission. You might like to review, for example, the June 1998 issue of Perspective, available in our Institutional Repository (


The Board of Trustees recently decided to appoint an Advancement Committee to concentrate on this crucial aspect of ICS’s functioning. Board member Philip Preville has agreed to act as chair, and brings significant expertise to this role. We are also in the process of filling positions on three Task Forces reporting to this committee, in Eastern Canada, Western Canada and the United States (the latter in close collaboration with Friends of ICS). Janet deVries, Development Counsel from Christian Stewardship Services, has been providing significant oversight of these structural changes and many other initiatives in the advancement arena. An immediate priority is the recruitment of a Director of Advancement, for which advertising will soon begin.


The Board has also established a Partnering Committee, comprising Board co-chair Aileen Van Ginkel (an expert in this field), Harry Fernhout (former President of ICS and The King’s UC), Nicholas Terpstra (University of Toronto, former Senate Chair and Chancellor), John Valk (University of New Brunswick, ICS trustee), Neal De Roo (Dordt College, ICS trustee and FICS board member), Bob Sweetman and Doug Blomberg. Frameworks for partnering with other institutions are being developed, at the same time as a number of grassroots initiatives in distance education are being negotiated. The Centre for Philosophy, Religion and Social Ethics (CPRSE) is another important dimension in our partnering activities, with the “Justice and Faith” project having the potential to expand its current collaboration with the Christian Reformed Church and the Centre for Community Based Research to include other partners.

Just recently, ICS has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Baekseok University, Republic of Korea, and agreed to explore possibilities for collaboration, with respect especially to the exchange of students, faculty and academic information and a study abroad program. This agreement emerged from the conference of institutional leaders organised by the International Association for the Promotion of Christian Higher Education in Malaysia, November 2014.

Online Education

The three strategic directions are intertwined. For example, off-campus programs have often been in partnership with other institutions. These have included the National Institute for Christian Education in Australia and the International Association for the Promotion of Christian Higher Education, through the Christian Academic Studies Certificate. We are currently partnering with faculty in Central America for the MWS in Urban Ministry and Gordon College at its Orvieto facility in Italy in our Art, Religion and Theology concentration, as well as exploring other cooperative ventures. These more recent engagements include intensive residential components, likely to be emulated. A previous ICS vision statement highlighted “Globally Accessible Christian Graduate Education”: we remain committed to this goal.

The link with advancement is clear: the “Graduate School with a Difference” needs to be (seen to be) making a difference if we are both to be faithful to our vision and to enthuse a broader range of supporters, those for whom academic pursuits seem too removed from concrete realities. This support is vital to the gamut of our operations, and always has been.