A picture of North Central College partner Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary.

North Central News

North Central creates formal partnership with Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary

Oct 30, 2019

Students get a new chance for a head start on graduate religious studies

North Central College has united with Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary (GETS) to offer students the unique opportunity to take graduate-level courses in religious studies while completing their undergraduate degrees.

The official signing ceremony between North Central and GETS took place October 9 at Garrett’s Chapel of the Unnamed Faithful. Participants included North Central College President Dr. Troy Hammond; Dr. Lallene Rector, president of GETS; and North Central and GETS alumnus Rev. Thomas Babler '69. Former North Central trustee Bishop Sharon Rader of the United Methodist Church presided over the service.

Students are eligible to take classes at the seminary’s campus in Evanston, Ill. This is the first time the College is allowing students to transfer graduate course credits toward their undergraduate work. Junior and senior North Central students in good academic standing with at least 12 hours of religious studies courses are eligible to enroll in online, summer-intensive or traditional courses. They can either count the courses toward their North Central electives or accumulate up to 15 credits of graduate coursework toward a future master’s degree at GETS or elsewhere.

North Central College President Troy Hammond and GETS President Lallene Rector.

North Central College President Troy Hammond and GETS President Lallene Rector.

Enhancing religious studies careers and making them easier to reach

The program represents an exception to North Central’s existing policy against transferring religion or theology coursework that involves beliefs taught by a church. Faculty and administrators at the College agreed that the benefits to both institutions as well as North Central’s rich history with the United Methodist Church made the partnership worth pursuing.

“It's a perfect combination of the approach that our religious studies program takes, which is non-doctrinal and interpretive, and a denominational approach that some of our students crave,” said Stephen Maynard Caliendo, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and professor of political science. “The faculty and staff at Garrett-Evangelical are excited about this partnership because they know how well North Central students are prepared for their graduate programs and they appreciate having more of them in their graduate courses.

The partnership is a way for students to prepare for advanced degree programs as well as careers in ministry, service and social engagement. It also serves as a “study away” opportunity, as North Central students will get a feel for a different kind of campus by visiting GETS for on-site classes.

“We designed this program with our eyes toward students who eventually want to have a professional life in the Methodist tradition, but even students who are contemplating another path in a faith profession will benefit from taking classes at Garrett-Evangelical,” Caliendo said. “It's a world-class institution with a global student body and access to resources that we do not have at North Central.”

Another benefit to students is deferring some graduate school tuition by acquiring credits during their undergraduate years. “We very much had the cost of higher education in mind when we developed this program,” said Caliendo.

For more information, contact Wioleta Polinska, professor of religious studies and chairperson of the department of religious studies, at wdpolinska@noctrl.edu or (630) 637-5317.