I got my diploma in the mail today. I'm now officially a Master of Divinity. My seminary schooling has officially come to a close. It should be noted that I had a lingering feeling that this day would not come...at least not yet. You see, I had transferred from Sioux Falls Seminary where I attended graduate school online for two years. Unbeknownst to me, however, the Association of Theological Schools (the outfit that accredits seminaries in the U.S) requires that a seminary student complete a certain percentage of his or her degree on campus, and not online. This forced me to transfer to Bethel Seminary in St. Paul (or, I suppose I could have moved to Sioux Falls).
The transfer process was anything but smooth. Sioux Falls was on a semester schedule, whereas Bethel was on the quarter system. This meant that my credits transferred over in strange ways, to say the least. For example, my four semester credits at Sioux Falls were worth something like 4.5 quarter credits at Bethel. Also, since Sioux Falls required certain courses that Bethel didn't, and vice versa, some of those classes didn't transfer over as core credits, but rather as elective credits. This meant that when I started at Bethel all my elective credits were filled with transfer credits from core classes at Sioux Falls. This also meant that I could not have a concentration at Bethel. The way Bethel does M.Div degrees is they allow students to have an area of concentration in their degree - a field of study that, although they haven't earned a degree in it, they've concentrated their studies on the field while doing their M.Div. I didn't get this opportunity due to the goofy transfer process. There was also a requirement from Bethel that said I needed to take a certain number of classes at Bethel in order to receive a degree from them - a requirement that I barely met.
To make matters worse, it seems that most educational institutions are rather snobby when it comes to their own courses. For some reason, they feel that their course offerings are better than those of other schools - even when the classes are the same. For example, my hermeneutics coursework from Sioux Falls didn't transfer to Bethel because they wanted me to take hermeneutics from them. This was true of some of my Old and New Testament coursework as well. Guess what: there's really not that much difference between schools.
To top all that off, my senior year at Bethel required an amazing amount of additional work when compared to my other three years in seminary. I had to complete a statement of faith (a requirement for students starting graduate school prior to 2009, which I was), and also a professional internship. The internship process through Bethel was interesting, as I had already done several supervised ministry courses through Sioux Falls. I appealed my case to a wonderful guy named Greg Meland, the supervised ministry director at Bethel. Fortunately, he was acquainted with Ron Sisk, the supervised ministry director at Sioux Falls and was able to have a talk with him and exempt me from one of the internship requirements. This didn't relieve all the stress, however, as Greg isn't the greatest at email communication, so I was never really sure that my coursework was being received, or that I had indeed met all the internship requirements...until now.
Even during my last few weeks of school, and for about the past month, I've had a nagging feeling that there would be some little requirement that I had either forgotten or overlooked that would prevent me from receiving my diploma, even though I technically graduated. These fears were alleviated today, however, when my diploma showed up in the mail.
Now I just need to decide which wall of my office to hang it on (or which file folder in my file cabinet to shove it into!).