November 22, 2021
by Greg Henson, President, Sioux Falls Seminary; David Williams, President, Taylor Seminary; and Gary Bailey, President, BLI School of Ministry
Today, we are continuing our series about the various programs available within the Kairos ecosystem. Last week, we looked at the Doctor of Ministry program. In this post, we will review the Bachelor of Arts (BA).
Our goal with this series of blog posts is to provide broad descriptions of various programs by looking at them through three different lenses. First, we will look at why people might want to enroll in the Bachelor of Arts program. Then, we will describe the various aspects of the program by reflecting on the journey that students take while in the program. Finally, we will share some experiences from a student who is in the program.
Why Engage in the Bachelor of Arts?
Earning a Bachelor of Arts degree can be an important step toward a person’s vocational goals. It can open doors to certain vocations, create the broad foundation needed to flourish in one’s work, or set the stage for continued growth and development. While there are many reasons why someone might enroll in a BA program, we have found that those who flourish in the Bachelor of Arts in Christian Thought and Practice within Kairos tend to enroll for one of three reasons: 1) to become a more faithful follower of Jesus, 2) to prepare for a master’s program, or 3) to develop vocational excellence.
Because Kairos is a community of people who call Jesus Lord, it should be no surprise that a journey through Kairos is, first and foremost, a journey of discipleship. It is an opportunity for those who participate to learn more about who God is, who they are in Christ, and how God is inviting them to engage in the work he is doing in the world. If you find yourself yearning to dive deeper into the Word of God as you grow in your understanding and practice of a particular vocation, then Kairos is for you. Students who flourish in Kairos often see the degree as a helpful by-product of the discipleship journey.
For the majority of students, a Bachelor of Arts degree is not the goal. Most enter this journey of discipleship in order to prepare for and then engage in a master’s degree within Kairos. In fact, because of the way the Bachelor of Arts in Christian Thought and Practice is designed, it easily integrates with our Master of Arts and Master of Divinity programs. It is possible for eligible students to enroll in an accelerated track at the master’s level and earn a Bachelor of Arts as part of the program. It is common for people to enroll in one of these tracks in order to integrate some of their BA studies with study at the master’s level—allowing for both programs to be done in a shorter time frame than when done progressively.
Finally, the vocational focus within the Kairos BA program is often another reason people choose to enroll. The entire Bachelor of Arts in Christian Thought and Practice is designed to help participants integrate their faith and vocation. To put that more simply, the program is intended to help students follow Jesus and flourish in their vocations. For the person who feels called to congregational ministry, it will help them discern and develop the base of knowledge needed to faithfully engage in that work. Likewise, the student who wants to integrate her faith and her passion for software engineering can find a path that will help them do so.
There are many reasons why someone might enroll in a Bachelor of Arts program. The reality is that there are plenty of schools at which a student can quickly earn a degree or simply seek a degree in order to get a job. While students can advance through the BA program at Kairos and often find it helpful in their vocational pursuits, it is often their desire to know God more deeply that draws them to Kairos and enables them to flourish in their vocation while enrolled.
The Aspects of the Journey
Like all programs within Kairos, the Bachelor of Arts program is designed around a set of learning outcomes that guide and shape every aspect of the degree program. At this undergraduate level of study, students are working to develop and demonstrate basic integrated knowledge from a wide range of disciplines.
The Bachelor of Arts in Christian Thought and Practice is categorized into three tiers, all of which are designed to help students develop and demonstrate proficiency within the program’s 20 learning outcomes. Throughout their Kairos journey, students participate in several types of learning experiences, including Huddles, Gatherings, Self-Paced Learning Experiences, and Projects as well as engage in Prior Learning Assessment. Let’s take a closer look at each.
• Huddles are eight-week learning experiences that are guided by a professor and devoted to a specific topic. Each week, students meet together on Zoom with the professor to engage the topic of that specific huddle, connect with their peers, pray, and develop proficiency. There are eight huddles: Formation I & II, Bible I & II, Vocation I & II, and Theology 1 & II. Students participate in four huddles during each academic year.
• Gatherings are large-group learning experiences built around a week-long seminar. Prior to the seminar, students prepare a case study based on an experience within their vocational context, which they will present to others in their case study group. During the seminar, they participate in teaching sessions, small group breakouts, and case study groups. Following the gathering, they reflect on the experience, their learning, and their case study presentation.
• Self-Paced Learning Experiences (SPLEs) provide students with the opportunity to make progress in particular areas asynchronously (i.e., on their own time). By working with their faculty mentors or mentor teams, students identify which faculty-led SPLEs might be most helpful to them at any given point within the program. Self-paced options range from Exploring the Old Testament to Exploring Sociology to Finance and Stewardship, etc.
• Projects are opportunities for students to put into practice what they are learning while also developing expertise relative to their chosen or desired vocation. Students work with their mentors to design, develop, and implement projects that will help them develop and demonstrate proficiency within particular learning categories. It’s kind of like an internship but with the added benefit and intentional preparation and reflection on the experience. Also, projects can be small (i.e., a few weeks long) or large (i.e., an entire summer).
• Prior learning assessment is an important aspect of the program because we believe learning and development can happen anywhere at any time. Every student has the opportunity to work with a faculty mentor and mentor team to document, assess, and apply learning that occurred prior to enrolling in the BA program. This process can help students accelerate their progress and customize the path they take.
If you were paying attention to the description of those five aspects, you probably noticed the repeated reference to faculty mentors and mentor teams. Throughout the process, students work with a faculty mentor and, as they progress through the program, they build a mentor team.
While working through the first tier of experiences and courses within the program, students collaborate with a faculty mentor to outline their educational pathway, explore the concept of a development process, and assess their progress. In the second tier, students are invited to think more deeply about what they are learning. Finally, in the third tier of the program, students work with each member of their mentor team. Mentors provide insight, guidance, and support as students develop and demonstrate proficiency in the program.
How Has it Served Students?
It is often helpful to hear from students in a program in order to gain a better picture of why someone might enroll or how it is helpful for them. Here is a bit from Tania, Sandra, and Dillon.
Dillon, Current Student
I initially chose to enroll in Kairos because of its accelerated pathway toward earning both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree. As I looked deeper, I learned that the high-quality program provided by Kairos is also very affordable, accessible, and flexible!
The flexibility of the program is wonderful. With a library of learning experiences and the opportunity to customize my degree, I am not confined to specific topics or types of learning. Instead, I can focus on the areas of interest and passion. This has resulted in both academic and spiritual growth.
The big game-changer in this program, though, is the mentor team. This team has helped me integrate my education into my daily life by giving guidance and accountability outside of classes. This makes Kairos something that goes beyond capturing knowledge in your head. It reaches into your life no matter who you are.
Tania, Current Student
As a mom of three young children who also works part-time in a local ministry, finding a way to pursue education has been challenging. When I felt the call to complete my Bachelor of Arts degree after being out of school for nearly 20 years, I knew I needed something flexible, affordable, and accelerated. Unfortunately, no matter where I looked, it was going to require educational debt, courses that didn’t fit my vocational context, and a time commitment that didn’t fit my life.
I learned about Kairos University while attending a conference for work. It seemed too good to be true because I discovered I could learn in different ways, integrate prior learning, and adapt learning to fit my time and context. Even though I was very unsure of how it all worked, I knew this is exactly where God needed me to be so I enrolled.
In a few short months, I began to see that this was one of the best educational choices I have ever made. It was life-changing and more than I could have imagined. It is affordable, flexible, and responsive to my needs as a student, mother, follower of Jesus, and part-time staff member of a ministry. For example, when I mentioned to my faculty mentor that due to my dyslexia I tend to learn better using audio books, she quickly modified all of my courses to fit my needs and learning style. As a result, I am retaining what I learn and applying it in real life right away. Perhaps most exciting is that my learning and growth have been noticed by my friends, co-workers, and family – some of whom are now considering enrolling in Kairos University, as well!
Sandra, Current Student
When I was first introduced to Kairos, I was excited because it made possible what I had always thought seemed impossible. I enrolled in the BA program in order to prepare for a master’s degree. The flexibility of the program enabled me to engage in a way that fit my life and ministry.
After one year in the program, I can tell you that Kairos has been life-changing for me. I often refer to the experience as more of an intense journey of discipleship rather than a traditional degree program at a university. I have learned so much about God and myself. Through several courses, I have been able to heal wounds of my past and see myself (and consequently others) through God’s eyes and not my own. I have learned, through practice, how to engage in spiritual disciplines, how to handle conflict, and how to not expect perfection and be human. I have even learned a bit about my laundry habits (ha!).