Striving for maximum impact: Briercrest's process toward expanded degree-granting status

Julie Cole | Feb 1, 2013

Briercrest's path toward expanded degree granting has had some interesting twists and turns.  At times it has forced the school's leadership to face the questions that impact today's culture.

"What is the place of religion in society?" President Dwayne Uglem said as he reflected an issue he has faced in this process. "When asked, people aren't so sure that being a Christian makes you a better citizen. (Canada) has very little capacity to imagine private higher education as good. They have very little capacity to believe that Christian is helpful in profession."

Uglem has directly addressed these attitudes.

"I say, 'Look at what our graduates do,'" he exclaimed. "'Look at their contributions - look at what they volunteer for.  Look at what they give to and look at the kinds of roles that they're prepared to do.'"

Engaging society in this way has given Briercrest an impact in some surprising places.

"We're already seeing that in our dialogues and interaction with the government," Uglem explained. "As we sit in all sorts of circles on all sorts of committees being contributors - being Light - I wonder how the Lord is going to use our interactions as we try to find the way for our students to be recognized by the board of education and school divisions and unions."

Uglem believes these things are necessary for Briercrest to make an impact.

"The church's voice has been diminished," he said. "We've been saying for a long time that we're going to have to find ways beyond the pulpit to reach this nation because we just can't get people into the church, which means we have to prepare ministers that are going to be in a wide variety of places to shed the Light."

Uglem sees an important niche for private Christian education.

"We can address a breadth of life that public institutions just have no interest in addressing," he said. "We can address how we are spiritual people and we do indeed have spiritual issues that have to be worked through or they show up in all sorts of unhelpful places."

This ability creates graduates that fill an important need in society. Uglem cites Trinity's  nursing program as a positive example.

"Every graduate is hired before they even get to graduation," Uglem said. "That's exactly the kind of reputation every Christian institution should have. I think that's the really neat thing at Briercrest - to live into that reputation. We might be looked up to for preparing music pastors or youth pastors. We can extend our reputation preparing teachers of English and educators and businessmen."

"So for Briercrest to be pursuing a wider diversity of career paths and to be wrestling with how we more directly serve society - I think they're really important and profound questions," Uglem explained. "In that regard I think Canada like never before needs outstanding institutions of Christian higher education."