HMS Richards Divinity School Receives Full Accreditation from Association of Theological Schools
For immediate Release
February 28, 2013
La Sierra University
Executive Director, University Relations
La Sierra University’s HMS Richards Divinity School has reached an important milestone in its development with formal notification of full accreditation from the Association of Theological Schools (ATS). The initial accreditation period is for five years.
ATS is the premier accreditation association for graduate religious studies and ministerial training programs in the United States and Canada. Accreditation comes as the result of a 10-year self-study process. The Richards Divinity School has been seeking ATS accreditation for 10 years. “This process has helped us as a school focus on the best and most responsible ways we can pursue our mission in the future,” says Doug Clark, divinity school associate dean.
The newly-granted accreditation status opens several new opportunities for the Divinity School, including:
- Enhanced attractiveness among potential Adventist students seeking advanced degrees in a Seventh-day Adventist setting.
- Increased numbers of students who will transfer credit to or from Claremont School of Theology, Fuller Theological Seminary, the Graduate Theological Union (Berkeley, CA), or elsewhere.
- Increased opportunities for external support, such as project grants from the Lilly Foundation or student fellowships from the Fund for Theological Education.
- Acceptance of La Sierra Master of Divinity, Master of Theological Studies, and Master of Arts graduates into the top, most competitive doctoral programs in North America and internationally.
“This signal achievement represents a challenging journey over a decade, as we worked our way through associate membership, then candidacy, and now full accreditation,” says John Webster, divinity school dean. “It could not have happened without the support of the Board of Trustees, university administration, and our dedicated faculty. We celebrate this accomplishment with gratitude to God and to all who played a role in bringing it about.”
“There is no doubt in my mind that this will lead to greater opportunities for service to our denomination as we work to develop men and women who will faithfully serve our church as dedicated pastors, teachers, and leaders,” says Randal Wisbey, La Sierra University president.
ATS evaluators commended the Richards Divinity School for four distinctive strengths:
- A clear sense of mission that fosters a sense of community among students, faculty, and administration
- Retention of a distinctive Adventist heritage in an emerging American multicultural context
- Faculty engagement in scholarship
- Distinct contributions made by the Divinity School’s graduate division to Near Eastern Archaeology
ATS accreditation will make it easier for the Richards Divinity School to collaborate with other graduate entities in the Adventist higher education system, including Loma Linda University, Andrews University/Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, Inter-American Theological Seminary; Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies, Friedensau Adventist University, Newbold College, Avondale College, and others. ATS accreditation also allows for increased cooperation with other divinity schools and graduate schools of religion in Southern California.
La Sierra University’s School of Religion (HMS Richards Divinity School as of 2012) became an associate member school in ATS in 2003. Six years later, ATS granted the school candidacy for full membership following the submission of an internal readiness report. Two years later the School of submitted a full self-study document. The evaluation process finally led to the ATS accreditation effective February 5, 2013.