Thinking About Getting Your Masters?

Good News recently had a chance to sit down with Scott McClelland, Executive Director and Associate Dean at Trinity International University Florida, to talk about education, faith and the unique and exciting things happening at the school.

The Good News (GN): Scott, you have a very impressive background in ministry and education. Please tell our readers a little bit about yourself.  What is your role at Trinity International University Florida?
Scott McClelland (SM): Thanks for the compliment. I feel blessed to have been involved in a number of roles as a professor, pastor, and administrator in places as far flung as New York, California, Washington (State) and now South Florida. This range of experience allows me to have some perspective on the value of, and need for, what we offer here at TIU-Florida. I have been the Executive Director and Associate Dean here since January 2011.

GN: Why is it important for Christians to get educated? Does the Bible speak specifically about this?  
SM: I think Scripture maintains education as a core principle throughout its pages. The tradition of Israel was always to engage in learning God’s Word well, in order to please Him. The New Testament calls us to “love God (equally) with our mind,” and to “study to show ourselves approved” so we can be effective representatives of Christ. These admonitions are not restricted to doctrinal knowledge. They also help us to fully engage all of our gifts and abilities as we seek to be stewards of Creation. God told us to care for the world, as He does in the Cultural Mandate, which is found as early in the Bible as Genesis 1:28. At TIU-Florida we see it as the duty for every Christian to be fully trained to follow Christ in the marketplace, the classroom, or any and all pursuits to which Christians are called.

GN: How long has TIU-Florida had a presence here in South Florida?  Can you give our readers a brief history of the school?         
SM: In a way, we’ve been here for a long time. We stand on the faithful shoulders of Miami Christian College, which had a strong presence in our region for many decades. TIU, with its main campus in Deerfield, IL, responded to an invitation from MCC to help in a time of financial difficulty. After TIU began operating here, we moved several times until arriving at our present location in Davie about six years ago. So, in this way, TIU-Florida has been a part of the South Florida context for many years.

GN: What programs of study do you offer?  Are you graduate-level only? Do you offer traditional undergraduate programs as well?      
SM: We offer five undergraduate majors (Business, Christian Ministry, Elementary Education, Psychology, and Organizational Leadership) in our EXCEL program, leading to a bachelor’s degree, and three master’s degrees (an MBA – Master of Business Administration, as well as a Master of Arts in either Christian Studies or Counseling Psychology). We also offer one doctoral level program for pastors and ministry leaders—the Doctor of Ministry (DMin) degree.   Our bachelor’s degrees are all presented in a non- traditional format, which is specifically designed for adult learners with busy schedules. These courses are offered on an accelerated basis— one at a time in a cohort model—where students take their courses together in small groups, one course at a time. These courses are offered on nights and weekends, once per week, to serve people with work and family responsibilities. The master’s and doctoral programs are more traditional, though the DMin only meets three times a year with most work done in preparation for each session.

GN: How is the education offered at TIU-Florida different than what is offered at other local universities such as Nova Southeastern University or Florida Atlantic University?       
SM: In many ways we are similar in that we strive for academic excellence in our courses of study. Like those schools, we are accredited at the highest level of accreditation possible in all of our programs (and having the right accreditation is extremely important). Certainly the major difference is what we add to our program, which is an overt commitment to Christ. This commitment is integrated into the entire curriculum, in every course, by our openly Christian faculty.  Learning through the Christian worldview allows our faculty and students to grapple not only with academic skills, but also with how we use those skills to serve the values Jesus taught us. This kind of learning typically results in students making vocational choices for missional reasons and not just to get a job.

GN: What is your average class size? How does that compare to larger schools and what are the advantages?     
SM: We try to keep class sizes small to encourage the interaction with faculty and the formation of close relationships within each cohort or class. We believe this is a constant reminder to everyone involved in TIU -Florida that the significance and dignity of each person are high values for those who follow Christ. Though all schools value their students, our students tell us that this emphasis on relationships is a major part of their satisfaction with us.

GN: So it sounds like TIU-Florida really caters to working adults and those who have wanted to finish their degree but life got in the way?     SM: You’ve just described our EXCEL bachelor’s level programs, and about half of our student body! We specialize in serving those who wish to complete their degrees—in fact, we understand the huge effort it takes for folks to change the habits and schedules of their lifestyles. Attempting to come back to college is something that can create anxiety for many people. We have specifically prepared every part of our program, from our admissions and advising staff, to our financial aid, all the way to our professors, to function as encouragers who celebrate the great step forward our students make when they pursue a degree from TIU. The reward comes at our graduation ceremonies, seeing the students’ faces light up as they receive their diplomas, and hearing the cheers from their families. Many of our students are parents, or the first in the family to graduate from college. When children and families see how much our students value their education, you can imagine the impact it has upon their children’s educational choices. We even see spouses, siblings, and sometimes whole families pursuing their degrees together!

GN: TIU-Florida recently launched an exciting new MBA program.  What sets your MBA program apart from those offered elsewhere?      
SM: We are thrilled to offer this degree, and to be the only campus of TIU to have an MBA program. What we see as so important is how even the Rev. Billy Graham noted that the “marketplace” is the next most important field for evangelism. We only need to read the newspapers these last few decades to see the impact that following Christ in business can have on our nation and the world. Yet beyond trying to teach ethical ways of doing business, we want our MBA to promote a “Balanced Bottom Line,” which does not sacrifice family, fair transactions, community/ church, or care for our environment (Creation Care) on the altar of almighty profit. We see Scripture filled with principles that impact and guide the business context. These are thoroughly human interactions, which value all people as made in the image of God.  Business interactions are effective and sustainable when everyone involved is treated with mutual care and respect. Gaining the world but losing your soul is a problem that is especially evident in the business world. Our program endeavors to help solve that problem.

GN: You mentioned the Doctor of Ministry program. Can you share more about that?
SM: Yes, along with the MBA, we are also starting a DMin program taught by faculty from our highly regarded seminary, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS). The same TEDS professors who teach at TIU’s main Deerfield, IL campus will come to South Florida and teach the identical courses that were previously available only in Illinois. We believe the TEDS DMin will be a welcome addition to South Florida’s ministerial community. We have many local pastors with a Master of Divinity degree who wish to take their ministry skill set and knowledge base to the next level. However, up until now, most of the major seminaries in our country required pastors to travel great distances at great expense, while also leaving their ministries and families for extended periods. We decided to bring TEDS here so we could accommodate and better serve the needs of our regional pastors.

GN: When does the next semester start at TIU-Florida? Where should an interested prospective student go for more information?     
SM: Our EXCEL undergraduate cohorts are forming all the time, so I would encourage interested students to call our Admissions Office right away at 954-382-6400. Our master’s degrees will start at the end of August, and the DMin has its first session in October. However, for all of these degrees, it is important for prospective students to seek admission as soon as possible. For many programs, there are preliminary assignments to compete before the first class session. Here again, I encourage anyone who is interested, and/or seeking more information, to connect with our Admissions team as soon as possible. Let me also add that we are having a special open house for the MBA program, on July 13th at 6:00 p.m. We’ll outline the entire program at that time, take applications, and provide an opportunity for prospective students to meet others who are excited about being a part of the first MBA class in TIU history!

For more information, visit Trinity International University Florida online at http://florida.tiu.edu/
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