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Merger with Claremont to offer students multi-faith theological education

Nat Felten

Staff writer

Graphic by Mary Wang.

The Willamette Expansion project is a series of articles from the Collegian about the fundamental ways Willamette University is changing as an institution to survive the future. The project aims to highlight these changes, diving into why they are happening and how they affect the Willamette community.

Willamette University has been working towards merging with Claremont School of Theology (CST) for several years now. This union with CST was put into motion in February 2019 after the possibility [was put forward in 2017]. The merger was delayed as CST was involved in a property litigation with the Claremont Colleges that [was settled January 2021], and Willamette and CST [are in the first of three stages towards merging].

Willamette Professor of Religious and Ethical Studies Stephen Patterson said: “There is a lot of concurrence between what we do in the [College of Arts & Sciences] and what they do academically in their school of theology… And so in general, we're adding roughly 15 to 20 top intellectuals who are doing the same kind of work that we're doing.” Patterson said that adding CST will make Willamette “more of what we are and what we’d like to be as a university” by adding more academic diversity.

According to Patterson, the merger will not affect the curriculum of the College of Arts & Sciences (CAS), but there will be cross-listed classes available starting in the Fall 2021 semester. Like the Willamette MBA and Law programs, CST will be offering 2-3 and 3-3 year degrees.

Patterson described CST as the “Caltech of theology.” “The Claremont School of Theology isn't just any old school of theology. It's one of the best, one of the most creative, the largest free-standing schools now in the United States,” said Patterson. “It's the place to go globally for graduate work.” Patterson said that CST has “pioneered multi-faith theological education” and that the school is cutting edge in its philosophical theology. Patterson is hopeful that bringing CST’s expertise to Willamette will enrich the community and help both students and faculty broaden their horizons.

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