Women at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and The College at Southeastern have a new opportunity for encouragement and collaboration in their academic work through the Society for Women in Scholarship.
Created by SEBTS students, the society's goal is to provide a gathering place for ideas, networking, learning and leadership development among women at Southeastern who desire to be part of theological scholarship.
It was just over a year ago when Bekah Stoneking, a doctor of education student, and Amber Bowen, a master of arts in philosophy of religion student, first met to discuss their scholarly ambitions. The encouragement they received from one another led them to invite more women to informal coffee outings, eventually sparking the idea for a society for Southeastern's students.
"We found great benefit from having each other to converse with, to encourage, to collaborate with and to come alongside," Stoneking and Bowen wrote in describing the society's start. "We began to think about what it would be like on a larger scale."
As part of Southeastern's Kingdom Diversity Initiative, the Society for Women in Scholarship provides greater opportunities for a minority population on Southeastern's campus to contribute to the academy.
"Women are our largest and most diverse minority group on campus," said Walter Strickland, special adviser to the president for the Kingdom Diversity Initiative. "I'm convinced that the fruit of the society will extend beyond the confines of the group by emboldening women to contribute more readily in the classroom discussion, providing opportunities to publish written work and by sponsoring events for both genders to think deeply about the Christian faith."
Denise O'Donoghue, SEBTS director of women's life and assistant professor of ministry to women, noted, "One benefit is it offers a means for women to discuss academic thoughts and ideas outside the classroom with other likeminded women."
SEBTS Provost Bruce Ashford called the society "one of the most exciting developments" in the seminary's recent history.
"It is composed of a number of very sharp women who are committed not only to maintaining high standards of scholarship but to handing down the faith once for all delivered to the saints," Ashford said.
The society meets on the first Wednesday of every month to discuss topics relevant to women in theological scholarship. February's meeting focused on time management, with members offering advice to one another about juggling the responsibilities of academic writing, publishing, ministry and more. Among future topics: fears common to women in the academy and how to overcome them.
Adrienne Miles, assistant professor of English and linguistics who serves on the leadership team, said the Society for Women in Scholarship has already boosted the confidence of women at Southeastern. "Our members are saying, 'Thank you so much for this.' It's what they've been wanting."
Many women who once felt isolated now have a greater sense of belonging through the society. "They have a place where they can see other women [involved in scholarship] and not feel like they are only one or one of two students," Miles added.
As part of its mission to promote good scholarship, the society plans to sponsor academic events on campus for the entire student body, creating a space for men and women to interact as academic peers and be iron sharpening iron.
The society is open to women at Southeastern from sophomore undergraduate students through master's- and doctoral-level students. Women interested in membership do not have to already have a specific research focus, only the desire to grow in scholarship and contribute to academic life on campus.
The next society meeting will be March 1 at 3 p.m. in the Ledford Center. For more information, visit Kingdom Diversity at Southeastern or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Harper McKay is the news and information specialist at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.