Griggs International Would Split, Move Location Under Proposed Changes
College-level  programs would stay with G.C.-affiliated school: K-12 programs could migrate to NAD.

BY MARK A. KELLNER, News Editor, Adventist Review
dramatic plan to remake Griggs University and International Academy, the 101-year-old distance learning arm of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, took its first steps April 6, when delegates to the Spring meeting of the General Conference Executive Committee accepted a report calling for a restructuring.

Among the seven major recommendations made by a study panel appointed at the 2009 Annual Council are plans to move Griggs and its tertiary educational programs – undergraduate and graduate college degrees – to another location, possibly to Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan. There, Griggs would operate as a school under Andrews’ administration, with its own dean. It would no longer have a president and a board of trustees, though a board of advisors might be put in place.

The Kindergarten through 12th Grade correspondence school programs of Griggs, which began life in 1909 as “Home Study International,” would be spun off to the North American Division or an NAD educational unit.

No decision was made on implementing the suggestions, which will require further study by General Conference leadership as well as leaders at Andrews University, whose president, Niels-Erik Andreasen was not part of the study panel. The earliest any further move would be officially contemplated would be the fall 2010 Annual Council, church executives said.

EDUCATIONAL REFORM: Dr. Ella Smith Simmons, a General Conference vice president, outlines potential changes for distance learning in the Seventh-day Adventist Church during a Spring Meeting session on April 6, 2010. [Photo: Rajmund Dabrowski/ANN]
“This is a major move that we are making,” said Pastor Jan Paulsen, president of the General Conference and himself a veteran Adventist educator. “If the direction is set … Griggs as we know it today will cease to exist.”

The present configuration of Griggs, Paulsen noted, “is not a good model for the future.”
Along with these changes to Griggs’ orientation, the committee made three other recommendations: 
  • The new distance learning entity would “retain the current distance modality programs of Griggs and Andrews; create new academic and informal program options in response to the needs of the World Church and available resources; and engage new partners by articulation agreements.” 
  • The report called on administration to “create a central core faculty (teachers) and staff; and provide and require for them specific training, including integration of faith and learning, for the various distance delivery modalities; [and] share teachers with [Seventh-day Adventist] institutions throughout the world fields as possible.”

  • And, “establish a system for continuous assessment and evaluation drawing on regional accreditation from [Andrews University] (and partners), [the Distance Education and Training Council, a private organization] for use with nontraditional and emergency affiliation services, [and the Adventist Accrediting Association] for the assurance of Adventist beliefs and ethos, all of which require self-assessment as part of regular operations.”
“We have expert faculty in every discipline, but they are spread around the world,” study committee chairwoman Dr. Ella Smith Simmons, a general vice president of the world church, told delegates. “Through distance learning modalities we can access these faculty wherever they are and make them available to programs where the need is.”
Dr. Donald R. Sahly, Griggs president and a veteran Seventh-day Adventist educational administrator, said the report “supports the need for distance education” in the Seventh-day Adventist Church as well as “Griggs’ mission to the world church.”
The goal of any proposed changes, he said, would be to “strengthen Griggs’ position to serve students both in and out of the church, on a national and international basis.”
In discussion, Spring Meeting delegates agreed that there was a need to do something to strengthen distance-based Adventist education. Dr. Richard Hart, president of Loma Linda University, said the same factors troubling Griggs were “impacting other institutions” in North America, and urged the study group to work with the division-based Adventist Digital Education Consortium, a suggestion Simmons agreed with.
Andrews University president Andreasen said his institution will need some time to digest the recommendations as well.
“We are hearing [these ideas] for almost the first time,” Andreasen told the meeting. “We need to take some time [to do our own] due diligence,” he added, which would involve evaluating the ideas relative to the university’s own “mission, resources, [the] financial end, [and our] accreditation -- these are key. Issues that require some work and some time.”
Recalling the value of Seventh-day Adventist medical work in many communities, Paulsen said there were issues beyond the church’s own educational needs to consider.
“We have a good tradition in this church ... that we have a commitment of engagement into the lives of the communities and nations in which we are placed. We are engaged, in a sense, in a type of community building,” Paulsen said.
“The church, through an instrument such as this, may be seen as really a good partner in building the community. There are byproducts of this that might serve the church extremely well. There is a good name to be obtained [and] that should not be overlooked.”

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