This summer Covenant officially announced the cancellation of plans for a Covenant branch campus in Indonesia. In an email sent on July 3, President Halvorson informed all faculty and staff that Covenant would no longer be pursuing “the establishment of a branch campus of Covenant College in Indonesia.”
Dr. Jeff Hall, vice president for academic affairs, says that the possibility of an Indonesian branch campus came as a result James and Aileen Riady’s visit to Covenant in 2009. James Riady, chairman of Indonesia’s Lippo Group, has worked since 1990 to advance Christian education in Indonesia by forging connections with Christian schools in the U.S. Riady has long maintained correspondence with Dr. Jim Drexler, who is currently serving in Indonesia as an educational consultant to the International Teacher’s College, and it was through their relationship that the Riadys visited to talk about Covenant being involved with a Christian teacher’s school in Indonesia. Through that conversation emerged the idea for a branch campus, and a board of Covenant faculty was called to discuss this possibility.
The board continued to meet for the next few years, discussing accreditation options and logistics with the International Teacher’s College. A series of numerous meetings and discussions revealed that a majority of Covenant faculty members opposed plans for the branch campus as presented in fall of 2013.
According to Dr. Cliff Foreman, professor of English and member of the board, the original proposal was for Covenant’s involvement in a teacher’s college. “The understanding was that there would be a teacher’s education program,” he said, “then we were going to just move our program there, which didn’t make sense.” The process of adapting Covenant’s curriculum to fit Indonesia’s system of education and the logistics of providing a liberal arts curriculum at what was originally intended to be a teacher’s school proved impractical.
Kristie Jaya, a Covenant sophomore from Tangerang, Indonesia, recognizes the difficulty of building a Covenant branch in Indonesia, but is glad that Covenant will continue to sustain a relationship with the International Teachers College. “I think bringing Covenant to Indonesia would be very difficult… I’m glad Covenant’s still supporting ITC, though,” she said. “I’m still hoping that Covenant professors would come for the summer to teach. It’s exciting that more people are coming to Indonesia.”
For Covenant students hoping to visit Indonesia at some point in the future, there is a strong possibility that the chance will come in less than a year. Christiana Fitzpatrick, who works with students to coordinate off-campus study opportunities, said that the May 2015 term may include a class in Indonesia.
“Covenant wants to maintain a close relationship with our friends and colleagues in Indonesia, and we’re hopeful that we will be able to partner with them to send students and a faculty member for a May Term course in May 2015,” Fitzpatrick said. “Plans are not fully developed at this point, but we are very excited about the possibility of this opportunity for Covenant students.”
Despite forfeiting plans for the branch campus, Dr. Jeff Hall, vice president for academic affairs at Covenant, remains optimistic about Covenant’s relationship with the International Teacher’s College. The first issue of the ITC newsletter, released this September, reports the successful start of classes for its thirty-five students from seven countries including Indonesia, the Philippines, and Nepal. Dr. Hall remains in close contact with Dr. Drexler via Skype and reports that, so far, their school year is going well. “We’re really excited that they’re off to a good start and are eager to help any way we can,” Hall says.
As for Covenant’s future in Indonesia, the administration remains open to investigating any opportunity which would benefit students through exposure to another culture.