Covenant Expanding Influence to Auckland

Earlier this year, Covenant received a request to help institute a Christian liberal arts college in Auckland, New Zealand. Learning from previous initiatives, the college has instituted a new protocol on how to expand the availability of a Covenant Education.

In response to the request, Chief Financial Officer Dan Wykoff met with three New Zealand gentlemen this past August to discuss their request for support in forming a Christian liberal arts college. The college would be located in the land of the Kiwis, and hopefully span its influence across Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands.

The gentlemen are a part of a young denomination called Grace Presbyterian, and are hoping to form a college under the Reformed tradition. Covenant is in the process of forming a committee who would advise decision-makers at the Lookout Mountain campus on how to best respond to the request.

“[These gentlemen] are like the Belz, Schmidt, and Rayburn of New Zealand,” Wykoff said, referencing the original founders of Covenant College.

“It’s a delight to meet and talk about their vision,” Wykoff said again of his visit. “They’re people who are passionate about Jesus and quality education.”

Wykoff mentioned that one of the men is donating his 20-acre farmstead for the Auckland college. “It’s filled with rolling hills and free range chickens,” Wykoff said.

However, the idea of a “Covenant College” branch campus has been tried out three times in the past 12 years.

The most recent was the proposal for forming a branch or sister campus in Tangerang, Indonesia. After trying to set up a mutually beneficial agreement with Yayasan Pelita Harapan in Indonesia, the Lookout Mountain campus resorted to the role of consulting for the formation of what is now called the International Teachers College.

Prior to the Indonesian initiative, there was an effort to form a branch campus in St. Louis, Miss., in 2004, and a merging plan with Providence Christian College in Pasadena, Calif. in 2012.

There was no branch campus as a result of these three efforts, and so far the college has taken on a supporting role towards both the Pasadena and Indonesia campuses.

“The college offered support in any way we can. For example, we sent Dr. Drexler for a year to Indonesia and shared our curriculum with them,” said Wykoff. “We’ve got branch-campus fatigue.”

Dr. Cliff Foreman, English professor and faculty moderator, mentioned the previous initiatives, especially the Indonesian plan, with a similar tone. “Right from the start, there was no consensus and a lot of dissent on the issue. The board was excited, but the faculty was afraid. And then the board committee turned sour on the idea too,” Foreman said.

However, there is now a protocol included in the current strategic plan to go about new initiative proposals. The new protocol will involve faculty and various committees to be involved in the decision-making process.

For new proposals, the college will form a task force made up of the cabinet, the director for global education, dean of academic programs, and appropriate faculty committees. If the outside initiative ask for a study abroad program at Covenant’s Lookout Mountain campus, the task force will evaluate this possibility.

If the formation of a branch campus is considered, the college will primarily assume a consulting role. The outside party will visit the Lookout Mountain campus and meet with related personnel and discuss a plan of action.

After the task force goes through a thorough deliberation process, a decision about the form of support will be made. The task force will involve appropriate committees and groups on campus.

Foreman said that with the new protocol in place, the general consensus among the faculty is that they are excited to be a part of the beginning of a new liberal arts college.

“The committee will hopefully ensure a more mutually beneficial agreement between the college and other campuses interested,” Foreman said.

Foreman is especially excited with the possibility of exchange opportunities between professors and students of both the Lookout Mountain and the future New Zealand campus.

While the Lookout Mountain campus’ labor resources have been utilized in the efforts to collaborate with sister institutions, so far collaborations had been self-sustainable. The latest Indonesia initiative, for example, has involved a donor who paid for everything—including replacement funds for Dr. Drexler’s absence to Indonesia and fees for other resources used.

“We’re not using Lookout Mountain’s tuition dollars to fund these collaborations,” Wykoff assured.

Even though the extension does not give Covenant an economic benefit, exploring possibilities of expanding the college’s education fits the college’s mission to “offer the world biblically grounded men and women equipped to live out extraordinary callings in ordinary places.”

“The world needs more Covenant College graduates,” Wykoff said. “We don’t ever want to be bound by geographical differences.”