Master of Theological Studies Students Enjoy a Flexible Degree

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

by Elizabeth Robertson

The part-time study option available through Conrad Grebel University College’s Master of Theological Studies (MTS) program at the University of Waterloo draws students from a variety of life stages and vocations. The MTS program supports individuals as they pursue questions of theology for personal enrichment or ministerial preparation. Among the program’s part-time students are many who hold a full-time job, including UWaterloo employees. They are seizing the opportunity to further their education and faith development in a setting that accommodates their current lifestyle and schedule. “The ability to study part-time at a master’s level is one of the things I really appreciate about Grebel,” commented MTS student Shelly Jordan.

Shelly works full-time as a survey management associate with the International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Project in the Psychology Department at UWaterloo. She appreciated that the MTS is quite different than her current work. “I like to have more than one thing going in my head at a given time.”

Shelley enjoys the diversity of opinion among her fellow students and the openness of professors in not pushing a specific perspective. Instead, professors encourage each student to think critically. She reflected that “this breadth of viewpoints means that I have the opportunity to gain a much wider perspective on the things we are studying.”

Shelly gathers with MTS classmates

Just starting out in the MTS program, Sean Harris described his faith background as a kaleidoscope of beliefs and denominations. He too noticed that “Grebel and its faculty and staff offer an open and inviting atmosphere for people to study, regardless of their background.” He recognizes that what he learns will inform his faith, “which itself will touch all other aspects of my life, including work and family.”

As a UWaterloo employee, Sean has appriciated being able to take any class that appealed to him. “I ended up taking a number of Religious Studies courses, including ones taught by MTS faculty.” These courses piqued his interest in the MTS program. “Last summer, I felt it was time to continue my education. I spoke with Prof. Carol Penner and she encouraged me to apply.”

Sean works on campus as a Technical Support Specialist with Print + Retail Solutions. “Experiencing the campus community as both staff and student helps me appreciate the roles both play in our community.” He has found that the study-work balance isn’t always easy. “Work-life or study-life balance can be hard for people as either a student or a full-time employee, but as both it offers a unique challenge. At the same time, it is a rewarding experience,” reflected Sean.

For some students, the MTS program is a way to continue studying theology while already involved in ministry. “Attending part-time fits well with ordained ministry in my denomination,” noted Mike Foulger, a retired UWaterloo Lab Instructor and Electronic Technologist from the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department.  ”I am thrilled to be a grad student at Grebel. I have found staff and faculty extremely helpful and approachable.” While in his first term in the program, he already saw the intersections between his work and the classroom. “The courses fit well with my ministry involvement and my strong desire for personal, intellectual, and spiritual growth,” he added.

One of the elements that students pursuing an MTS degree appreciate is the flexibility of study options. Mike discussing course material with an instructorNot only does Grebel provide an opportunity for full or part-time study, the degree itself can be obtained through three different paths. Students can engage their studies through course-work, a thesis, or applied studies, which includes supervised experiences in ministry. These options allow the MTS degree to be refined according to each person’s purpose, whether that is full-time ministry or personal growth. Full-time Canadian MTS students are also eligible to receive a full tuition scholarship. Theological Studies at Grebel provides benefits of both a close-knit atmosphere in classes and community spaces, as well as the extensive resources available to UWaterloo students.