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Professors Cook and Garrett receive Grawemeyer Award for pre-seminary course

by Louisville Seminary | Mar 21, 2012
Carol J. Cook and Susan R. Garrett, professors at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, have been selected as the recipients of one of four Grawemeyer Awards for Outstanding Instructional Design for 2012. They will receive the award for “Transforming Seminary Education,” the interdisciplinary, foundational course for new seminarians that Professors Garrett and Cook co-taught for the first time during the summer of 2011 and will repeat this coming summer. In addition, both will receive a “Special Merit” award given to the top entry.

“This is a significant honor for two of our faculty colleagues and for Louisville Seminary,” said Seminary President Michael Jinkins. “I am grateful to these two professors—and all who have taught Transforming Seminary Education (also known as TSE) in previous years—for envisioning and teaching a course that is engaging our students with diversity, critical thinking, and community formation even before they begin their first semester.”

For the past six years, TSE has been a required course for students in the Seminary’s three masters-level programs: Master of Divinity, Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy, and Master of Arts (Religion). The course, which is offered each August, prior to the start of the fall semester, is generally team-taught by two to three professors. The overall aim of the course is to introduce students to the theologically reflective life and to nurture students’ desire to respect a diversity of experiences and traditions.

Cook, a professor in pastoral care and counseling, and Garrett, a professor of New Testament studies, designed their unique version of TSE around the study of three complex and contested issues in the church and society: creation/creationism, the battle for Jesus, and homosexuality. Aided by other LPTS professors invited to speak as guest lecturers, Cook and Garrett had students approach these challenging issues from a variety of disciplines, including biblical studies, historical and systematic theology, and pastoral theology. By the end of the two-week course, students increased their ability to reflect critically on their own assumptions about the topics and to discover common ground with people with whom they disagree.

“Students were challenged to strive genuinely to understand the logic and argumentation on different sides of the issues under consideration. The mantra through the course became generous listening, which stood for striving to listen non-judgmentally and understand others’ premises and logic, especially where there is disagreement,” state Cook and Garrett in their award application, adding that “TSE introduces students to the kinds of questions and methods that they will be using throughout their education and, indeed, throughout their work of ministry.”

Award winners are selected from entries submitted from the seven institutions involved in Metroversity: Bellarmine University, Indiana University Southeast, Jefferson Community College, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Spalding University, and University of Louisville. Students attending any one of these schools have the opportunity to expand their educational horizons as a result of the cooperation among the consortium members, including each school’s leadership and library.

Professors Cook and Garrett will receive the Grawemeyer Award for Outstanding Instructional Design at a ceremony on March 29, along with three more from the Seminary community—Sydney Lovelace, Sherry Arconti, and Steve Cook—who will receive Metroversity awards recognizing them as (respectively) the Outstanding Adult Student, Staff member, and Faculty member. The event will be held at Bellarmine University.

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