By Marivir R. Montebon
New York City – During a rare moment of a long, relaxed conversation with school president Dr. Hugh Spurgin of the Unification Theology Seminary, enrollees eagerly expressed their concerns as Masters’ and Ph. D. students and insights about the school and society as a whole.
President Spurgin actually spends a lot of time talking to students and faculty members, individually, in a constant quest to improve the school and make it more attuned to the needs of society.
He said UTS is not an ordinary school because it provides education on faith leadership in a world where much division has happened and healing is required.
In one of those conversations at the 4W 43rd Street campus in November 2016, Spurgin reminded students that the UTS produces interfaith leaders that bridge understanding among peoples and cultures. “We are unique and our mission is extraordinary.”
In that meeting, he tried to get a feel of how students are and solicited from them their thoughts about what needs to be improved in the campus. Their concerns were varied – from balancing schedules to their sentiments about the upcoming presidency of billionaire Donald Trump.
The conversation intensified its fervor with the touchy topic of politics. Many students expressed their fears of discrimination and prejudice by the new administration. Others thought the new presidency would mean better economic lives for most Americans.
The exchanges were insightful and vibrant and Pres. Spurgin had emphasized that much of social changes actually depend on how people conduct their lives and express their views for policy changes, for instance.
It was a heartwarming, reassuring event that autumn evening.
The UTS, founded in 1974 by the late Rev. Sun Myung Moon, currently operates in New York and Maryland. It uses an interfaith and ecumenical-based curriculum which includes the study of the seven major religions in the world as a way to foster worldwide understanding and unity. As Spurgin said, “UTS prepares graduates as faith leaders ready to provide moral clarity for a world in need of reconciliation.”
The 40-year-old UTS has expanded its programs to include more distance and online learning classes, appropriate for students who are working and busy with their careers. It also has provided growing emphasis on “intensives” (short 2, 4 and 6 week courses) in its Barrytown campus. In the most recent semester, it offered pragmatic courses like Brand Management and Grant Writing, aside from its deep courses on Church History, Social Justice and Ecumenism.
According to Spurgin, “the UTS challenge is to properly equip our students to meet their unique callings and become the lights of truth and love for others, whichever field of endeavor they enter.”
Sr. Christiana Mmadu of Nigeria, a Master’s graduate of UTS in 2016, shared a happy note on her graduation last May. “In the school, we got united as one family, no matter our denominations. Today, I have no doubt about the school and I am proud that I came out from that school,” she said in an interview. (Photos from the UTS files)