Freed-Hardeman University has announced role changes in the leadership of its College of Biblical Studies. Dr. Mark Blackwelder has been named dean of the college and Dr. Doug Burleson has been appointed assistant dean, succeeding Dr. David Powell who continues as a member of the biblical studies faculty. In addition, Dr. Justin Rogers will become the director of the Graduate School of Theology, a position formerly held by Blackwelder.
The changes were made following Dr. Billy Smith’s announcement of his intent to step down from his position as dean of the College of Biblical Studies. He will continue teaching at FHU as the Distinguished Professor of Bible.
“I am beyond honored to have been asked to be the dean of the College of Biblical Studies,” Blackwelder said. “I am acutely aware of the legacy of faithfulness and service I inherit. It is both a distinct privilege and an awesome responsibility.” He joined the FHU Bible faculty in 1996 as the missionary-in-residence and in 2016 became a professor of Bible and missions. He directed the Graduate School of Theology from 2008 until 2018.
Blackwelder said he takes seriously the opportunity to teach all FHU students the Bible. “It is an important part of our core mission,” he said. “Additionally, we want to equip the young men and women who come as Bible majors with the tools they need to make a powerful impact on the church and the world through their ministry.”
To that end, the new dean wants to continue to strengthen both undergraduate and graduate programs in Bible. “We want to do an even better job of extending the service we provide students while they are here and after they graduate,” he said. He plans to ask alumni to suggest ideas to accomplish this. “We will work on curricular and co-curricular activities to strengthen relationships, identify contemporary challenges and provide resources for ministry,” he said.
In addition to his administrative and teaching duties, Blackwelder directs annual educational tours to the Bible lands. The tours are open to friends of the university as well as to students for academic credit. A former missionary to Slovakia, he also conducts evangelistic campaign efforts.
Burleson described himself as “humbled to be asked to serve.” “I am very thankful to be a part of the team and I want to just serve in whatever ways the Lord allows,” he said. One of his major tasks will be advising Bible majors. He hopes to do that “in ways that go beyond simply putting together a course schedule.” He wants to grow in his ability to help evaluate specific courses and the program as a whole. “I love research and teaching. I look forward to dovetailing these emphases to better serve our faculty and students,” he said.
Having taught more than 30 different courses in his eight years at FHU, Burleson feels he is equipped with a good understanding of the curriculum, programs of study and how to implement positive changes that better reflect “best practices” in these areas.
Burleson will continue to direct the Annual Bible Lectureship and serve as a staff member for Horizons, a summer youth leadership event that brings hundreds to the FHU campus each July.
Rogers is relatively new to the administrative ranks. He has been program director for the Master of Arts in Old Testament and in New Testament. He joined the FHU faculty in 2010 as an instructor in Bible and biblical languages. He became an assistant professor in 2012 and was promoted to associate professor in April 2018. Rogers has an extensive list of publications to his credit. He has written articles for scholarly journals, chapters in textbooks and articles for brotherhood publications, including a monthly column in the Gospel Advocate.
Rogers believes the Graduate School of Theology is a real presence for good, even for people who may not become GST students. He plans to grow awareness of GST among Christians by increasing its social media presence. In addition, during the 2018-19 school year, he plans to conduct a feasibility study for a Doctor of Ministry degree. “If I can emulate a fraction of Dr. Earl Edwards’ work ethic and can continue Dr. Blackwelder’s focus on self-assessment and innovation, the future of the GST will be bright,” he said. Edwards was the first director of the graduate program.
“I am committed to equipping students with practical tools to assist them as students of the Bible, servants of the kingdom and ministers of the Gospel,” Rogers said. “That is who the College of Biblical Studies is, at its core.”
In addition to their work at FHU, all three men preach on a regular basis. Blackwelder and Burleson share the pulpit at the Estes Church of Christ near Henderson. Rogers preaches for the Broad Street congregation in Lexington, Tennessee.
FHU’s College of Biblical Studies offers a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science with emphases in Bible Text, Biblical Languages, Christian Apologetics, Ministry, Missions, Preaching and youth and family ministry. The college also offers seven minors in Bible.
The Graduate School of Theology offers five degrees: Master of Arts in Ministry, Master of Arts in New Testament, Master of Arts in Old Testament, Master of Arts in Pastoral Care and Counseling and Master of Divinity. Courses leading to these degrees are available in a variety of formats, including online, face-to-face and hybrid.
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