Seminary reports growth in international student numbers, distance programs

Published: October 12, 2022

By Annette Brill Bergstresser

ELKHART, Indiana (Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary) — Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) in Elkhart, Indiana, is reporting growth in student numbers this fall, with a total enrollment of 157 students (145 in 2021). Of these, 141 are graduate students (127 in 2021) and 16 are participants in the undergraduate-level nondegree Journey Missional Leadership Development Program (18 in 2021).

17 students stand in front of a tree on the AMBS campus.
New graduate students who participated in the campus version of AMBS’s orientation course in August 2022. (Credit: Peter Ringenberg)

According to Scott Janzen, MDiv, Assistant Dean, Registrar and Director of Retention, students from outside of the U.S. and Canada are driving AMBS’s enrollment growth. The seminary’s number of international students rose from 54 in 2021 to 74 in 2022 — the highest number on record — and now constitutes 52 percent of the student body. 

“These are exciting times at AMBS,” reflected Janzen. “Enrollment continues to climb as a result of our efforts to engage Anabaptists and other Christian groups globally in theological education. AMBS is being sought out as a reliable resource for educating leaders in places all around the world. My hope is that we will see this engagement continue to increase in the coming years.”

These enrollment figures are from AMBS’s close of registration on Sept. 12, 2022.

Graduate programs

At 141 students — 77 men and 64 women — AMBS’s graduate student body is the largest it’s been in 12 years. While the number of degree- or certificate-seeking graduate students stayed at 116 from 2021 to 2022 (the highest number since 2010), the seminary saw an increase in guest students and auditors from 11 in 2021 to 25 in 2022. 

Mary Ann Weber, MA, Director of Enrollment, said she sees rich opportunities for learning and growth in the seminary’s diverse student body, which represents 14 countries: Angola, Canada, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Indonesia, India, Kenya, South Korea, Tanzania, Thailand, the U.S. and Zimbabwe. Sixty-one students are from the U.S., and six are from Canada. Of the 74 international students, 45 are from Ethiopia, and 14 are South Korean guest students taking an AMBS course in South Korea through a new partnership between AMBS and the Nehemiah Institute for Christian Studies in Seoul. Fifteen of the 21 students living on the AMBS campus are international students.

“We’re energized by our continued rise in enrollment and to see students from all over the world taking advantage of the quality theological education that AMBS offers,” she added. “We’re excited that they have chosen the AMBS learning community as the place to strengthen their faith and leadership skills and to learn with and from each other.”

Weber noted that enrollment in AMBS’s distance-friendly programs has continued to grow, representing 65 percent of admitted students in 2022 (up from 62 percent in 2021). The seminary’s fully online Master of Arts: Theology and Global Anabaptism (MATGA) program has 40 students in 2022, compared with 32 in 2021. Thirty-one of these are Ethiopian students who are enrolled in MATGA cohorts through AMBS’s partnership with Meserete Kristos Seminary in Bishoftu/Debre Zeit, Ethiopia. 

Along with participation in distance programs, the percentage of students studying part time has continued to rise, with 83 percent studying part time and 17 percent full time. Correspondingly, graduate-level course enrollments dropped slightly in 2022, from 53.6 to 52.2 FTE (full-time equivalency).

Janzen noted that while distance-friendly courses continue to attract students — 90 students are currently enrolled in a distance course — AMBS also offers a wide variety of campus courses for those who live on campus or are able to commute. (Distance courses include online courses as well as blended courses — campus-based courses that students at a distance can join remotely.)

Of the graduate students whose religious affiliation is known, 109 are affiliated with Mennonite World Conference or related Anabaptist groups (including AMBS’s two sponsoring denominations, Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA); 18 are affiliated with other Christian traditions.

Journey Missional Leadership Development Program

Of the 16 participants in Journey, an undergraduate-level certificate program of AMBS’s Church Leadership Center that develops leaders centered in Jesus Christ for ministries in local churches and communities, 12 are from the U.S., two are from Canada, and two are from Uganda.

Nine of the participants in the distance-friendly program are women, and seven are men. The U.S. and Canadian participants reside in the states/provinces of Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Ohio, Ontario and Wisconsin. Faith traditions represented include Mennonite Church USA, Mennonite Church Canada, Mennonite Church Uganda, Christian (independent) and Evana.

“It’s exciting to have our largest incoming Journey cohort in 10 years,” said Jewel Gingerich Longenecker, PhD, Dean of Lifelong Learning. “I’m really encouraged to see such great engagement in the program from a wide range of conferences and contexts. We can’t wait to experience the synergy among the participants, their mentors and their instructors as they explore the Bible, theology, leadership, and personal and spiritual formation together.”

Located in Elkhart, Indiana, Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary is a learning community with an Anabaptist vision, offering theological education for learners both on campus and at a distance as well as a wide array of lifelong learning programs — all with the goal of educating followers of Jesus Christ to be leaders for God’s reconciling mission in the world.

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