From category archives: In Trust Blog


Yes, Zoom fatigue is real and here’s what you can do about it

If you feel tired from "Zooming," you're not alone. Stanford researchers say Zoom fatigue is real but it's also preventable.

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Eight tips for using Zoom more effectively

As we continue to navigate COVID-19, many of us have become familiar with the Zoom meeting and webinar platform. This has certainly been the case for the staff of the In Trust Center. Here are a few things we have learned about how to host effectively and participate fruitfully in Zoom meetings.

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Still questioning the effectiveness of online education?

One of the questions that admissions officers regularly field from potential students is, “Do you have an online program?” And it’s not just younger, presumably more tech-savvy students who are asking the question either — nor is it just students who live in other cities or on other continents. At the non-residential seminary where I work, most students live locally. But the idea of fighting traffic after work to take classes a couple nights a week is a hard sell. So they ask: “Do you have an online program?”

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Resource roundup: Online learning

The ever-changing landscape of theological education can make adapting to new educational models daunting, but there are resources available to help you.

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Resource roundup: Social media management

With the right resources, it is possible to run successful social media campaigns without hiring a full-time social media marketer.

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Leveraging the power of Facebook

By now, we all know the vast reach that Facebook has across the globe, and many are aware of how powerful a tool Facebook can be for nonprofits and educational institutions to engage with constituents and potential donors.

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Must you let people know that you're closing?

Every institution runs on confidence. Startups need investors to believe that their money won't be wasted. Banks need customers who trust that their savings won't be lost. Schools need students who are confident that the school will be around long enough for them to graduate. And the donors to these schools need to feel confident that their contributions are not being tossed into a black hole.

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Instructional design

Instructional designers and instructional technologists are often confused, but the titles aren’t interchangeable,” says Sue Ann Husted, who has held both positions at various institutions during her 24-year career.

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New Year 2018 issue is now available

The New Year 2018 issue of In Trust magazine was recently mailed and is now available to read online.

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Writing for the mass media: A practical how-to

On November 2, the In Trust Center hosted a webinar on “Writing for the mass media” aimed at seminary leaders. 


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Measuring the effectiveness of online programs

Online programs fill the educational landscape these days, but how do we measure their effectiveness? During a recent webinar, Roxanne Russell presented some strategies for doing so, drawn from her work in shaping the revised online/hybrid D.Min program at Candler School of Theology at Emory University. 

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Ready or not

"People act shocked when the usual crises occur and they have no adequate plan." 


Why? Perhaps it's because of where we as leaders invest our time. Many of us are so focused on deadlines and day-to-day obligations that we never take the time to plan for crises that may or may not take place.

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Technological solutions for board collaboration

At your school, how do board members communicate between meetings? How are board documents relayed and important decisions made ahead of meetings? Is it sometimes challenging to collaborate with your board members, who are busy and scattered across the country (or globe)? If so, take heart -- there are technological solutions that may help.

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Protect yourself from cyber threats

Staff of the In Trust Center recently attended a webinar on cyber security for nonprofit organizations. The webinar was provided by the Delaware Small Business Development Center and presented by Michelle Wang, assistant director of information security administration for the Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church. Although the webinar was presented for an audience of Delaware nonprofits, the information provided is pertinent to any organization that would like to improve their cyber security efforts.



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Adaptation may help declining enrollment

Among the difficulties many theological schools face today is the decline in student enrollment. The answer to this problem may well be in a school’s ability to adapt to the needs of today’s potential seminarians.


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A guide to board portals


Conducting board business requires organization and collaboration. Board members receive a vast amount of information in anticipation of board meetings, and often they have to take care of additional business between meetings. Some boards are turning to digital options for organizing, collaborating, and disseminating information.

Boards may need tools for assisting in this move to digital business. 

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The value of classroom tech: A professor chimes in

Technology has made every area of human endeavor better, or at least more productive, and it seems downright curmudgeonly these days to say otherwise. We all agree with that. . . right?

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Social media strategies for good times and bad

The In Trust Center recently presented a webinar on social media to an audience of theological seminaries across the United States and Canada. 

The Center's vice president for communication, Jay Blossom, shared the webinar hosting duties with Leanne Van Dyk, president of Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia. 

Together they provided guidance on cultivating an authentic, trusted voice on social media platforms in “normal” times -- and then employing this voice to communicate during crises. Van Dyk relayed her experiences in developing a social media strategy during her first year at Columbia Seminary.

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Crowdfunding: New trends in fundraising


From golf tournaments to galas, big events are tried-and-true tools for raising funds and building relationships in higher education. But recently, some nonprofits have begun turning to "crowdfunding" as a vehicle for finding new friends and donors. Could this latest fundraising trend benefit theological schools?

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Online course design: A conversation with Roxanne Russell

Recently Amy Kardash (Director of Programs at the In Trust Center) chatted with Roxanne Russell (Director of Online Learning at Candler School of Theology) about the In Trust Center’s upcoming webinar, Online Course Design.

The following is a peek into their conversation about the upcoming webinar, especially focused on the question, "Why does this topic matter to board members and administrators?"


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Online course design: Why it should matter to you

Online Course Design. It’s probably not something that most board members or administrators consider, and yet it is the topic of the In Trust Center’s next webinar.  

What does online course design have to do with the governance and leadership of theological schools? Amy Kardash, the In Trust Center’s director of programs, tells us more about this webinar and why it is relevant to the work of our readers.

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Board communication and collaboration: What are the options?

The practice of sharing materials among the players in shared governance -- that is, members of the board, the administration, and the faculty -- can be challenging. Because the materials cover complex, often confidential issues, the mechanism for sharing must be secure. It also must be straightforward, easy to use, and not too time consuming.


Board portal software can be a great solution to these challenges, but the cost is often prohibitively expensive, especially for small institutions such as theological schools. 

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How does your school stay connected to its constituents?

Campus updates, upcoming events, policy decisions, student stories: seminaries have a lot of things going on. How do you keep up to date?

Some presidents, deans, and faculties use blogs to connect with their constituencies and keep people up to date on campus life. The audiences may vary — current students, prospective students, churches, donors, alumni, friends — but the purpose is consistent: to make a connection with people who care.

Click through to learn more about what your peers are doing, and perhaps to gain inspiration for your own communication.

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Social media resources

Jay Blossom, Publisher of In Trust magazine and In Trust's Vice President for Communication, recently presented a workshop entitled Social Media and Institutional Conflict at the 2015 ATS Presidential Leadership Intensive Conference. The following was created as a supplemental resource for the workshop participants.

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What happens in Vegas is tweeted in minutes

Is confidentiality, as a part of good governance, a thing of the past?

This old faculty joke is funny because, like all good humor, it’s partially true:

Question: "On this faculty committee, what is meant by confidentiality?"
Answer: "Confidentiality means that you can share the information but only with your closest friends."

It’s not only faculty meetings that suffer leakage. Many boards and committees also have real trouble defining and practicing confidentiality.

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Dunk-worthy: How do you handle unpopular opinions?

Recently, views opined on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict led to the resignation of the Rev. Bruce M. Shipman, the head of the Episcopal Church at Yale University, and the withdrawal of an offer of tenure for Steven G. Salaita, who was to teach with the American Indian studies program at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Offering an opinion can be a dangerous thing in the world of higher education. In some of our seminaries, where right thinking . . .
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The paperless board: Yes, but with caution

Technology is changing everything, including how boards do their work. As a seminary president, for example, I advocated for a paperless board, which is a great tool for any group of trustees.

Over several meetings, our school transitioned to a thoughtfully designed...

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Do you offer online classes? You must register in every state where students live

If you’re the institutional liaison with your state office of higher education, or with the Commission on Accrediting of the Association of Theological Schools (ATS), or with a regional accrediting agency, you know that there’s a deadline approaching: July 1, 2014.


If you have any kind of online presence that draws students from across state lines — and at least 112 ATS schools do! — then you should be prepared for it.


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Trustees and technology: an uneasy combination?

survey of higher education trustees conducted in the spring of 2013 by the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB) found that only about one-third are getting board-level information about education and technology that they would rate as excellent or even . . .

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Great resources for all kinds of boards

BoardSource, a Washington-based membership organization for nonprofits, has a host of free and low-cost resources that can be downloaded or ordered from their website at Many of BoardSource’s materials are addressed to small nonprofits, but with minor adaptations, many may be appropriate for theological schools and seminaries as well.


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Two reports reveal faculty views on digital learning

In 1998, working as a bookstore manager of a rather large seminary, I was surprised to discover that very few of the school's professors would respond to my e-mail. They all had accounts, of course, but when it came to actually checking the inbox, only a handful even seemed to know how -- and only of a few of that handful cared to do so. You are not surprised by this. Professors are often a considered a stodgy bunch.

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Online teaching, part 2: Big-picture implications and questions for boards

What are the implications of the Inside Higher Ed report on online teaching?   

In Part 1 of this post, guest blogger Jennifer Woodruff Tait laid out some of the conclusions of a study that Inside Higher Ed has conducted about administrator and faculty views of online education. In this follow-up, she suggests some questions that board members and administrators should be asking about online education.

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Online teaching, part 1: What do teachers and administrators say?

recent study by Inside Higher Ed offers some striking findings about faculty and administrator attitudes toward online education. Not surprisingly, more administrators than teachers are enthusiastic about online education.

But even those who teach online and are comfortable with it have some reservations about educational outcomes.

Guest blogger Jennifer Woodruff Tait explains some of the report's principal revelations. 

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Research reveals information on "millennial" donors, volunteers

New research sheds light on the nonprofit giving habits of young people ages 20 to 35: They seek information on their smartphones (but not exclusively); they're more likely to donate if they volunteer first; they're very interested in leadership (but most haven’t been asked to lead).

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Plug-and-play theological education

It's been a year since we first wrote about the "edupunk" phenomenon. Edupunks are part of the up-and-coming generation of students. They think outside the educational boxes that institutions provide for them, finding sources of knowledge and authentic experience wherever they may. While edupunks might still matriculate at an institution of higher learning, they are on the lookout for what they really want and need, wherever they can find it. (One university is experimenting with students like this and hosting "flash seminars," where a time and location for discussion on a hot topic is posted in online social networks, and only the first 25 students are allowed to participate.) In the past year, we've also seen the rise of another term in higher education: "plug-and-play." This refers to an increasingly a la carte market approach to completing a degree. While a graduate student may be officially enrolled at one institution, that student can shop around -- usually online -- for classes at other schools -- c ...
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Saving students money with technology

In theological education, it seems that educational technology has reached a tipping point. Small seminaries that never thought they could offer online education or other web-based services now have access to relatively inexpensive, scalable, and road-tested technologies to help them reach modest goals. Going online -- with classes, student services, and even board committee meetings -- isn't as daunting as it used to be. For many schools, however, the motivation to embrace certain educational technologies has been to decrease the institution's costs and increase billable tuition hours. But a recent blog post over at Inside Higher Ed offers a startling new perspective on the technology question. The author reminds us that the cost of higher education continues to outpace the cost of living, getting more and more expensive every year. How can seminaries expect to thrive when both student costs and institutional costs continue to climb? And what role can technology play in making theological education mo ...
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Libraries of the future

  In years like these when cash flow is tight, endowments are down, and enrollments are sagging, schools of all sorts look for ways to slice a few lines from the operating budget.  But when boards and administrators are investigating creative solutions, how often do they turn to the library, tried and true, as a possible source of innovative savings?  If knowledge is the lifeblood of the academy, then books are the veins through which knowledge flows.  Right? Colleges and universities are increasingly turning to innovative solutions and the fast-paced development of new information technologies to trim overhead, maintenance, and staff budgets, while at the same time improving services for a changing student demographic. It's becoming more common to outsource certain functions (e.g. cataloging). Because of aggressive archiving and digitizing, the prominence of actual paper books is decreasing in favor of new ways of delivering knowledge. Daniel Greenstein, vice provost for academ ...
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