Monday, March 16, 2009

Pros and Cons of Saint Paul University

I've been asked to speak to the 3rd and 4th year undergrad students tomorrow. A number of profs are talking about what career opportunities await them as well as the potential for grad studies in the various faculties. I'm one of two PhD students to speak with them - I'm the anglophone. So what shall I tell them? Here are the pros and cons - I'll probably be more direct here than there.


  • PRO + Saint Paul is a wonderfully ecumenical environment. Seriously I couldn't imagine a richer environment to study. The school may have Roman Catholic roots, but it is so much more. In addition to Anglican and Eastern Orthodox departments (official) I count Evangelicals, Pentecostals, Mainline Protestants, Jews, Atheists, Agnostics, non-descript Spiritual folk and Buddhists amongst my dialogue partners at Saint Paul. What is cool is that there is a strong mutual respect and a willingness for each of us to bring our whole selves to the conversations.

  • CON - Saint Paul is known as a Roman Catholic school. Worse as a radical liberal school. This is really not a fair assessment, but I know too many evangelicals paranoid of Saint Paul.

  • PRO + Degrees are jointly conferred with Ottawa U. At least the civil degrees, which are the ones you want if you are not Roman Catholic.

  • PRO + The Library!!!!! Saint Paul has the holy grail of theological libraries. It is amazing. And it is not a lending library (I have a card that lets me in 24/7!) you are not wasting your time going there to find a book!

  • CON - Funding sucks. Actually the Research Services department is not very good. I can't remember the last time I was notified of possible money that I remotely qualified for - and I had at least three useless emails today. But this is a well known problem and complaints are in.

  • PRO + Tuition is quite reasonable. Heck parking is very affordable too. If you keep your marks up the faculty is quite generous too. I basically had a tuition free Masters! And I haven't had to pay for this whole first year of my PhD. And when I do it is soooo much lower than the other universities in Ottawa.

  • PRO + The professors are amazing. I've been there ten years and taken a lot of courses (being a pastor I'm not very mobile) and in all that time I've had only two professors who were duds. And one of them everyone else seems to love??? So what do I know. Some shining examples are Walter Vogels (Semiotics), Ken Melchin (Ethics), Heather Eaton (Spirituality) and James Pambrun (Systematics).

  • CON - Technologically the school is still in the stone ages. We finally have WiFi in the student lounge. I've been pushing for WiFi for at least 8 years now. I'm really hoping they get a signal in the library next and that they boost the bandwidth. Also they recently outfitted several of the main classrooms with fixed data projectors!

  • CON - No gym. Well, there is a gym. But it is in an old part of the building and because it only has one exit, by firecode we cannot use it. Not that I am sports oriented but all study and no exercise makes for one fat pastor!

  • PRO + Small classes. In my masters I had two classes that were turned into reading courses because there were only two students. Even in my undergrad the classes were so nice and interactive. Plus where else do you share coffee with the prof at break?

  • PRO + Pool table. Yeah. I have cue and balls in my locker too. We even invented a perfectly scalable game called Whirly!



Well you get the picture. I do love it there and yet there is always room for improvement. I'd like to see the comprehensive exams structured differently but I'm not going to look that gift horse too closely in the mouth.

2 comments:

One of Freedom said...

My little talk went well. I really do think Saint Paul is a great place to study. One thing I mentioned there that I failed to mention here is that the current crop of grad students are asking very praxis oriented questions. This is a shift in how academic theology is usually done. I think maybe one of the people in my seminar are focusing on the works of a specific theologian (and even his question is more about praxis than the specific work of this individual). These are questions that have a lot of academic risk - but the way that the professors are guiding us is really helpful. They aren't cutting down the questions - even though I know some of them find this shift takes them out of their depth - they are finding ways to make sure we pursue the questions with as little academic risk as possible. That wisdom is invaluable. If you don't see it where you are thinking of studying - you might want to consider Saint Paul.

Kevin Sam said...

I found your blog through comments. Thanks for talking about your PhD program at St.Paul. I went to UofO and thought that it was only for RCs but I'm obviously wrong. It's a place I should consider if I was ever to do a PhD...in 10 years?