October 18, 2017
Pacific School of Religion is embodying the future of theological education. As one of the most diverse communities in higher education—from administrative team to board, from faculty and staff to student body—PSR draws its strength from both rootedness in particular traditions and openness to the work of the Spirit in the world. We are living into our vision of preparing spiritually and theologically rooted leaders for social transformation through our innovative curriculum and programs—including the launch of our new Certificate of Innovation and Leadership for an Unpredictable Future.
Following the example of every generation that sought to respond to the mission needs of its time, PSR is boldly and creatively responding to changes in higher education and within faith communities.
Our Transformative Future
At its October 2017 meeting, the Board of Trustees approved PSR’s Transformative Future document, which identifies institutional strategic priorities around curriculum and programs, enrollment and retention, advancement, and financial sustainability. We invite you to read this document on our website. A key part of our Transformative Future plan is stewarding our campus to better serve our mission, seeking ways to ensure our ability to thrive on Holy Hill in the midst of the consortial partnerships within the Graduate Theological Union and its growing multi-religious vision.
We have decided on the following plan of action:
- Retain ownership and improve the use of the buildings around the quad— Holbrook, Mudd, D’Autremont, and the Chapel.
- Retain, improve, and operate a large portion of our residential properties, both dorms (Anderson and Benton) and three apartment buildings, located at 2363/2365 LeConte, 2369 LeConte, and 1729 Arch Street. These buildings provide us with a significant number of housing units—close to three times our current student needs—to accommodate future enrollment growth. Hudson McDonald, a local property management company, has worked with us for the past year to manage Anderson and Benton halls. Thanks to this partnership, we have increased the occupancy of the dorms from 65% to close to 100%, providing needed student housing to a broader number of schools, including UC-Berkeley students. We plan to continue to operate these residential buildings to ensure our long-term ability to provide below-market rate housing to PSR students, significantly improve the buildings, and generate needed resources to support our mission.
- Sell the residential units along Virginia Street to repay borrowings against the Board-designated portion of the endowment used in the last several years to cover operational deficits, invest in maintaining the properties we plan to keep, and strengthen our student scholarship funds.
- Invest in smart-classrooms and better utilization of office spaces, freeing up the 12,000 square foot of space in the Seely Mudd building to explore a partnership with an organization aligned with PSR’s mission–read on for an exciting announcement!
A New Partnership
We are delighted to announce a letter of intent with REALM Charter School to operate its middle school (grades 6-8) in the Seely Mudd building, with an anticipated start date of the fall 2018 semester. Built around principles of Love, Grit, and Action, REALM Charter Schools reflect PSR’s core values of excellence in education, strength through diversity, and a commitment to social transformation. REALM emphasizes college readiness, social justice, and innovation through project-based learning.
Like PSR, REALM schools embody the commitments they articulate: close to 90% of REALM’s students are students of color and nearly 80% of students receive free or reduced-price lunches and/or are English learners—both of these percentages are more than double what they are in the other Berkeley public schools. REALM provides a unique educational opportunity through its focus on project-based learning: REALM’s students have designed and built houses for the homeless, a greenhouse for a local community center, and their own library.
Through the partnership with REALM, we will invest together in significant improvements to accessibility and energy efficiency to the Mudd Building, ensuring the long-term usability of that facility.
Over the last five years as we have dreamed about PSR’s future, we have known that the future of theological education calls us to transform our educational experience form a “cloister” into a “hub.” Our partnership with REALM Schools–like our move this past fall to welcome students from other schools, including UC-Berkeley, into our housing–will engage us in new ways with the broader community and leverage our property resources to strengthen our ability to fulfill our mission.
We will continue to update our community on our website, via email, on social media, and in Catalyst, our magazine. Please address any questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for joining us in living into this bold vision of theological education, defined by academic excellence, sound stewardship of our resources, a focus on social transformation, and the many gifts of our diverse communities.
President, Pacific School of Religion