Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has launched multiple initiatives to further its mission of equipping and empowering women to answer the call to serve the Lord, President Adam W. Greenway announced Thursday, June 6. These initiatives include the establishment of the Southwestern Women’s Center, new faculty titles and roles, and an update and revision of the women’s studies and women’s ministry curricula.

“Our seminary has been at the forefront of Southern Baptist efforts to provide the highest quality ministry training for God-called women since our earliest days, led by such trailblazers as Neppie Scarborough and Floy Barnard,” Greenway stated. “The personnel and programmatic changes our administration is making across the institution are designed with an overarching purpose in mind: making sure Southwestern Seminary is maximizing the gifts and talents of all members of our seminary family, especially our female faculty, staff, and students. While programs have their place, our seminary is first and foremost about people, and I am thankful for what our Lord is doing on Seminary Hill to expand opportunities for women to flourish on our campus and in their callings.”

Southwestern Women’s Center

The Southwestern Women’s Center, which will be housed in Horner House, will provide a central location for any female member of the Southwestern Seminary family to seek resources, connection, practical training, and mentoring, thereby serving as a catalyst for professional, academic, and leadership development for women.

The Women’s Center will also host events to promote a robust and positive climate for women on campus through discussion groups, mentoring, networking, and advising. 

“I’m very pleased that Horner House will expand its role in serving and creating community amongst the women at Southwestern Seminary,” says Randy L. Stinson, provost and vice president for academic administration. “It will be the hub for academic and social opportunities specifically for women.”

To lead the initiative, Terri Stovall, formerly the dean of women’s programs, has been named Dean of Women. Her office—along with that of Katie McCoy, assistant professor of theology in women’s studies—will be located in the Women’s Center, providing a designated, confidential place where women can come to express needs or concerns. The new title reflects a wider scope of Stovall’s responsibilities. 

“My previous title was strictly as an academic dean who had oversight of our many women-focused programs,” Stovall says. “I still will be responsible for those programs, but beyond the academics, I am also here to serve all Southwestern women, be they students, spouses, faculty, or staff. Particularly, this change indicates the administration’s desire to have a woman, who has some authority, to be a safe person for a woman to come should she need to express a concern or need. This was one of Dr. Greenway’s first priorities and changes he made for women at Southwestern.”

“As a woman who has been in ministry in the local church and academia now for 35 years, I know that being a woman in ministry is not always easy,” Stovall continues. “And sometimes, you just need someone to be your advocate in difficult, often painful times. I am grateful that Dr. Greenway, Dr. Stinson, and the administration recognize the value of having a woman who can be that advocate.”

“Terri Stovall is the ideal woman to give additional strategic care to all of the women on the Southwestern Seminary campus,” says Stinson. “She is already a respected colleague, and her new role as Dean of Women will expand her influence to the entire student body.”

Though the title “Dean of Women” is new for Stovall, Greenway notes that it “connects well with our heritage,” as that title was inaugurated by Floy Barnard in 1933. Barnard served as dean of women at Southwestern Seminary for 27 years, and Barnard Hall is named in her honor.

“We already do a lot for women at Southwestern but wanted to be more intentional, more available, and more focused to serve women and to influence the culture here at Southwestern,” says Stovall. “We want this to be a place where women can find community, networking, resources, leadership training, and assistance. In addition to our regular open hours, we will be planning specific opportunities for professional and ministry development, hands-on leadership skills enhancement, colloquiums for our female doctoral students, and other activities that will serve the Southwestern woman as she prepares for the next ministry the Lord has for her.”

Curricula Updates

Coinciding with the launch of the Women’s Center, the Women’s Studies concentration and Women’s Ministry concentration have each been revised and updated. 

The revision to the Women’s Studies concentration aims to provide women a clear focus on reaching the world for Christ. Courses such as Feminism in Church and Culture, Contemporary Issues in Women and Gender Issues, and Women’s Dignity and Global Concernwill build upon foundational courses to equip women to respond to today’s culture from a solid biblical and theological foundation. 

The Women’s Ministry concentration has been updated to enrich women’s unique gifts that enhance their approach to ministry and leadership. This concentration seeks to hone those skills and gifts to be used in the array of ministry opportunities for women. Courses such as Women in Leadership, Counseling Women, and Engaging Women in Missions and Ministry will enhance training in leadership, missions, and ministry development. 

New Scarborough College Associate Dean

In addition to these women-focused initiatives, Sarah Spring has been appointed associate dean for student success in Scarborough College, a role that will see her investing in every member of the college’s student body. 

“With a background in student success at other institutions, Dr. Spring will focus her efforts on improving the overall student experience through academic advising, the Writing Center, and other initiatives,” Greenway said. “I believe Dr. Spring’s new role will be a great asset in helping us see Scarborough College achieve its full potential as the undergraduate arm of Southwestern Seminary.”

Spring has served as associate professor of English in Scarborough College since 2014 and is also director of Southwestern Seminary’s Writing Center. She says that teaching gives her the opportunity to pour her life into students and colleagues one-on-one in a very real way, an opportunity with many parallels to discipleship. Her new role as associate dean will enhance these opportunities. 

“With Dr. Greenway’s administration comes a renewed emphasis on retention, and I am thrilled to partner with him in this endeavor,” says Spring. “One of our major goals is to create a student success center that will focus on a variety of needs: academic coaching, writing mentoring, and language tutoring, to name but a few. Ultimately, we desire to help every student successfully navigate his or her degree program, linking students who want assistance with the appropriate resources.”

Spring earned her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Central Arkansas in 2002, and her Master of Arts and Ph.D. from Texas A&M University in 2004 and 2010, respectively. Before coming to Southwestern Seminary, she taught courses at Texas A&M and Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C. 

“Sarah Spring brings a great deal of experience to the task of expanding and improving our efforts in the area of student success,” says Stinson. “I am confident that our retention rates and the overall student experience will greatly improve under her capable leadership.”

Michael Wilkinson, dean of Scarborough College, says that Spring “has distinguished herself as an outstanding professor who cares deeply about her students.” He continues, “Student success is something that Dr. Spring has been passionate about since she began teaching here. She has consistently implemented ideas to help students overcome obstacles and strongly complete their coursework, also seeking to help them develop life skills beyond the classroom.” 

“Dr. Spring has mentored many of our college women in their spiritual growth,” Wilkinson says. “She is uniquely qualified to serve in this important leadership position in Scarborough College. I could not be more pleased than to have Dr. Sarah Spring fill this role.”