Dr. Theodore Whapham met with the newspaper to discuss his role as dean of the School of Ministry as part of a series profiling the new members of the University of Dallas administration.
The 2015-16 academic year marks his second year in the position, which Whapham seemed very excited about.
“A big part of my job is setting a vision for the School of Ministry, and to talk about who we are, where we are and where we want to go,” Whapham said.
Whapham was formerly a theology professor and administrator at St. Thomas University in Miami. His academic background and degree are in Classical Theology, and his area of expertise is Trinitarian and Christological theology. He taught a graduate course over the summer on these topics. He also said that he has always been interested in and focused on the experience of the Catholic faith in the 21st century.
Whapham outlined the four-part setup for the School of Ministry. He spoke first about the school’s annual ministry conference, which will be Oct. 22-24 at the Dallas Convention Center.
This event, a collaboration with the Diocese of Dallas, draws about 5,000 visitors each year. Whapham said that it is the second biggest ministry event of its kind, surpassed only by the Religious Education Congress in Los Angeles.
Whapham also discussed the school’s continuing education programs, which have approximately 800 students. These programs mostly cater to adults studying purely to learn more about the Catholic faith, since they do not provide any academic credit.
The School of Ministry also partners with dioceses in the area to aid in deaconate formation.
Thirdly, Whapham discussed the undergraduate major in pastoral ministry, which is the newest facet of the School of Ministry. This program began in the 2011-12 academic year and currently has about 15 enrolled majors.
“I’m really excited about this because we’ve always been a presence everywhere except at the undergraduate level,” Whapham said.
The fourth facet of the School of Ministry is its graduate program, which has a current enrollment of 84 students.
This degree is offered both onsite and online. According to Dr. Whapham, most students are looking for a professional degree. These are adults looking to work in diocesan offices or run programs in ministry, religious education and summer camps.
“[UD’s School of Ministry] is among the largest graduate programs in the country, with nationally-recognized professors who are often called upon by bishops to lecture and help in other capacities,” Whapham said.
The role of dean requires that Whapham wear many hats, including that of the department chair for the undergraduate degree program. This means that he is an adviser for the undergraduate students and will especially help them with graduation plans. He will also plan new programs and continue the mission of the School of Ministry.
Whapham mentioned that he travels often, because bishops from various surrounding areas contact UD and request help in developing their own continuing education programs.
“[The School of Ministry’s] goal is to bring the life of the university to the life of the Church,” Whapham said.
Wapham said that his purpose is to bring the theological and moral virtues and the pursuit of knowledge, wisdom, truth and beauty to the real world and the 21st century. The School of Ministry, he said, shares these goals with the university.
“How do reading Plato and Aristotle affect the way we preach the Gospel?” Whapham asked. “We are deeply concerned with the idea of the New Evangelization … The School of Ministry is a part of the university in that we have one foot in the academic world and one foot in the Church … which is maybe why we’re all the way out here in Catherine.”