Tomorrow I will be spending my day touring the Fuller Theological Seminary, the largest private, interdenominational seminary in the world. It isn’t far up the road from my home in Tustin, CA, and I would be remiss should I fail to visit in my time on the mainland. However, I will be facing a few personal biases heading into my visit, which haven’t been allayed by my interaction with their visitation ‘people’ as of yet.
Don’t get me wrong, Fuller is a top grade seminary. It has great alumni and faculty and a reputation for open and often opposing views within the student body. Unfortunately, being so near to my hometown, I have difficulty imagining myself spending any significant time there (I faced the same reality in visiting Claremont last week). The primary bias I have is that Fuller seems to be following a model based on industrializing and commercializing education that I do not particularly enjoy. I get the feeling of it being a commuter campus and a distance learning institution more than a rigorous academic pillar. At HPU, where I am getting my undergrad, as well as every other college I have attanded, I get a clear feeling that the students are very much in between everything else when they go to school; it is a chore, a tedious endeavor that invites not their attention and passion, but demands money and time alone – a tireless and seemingly unending quest. I fear I would experience the same at Fuller; just another breed of rodent in the rat race.
Now, all of this is specualtion, of course, and perhaps harsh at that. I am only recording my impression beforehand, and readily admit that I have my bias. Besiedes the impression I get from their website and having heard various feelings of others, I was treated pretty transactionally when I contacted the admissions office for a visit. It was hard to even find where to reach a human being to speak to, everything was online in the form of, well, forms. Quickly after filling out my info I got a formulated reply via email with all my entries in bold. I felt like cattle being herded toward the slaughterhouse… I can only compare this experience to that which I have had at other instititutions (that I will not name), from which I recieved a personal interaction and no shortage of gratitude for having considered matriculation (even at the schools I consider it to be a challenge to be accepted to).
Besides that, Fuller would be quite an engaging experience. I hear the student body is very diverse theologically as well as ethnically. It also provides a very admirable model for training conservatives alongside progressives. Not easy task, and one which I consider a huge plus in my book. When I was up in that area before, I was quite impressed by their bookstore and facilities, so I am certain to be impressed once again. It will be an all day affair, though I wont be able to attend chapel service (which was the original reason I scheduled my visit on a Wednesday), but oh well. I’m really looking forward to it despite my prior harsh criticism…