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Amanda Ikard / Gavel Media

STM Reputed for Selectivity and Diversity

Across the street from the new 2150 residence hall and next door to the popular El Pelón lies Brighton Campus. Most Boston College undergraduate students rarely cross Commonwealth Avenue to visit or study on these grounds, yet Brighton Campus is home to some of BC’s most architecturally beautiful, modern buildings and libraries, most of which comprise the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry.

The STM originated in 2008 through the combining of two schools: the Jesuit School of Theology in Cambridge and the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley. Father Mark S. Massa, S.J., became the Dean of the school in 2010 and will be ending his tenure as Dean in May.

Then Fr. Massa will take a sabbatical before assuming leadership of the BC Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life. Fr. Massa’s efforts have led to great success for the newly formed STM, especially considering its recent founding as compared to other institutions, like Harvard Divinity School, which was formed in 1816.

Fr. Massa described the STM as the “second most selective divinity school in Boston. We compete with Notre Dame, Yale Divinity School, and Harvard Divinity School.”

Fr. Massa reflected on his role as Dean, explaining that his chief responsibilities were hiring and managing talented faculty, balancing the school’s budget, and dealing with issues of plagiarism. He was very active in running the STM during his tenure, noting that he received every single student evaluation and read 100 per day for a month to make sure the professors were teaching well.

Indeed, Fr. Massa worked closely with the faculty, and "met with professors for an hour every semester to provide feedback on their performances," he said.

The STM boasts 30 full time faculty members and 30 part time faculty members, hosting 416 students and 1200 online students.  Students have the opportunity to pursue six masters programs and two doctoral programs through the school.

A common misconception about graduate theology schools is that their sole purpose is to train priests or deacons, but instead the STM is responsible for many other career options. For example, only about 20% of the students at the STM are training to be Jesuits, and many faculty and staff members of BC’s campus ministry department attended the school.

Similarly, many graduates of the STM are theology teachers at the high school level. Fr. Massa elaborated that nearly 75% of the student body are lay people, while the rest pursue ordination.

Furthermore, the school is known for its modern yet beautiful facilities. Many of the older buildings were completely redone in 2008 and 2009, leading to more modern designs. The school’s central building, Simboli Hall, used to be a Jesuit Residence, but is now a contemporary learning facility.

And even more new buildings are on the way; Fr. Massa stated that “the master plan over the next 15 years is to add five more buildings to the Brighton campus, including probably a dormitory for undergraduates.”

Brighton Campus also currently contains several popular undergraduate study spaces, especially for juniors who live in Brighton Center. Fr. Massa encouraged juniors, who may not be aware, to utilize the Brighton Campus’ libraries.

The STM’s uniqueness is exemplified through its diversity. The school's student body is a majority women and 25% of the students are international. In addition, the school is incredibly economically and racially diverse.

The Association of Theological schools, responsible for accrediting theology graduate schools, ranks the STM in the top ten most diverse divinity schools in the United States—of the over 400 students at the STM, 80% receive financial assistance and 35% are on a full ride scholarship.

Fr. Massa illustrated the significance of economic diversity: “Every year six people from across the country come here who could not have afforded it without complete financial backing, as people have been generous to the STM.”

Such success is particularly to unique to the STM, as it possesses around a 54 million dollar endowment, yet it competes with Harvard Divinity School which contains around a 600 million dollar endowment.

Fr. Massa attributes the school’s prestige to its terrific and effective professors and the strength of student body. For example, one of the school’s scholarly journals is the the New Testament Abstract, which reviews all major publications relating to theology about the New Testament in every language and every country across the world.

Looking towards the future, Fr. Massa commented that the STM continues to receive many more qualified applicants than it can accept every year in a time where other theology schools are closing or facing severe economic difficulties.

In addition, the STM has been steadily growing every year since its founding in 2008. Fr. Massa put it best: “We’re a small place, but we punch above our weight.”

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