Women at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) and The College at Southeastern have a new opportunity for encouragement and collaboration in their academic work through the Society for Women in Scholarship. Created by SEBTS students, the society’s goal is to provide a gathering place for ideas, networking, learning and leadership development among women at Southeastern who desire to be part of theological scholarship.
It was just over a year ago when Bekah Stoneking, Doctor of Education student, and Amber Bowen, Master of Arts in Philosophy of Religion student, first met together to discuss their scholarly ambitions. The encouragement they received from one another led them to invite more women to informal coffee outings, eventually sparking the idea for a society for Southeastern’s students.
“We found great benefit from having each other to converse with, to encourage, to collaborate with and to come alongside,” said Stoneking and Bowen. “We began to think about what it would be like on a larger scale.”
As part of Southeastern’s Kingdom Diversity Initiative, the Society for Women in Scholarship provides greater opportunities for a minority population on Southeastern’s campus to contribute to the academy.
“Women are our largest and most diverse minority group on campus,” said Walter Strickland, special adviser to the president for Kingdom Diversity. “I’m convinced that the fruit of the society will extend beyond the confines of the group by emboldening women to contribute more readily in the classroom discussion, providing opportunities to publish written work and by sponsoring events for both genders to think deeply about the Christian faith.”
The society addresses a need that many women students have expressed at Southeastern. “One benefit is it offers a means for women to discuss academic thoughts and ideas outside the classroom with other like-minded women,” said Denise O’Donoghue, director of Women’s Life and assistant professor of ministry to women.
This new opportunity for women has received much support from Southeastern’s administration, faculty and student body. SEBTS Provost Bruce Ashford called the society “one of the most exciting developments” at the school in recent history.
“It is composed of a number of very sharp women who are committed not only to maintaining high standards of scholarship but to handing down the faith once for all delivered to the saints,” Ashford said.
The society meets on the first Wednesday of every month to discuss topics relevant to women in theological scholarship. February’s meeting focused on time management, where members offered advice to one another about juggling the responsibilities of academic writing, publishing, ministry and more. Future topics include fears common to women in the academy and how to overcome them.
According to Assistant Professor of English and Linguistics Adrianne Miles, who serves on the leadership team, the Society for Women in Scholarship has already boosted the confidence of women at Southeastern. “Our members are saying, ‘Thank you so much for this.’ It’s what they’ve been wanting,” she said.
Many women who once felt isolated now have a greater sense of belonging through the society. “They have a place where they can see other women [involved in scholarship] and not feel like they are the only one or one of two students,” Miles added.
As part of its mission to promote good scholarship, the society plans to sponsor academic events on campus for the entire student body, creating a space for men and women to interact as academic peers and be iron sharpening iron.
The society is open to women at Southeastern from the sophomore level and up; members include undergraduate, master’s level and doctoral level students. Students interested in membership do not have to already have a specific research focus, only the desire to grow in scholarship and contribute to academic life on campus.
The mission of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary is to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by equipping students to serve the church and fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). Southeastern is an institution of higher learning and a Cooperate Program ministry of the Southern Baptist Convention.