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Princeton Theological Seminary awarded $7.3 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc.

Housed at the seminary, the Hispanic Theological Initiative will help master’s students discern and navigate their doctoral studies

by Princeton Theological Seminary | Special to Presbyterian News Service

The Rev. Joanne Rodríguez

PRINCETON, New Jersey — The Hispanic Theological Initiative (HTI) announced Thursday that a $7.3 million Lilly Endowment Inc. grant will support the creation of a new program to help master’s students discern and navigate their path toward doctoral studies.

The grant, made to Princeton Theological Seminary, one of HTI’s consortium member schools and its housing institution, also enables HTI to provide fellowships for pre-dissertation doctoral students, create more collaborative internships with nonprofit organizations in the ecology of theological and religious education, and more.

HTI’s program, titled “En conjunto! Strengthening the Recruitment, Retention, and Graduation of Latinx Masters and PhD Students,” will lay out a five-year plan for programming and fellowship support to strengthen HTI’s mission and vision of supporting Latinx PhD students, graduates, and mid-level faculty serving in the academy, the church and the world.

“We are thrilled to receive this substantial grant as HTI enters 2022,” said HTI’s executive director, the Rev. Joanne Rodríguez. “This grant honors HTI’s en conjunto [“on the whole”] work with its founders, mentors, faculty, editors, staff, partnering institutions, and 24 consortium presidents and deans. It is a testament to the innovative work and collaborative value of HTI’s consortium as well as to its expanding legacy.”

The grant creates more spaces for HTI to advance its holistic approach at nurturing and preparing Latinx PhDs to serve in this new pandemic period and the post-pandemic world.

“This grant complements the critical work HTI has been executing for a quarter of a century. The HTI community and I could not be more grateful to Lilly Endowment for its insightful and visionary leadership,” said Rodríguez.

HTI’s proposal grew out of many conversations with numerous partners, and in response to the needs identified en conjunto with all 64 HTI scholars at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. During that time, HTI also shifted its programming to virtual formats. In-person programing and events are scheduled to return gradually with safety measures in place.

“HTI’s commitment to ensuring the graduation of Latinx scholars (93% and average time to degree 5.5 years) and to helping them thrive as academics, church leaders, and non-profit administrators is more necessary than ever,” Rodríguez said. “Institutions are working at realigning their operational structures and educational vision to prepare a diverse cohort of leaders that are agile, collaborative, and justice-oriented. These Latinx leaders will continue to transform the academy, the church, and the world. HTI has the experience, cumulative knowledge, and communal connections to walk alongside partnering institutions as we shape diverse futures en conjunto.”

The Rev. Dr. M. Craig Barnes is president of Princeton Theological Seminary (Photo courtesy of Princeton Theological Seminary)

“The PhD program at Princeton Theological Seminary has benefitted from the high caliber of Hispanic Theological Initiative’s programming and support for decades,” said the Rev. Dr. M. Craig Barnes, president of Princeton Theological Seminary. “With this grant, HTI will continue its vital work to support early-career scholars and to encourage gifted students to undertake their education with the financial support and mentorship that will allow them to thrive. Princeton Theological Seminary is proud to be a partner in HTI’s work, and we look forward to the exciting opportunities that will come as a result of this investment in HTI’s mission.”

The Rev. Dr. Frank Yamada

In a testimony about HTI’s 25th anniversary, celebrated last year, the Rev. Dr. Frank Yamada, executive director of the Association of Theological Schools (ATS), affirmed, “HTI is providing a critical current and future missional need for theological schools. This is an increasing need in ATS schools because what we know from our data with regards to ATS enrollment is that the only places in where there is growth amongst students and newly enrolled students is among students of color.” In addition, Dr. Mary Elizabeth Moore, professor and dean emerita of Boston University School of Theology, said that “HTI is necessary. Predominantly white schools of theology were not able to do it alone. They needed the kind of intensity, support, vision, embrace that HTI gave to its scholars, and the kinds of relationships HTI helped build across the Américas.”

In its first 25 years, HTI helped 150 Latinx scholars earn doctoral degrees and provided professional development and fellowships to several master’s students and post-doctoral scholars. HTI graduates serve in seminaries and universities as faculty and administrators across the United States and in six other countries, as well as in ministerial positions and nonprofit leadership roles. En conjunto with institutional partners and individual investors, HTI looks forward to advancing its impact in the larger ecology of theological and religious education.

About the Hispanic Theological Initiative 

The Hispanic Theological Initiative is a unique partnership with 24 doctoral granting institutions whose mission is to cultivate Latinx PhDs for leadership positions in the academy, the church, and the world.  With the support of the 24 consortium member institutions, HTI seeks to increase the recruitment, retention, and graduation rates of Latinx PhD students across the nation; increase the presence of Latinx leaders and faculty — especially tenured faculty in seminaries, schools of theology and universities; and provide a forum for the exchange of information, ideas, and best practices to engage the contributions of Latinx faculty and students and amplify diverse voices and perspectives within the Latinx community and  beyond.  Established in 1996, HTI is a mentoring, networking, and fellowship program that addresses critical issue of advancing Latinx scholarship and leadership in theological and religious landscape for the betterment of academic and church communities across the world. Learn more here.

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