The College of Biblical Studies is offering an online certificate in ministerial training completely in Spanish in the Graduate School of Theology this coming fall and is piloting the use of textbooks in the classroom for undergraduates.
The certificate will be an 18-hour certificate with roughly ten to 12 students. Eventually, it will be a complete 32-hour master’s degree. Dr. Omar Palafox came to ACU last fall and began to work on ways for the Bible department to be more culturally inclusive of Hispanic students. The certificate was developed by the faculty, governance board and administration in view of getting closer toward ACU becoming a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI).
“I have been blessed to be here,” Palafox said. “I have been welcomed by individuals, I’m busy but I think it’s been a very smooth transition both in the classroom and in administration. I’m happy, I’m enjoying being here and I would like to see other individuals like me be here.”
For ACU to become a Hispanic Serving Institution, the student body must be 25% Hispanic. Currently, ACU has close to this percent of Hispanic students. When ACU becomes an HSI the university will be able to offer more resources for Spanish-speaking students as well as English dominant Hispanics.
In addition to the certificate, the DBMM has stated to pilot the use of a Spanish textbook in class. Palafox and the DBMM have already received some Spanish textbooks for some of the general education courses they offer.
“There are things we need to work out but that’s normal,” Palafox said. “How can you with what you have come along and walk with us? How can we find those places where people are able to bless us? This could help us create a model for even other languages to be more global in the university.”
Dr. Mindi Thompson is an associate professor who directs the online programs in the GST. These programs include international students. Thompson said she believes in Palafox and the work he’s doing to help ACU become more culturally inclusive.
“We’re working through this together,” Thompson said. “Everybody’s bringing their own background and experiences. We share together in the culture that we make and we see how God is at work in that.”
Thompson has worked with international students for over a decade and said she believes it’s important for ACU to have a broader context of the students they serve.
“Figuring out the ways that you know that we’re not the center of the world,” Thompson said. “God’s at work in Abilene but is also at work in the larger world. So maybe just look up a little bit every once in a while and say okay how is God working in this part of the world right now.”
Another one of Palafox’s colleagues is Dr. Steve Austin who is an adjunct professor in the DBMM at ACU but is also the Director of the Texas International Bible Institute (TIBI). Since Austin started the program in 2003, he’s grown his ministry to about 4,000 students in 76 countries across the world.
“Some of our students from Latin America may enjoy a course in Spanish and not English so they can relax a little bit,” Austin said. “That could be a big draw for ACU and for parents to see that there are courses we do in Spanish, which means the professors could speak to the parents in Spanish.”