Behind the Scenes: How One Faculty Team Plans Courses

In 2013, the Wilmette Institute launched a new series of courses about relationships, preparation for marriage, and success in marriage. The first course, offered in February was Building the Fortress: Marriage and Family Life. It was followed with Becoming a Couple: Preparing for Marriage and Communicating and Consulting as a Couple: Strengthening Your Marriage. In 2014 The Wilmette Institute offered five more courses in the series, and in 2015, four. In 2016, you can expect a number of additional courses.

Susanne M. Alexander, the lead faculty for the popular series of courses, explains that during the time since the relationship and marriage course track launched, the faculty team consisting of herself, Hoda Kemp, Wendi Momen, and Alex Blakeson have met, generally every one to two weeks, by telephone and Skye. They consult about course offerings, course content and length, mentoring, managing Forum discussions, having videoconferences with participants, how to welcome interfaith participants, and more.

She says that the team always reflects on and assesses what is working and what needs to be changed from course to course. They also review new guidance from the Universal House of Justice and new research in the relationship/marriage field to see what should be included. They update and edit repeat courses each time they are offered, so that a course offered in 2013, for example, will be different when it is repeated in 2015. The team also tries to include videos, the arts, and practical-application activities in each course; the faculty reviews all of these additions ahead of time before they launch the courses.

Alexander explains that mentoring for the relationship and marriage courses is quite different from that offered in the Wilmette Institute’s academic courses, for the topics are quite personal. The faculty team engages with their mentees (each learner in a course is assigned a mentor when the course starts) throughout the course by e-mail and videoconference as needed. Often participants raise personal questions and topics that they are uncomfortable raising on the Forum in the course; the team supports each other in responding as needed. The faculty has agreed that they will consider posting a participant’s question anonymously if one of the mentees requests it. Often Susanne adds content to the course as it unfolds if it meets a need that a participant raises.

The faculty team is focused on and highly committed to helping people transform their lives and relationships and empowering them to create marriages that are happy and unified. The courses are a very hands-on process. The team is now expanding the number serving on the faculty team so that they can add more courses in the future (Raymond Switzer is the newest member). They plan to begin a parenting-and-family course track in 2016.

Alexander says that the team has bonded since the relationship and marriage courses began, as their lives have included job changes, marriage, elderly parents hospitalized, extensive travel, illness, election to institutions, service to Bahá’í schools and core activities, meetings with the Queen and Hollywood stars and clients, children leaving home, moving, and more. The team meets by videoconference or telephone from wherever the teams’ members happen to be and in whatever state of being they are in. Often Wendi Momen, who lives in the UK, joins the team at midnight her time, and everyone eats meals during the meetings as needed. Family members often pass through and greet the faculty.

Alexander concludes her comments by saying, “We are all astounded that the Wilmette Institute has given us and our participants this gift.”

The remaining relationship-and-marriage course scheduled for 2015 is Communicating as a Couple, Before and After Marriage, which begins on September 27, 2015. Click here to sign up.

On Sunday, August 30, Alexander gave a Web Talk entitled “Healthy, Unified Marriages as Service to Humanity.” You can listen to it by clicking here.

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