Wilmette Institute Poised for Major Expansion

by Robert H. Stockman, Director, Wilmette Institute

Thanks to a large five-year financial commitment, the Wilmette Institute is preparing for a major expansion in its efforts to reach college or university students who might want to take its courses for credit.

Dr. Robert H. Stockman, Executive Director of the Wilmette Institute

Dr. Robert H. Stockman,
Director of the Wilmette Institute

The donation is earmarked for three areas only: (1) developing relationships with university students, faculty, and administrators so that students can receive credit from their universities for Wilmette Institute courses, and the Wilmette Institute can receive tuition reimbursement to cover its costs; (2) expanding the Wilmette Institute’s live online video programming; and (3) initiating a series of live online video symposia on scholarly subjects and subjects related to public discourse.

New Initiatives. To accomplish the three projects made possible by the restricted donation, the Institute will be hiring a full-time Associate Director and a full-time Marketing Associate and will be expanding some of its part-time staffing. It is also working on position descriptions that will be available very soon. For information, please contact the Director at rstockman@wilmetteinstitute.org.

The first project, developing relationships with universities, will require considerable assistance from Bahá’í university students, faculty, and administrators, all of whom the Institute will be writing shortly. Here is how anyone connected with a college or university can help the Wilmette Institute:

  • Bahá’í students can contact the Institute at learn@wilmetteinstitute.org, indicating their interest in taking Wilmette Institute courses for credit. The Institute has already been successful in helping students obtain credit.
  • Any Bahá’í with a university connection (student, faculty, administrator) can help by providing the Institute with contacts in university administration or in specific departments, such as religious studies. Please send information to rstockman@wilmetteinstitute.org.

Some of the services that the Wilmette Institute is prepared to offer to colleges and university include:

  • Sending lecturers to speak about aspects of the Bahá’í Faith to the entire campus or to specific courses. The Institute will use speakers’ bureaus to arrange for such campus speakers.
  • Using Zoom web video to provide live presentations to courses via the internet.
  • Donating books to college and university libraries.

The Wilmette Institute will use social media to publicize campus presentations and encourage the students who attend to investigate its blended and online courses.

Green Acre Bahá’í School, Eliot, Maine, USA

A Pilot Project in New England. As a pilot project, the Institute plans to focus on the New England area and create blended courses in which students will spend one or two weekends at Green Acre Bahá’í School for intensive classes after which they will complete their course work online. Students unable to attend Green Acre can, instead, consider one of the Institute’s fully online courses.

The Wilmette Institute’s overall goal can be described as becoming the online Bahá’í Studies Department for any institution of higher education that wants access to such a service. With the rapid development of online courses, students are more and more able to take courses for credit at institutions other than their university. Consequently, the Wilmette Institute can bring together students from all over the country—one from this university, two from that college—and place them in a single online course to study an aspect of the Bahá’í Faith together.

As the effort gains momentum, the number of courses will increase, and some courses can serve university seniors and graduate students wishing to dig deeply into an aspect of the Faith, such as its relationship to economics, political science, psychology, or the environment.

Enormous Potential. The program of outreach to colleges and universities has enormous potential in a number of areas: developing Bahá’í scholarship; strengthening Bahá’í involvement in public discourse; and raising the overall level of knowledge of the Faith in the Bahá’í community and among its community of interest.

The Other Two Projects. The other two projects for which the Wilmette Institute has received a financial commitment—increasing its live web video educational services and developing symposia—will be the focus of future articles.

Continued Need for Wilmette Institute’s Fundraising. One challenge the large donation has created is the pressing need for the Wilmette Institute to reach its own $100,000 fundraising goal in unrestricted funds. Without such unrestricted funds, some essential aspects of the Wilmette Institute may need to be curtailed at the same time that other new areas are undergoing rapid expansion drawing on restricted funds. Currently, the Wilmette Institute has raised only $34,000 toward the $100,000 goal it set for the current fiscal year, with three months to go. Hence continued support for the Wilmette Institute’s regular fund is urgently needed.

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