Wilmette Institute Shines at Recent Association for Bahá’í Studies Conference
The Wilmette Institute presented its most elaborate and successful programs ever at the Association for Bahá’í Studies conference this year, which was held August 6–9, 2015, in Orange County, California.
Celebration of the Wilmette Institute’s twentieth anniversary was a prominent theme of the Institute’s events. The Wilmette Institute’s display table focused on it with a large banner and twentieth-anniversary buttons. The buttons were frequently seen on the labels of learners and faculty. “Happy twentieth anniversary! I had no idea the Wilmette Institute was so old!” and “That’s amazing! Congratulations!” were often heard. The Institute received congratulatory applause at the ABS business meeting.
On Friday afternoon, August 7, the Director of the Wilmette Institute, Dr. Robert H. Stockman, offered a 45-minute overview of the Institute’s history and progress titled “Advancing the Life of the Mind Online: Twenty Years of Wilmette Institute Experience.” The presentation, which outlined past successes and development, current priorities and future directions, was part of a session of the Education Special Interest Group. The title echoed the main theme of the conference, “Advancing the Life of the Mind.” A version of the PowerPoint is available here. From its first face-to-face course in 1996 for 40 people and its first online course in 1998 for 80, the Wilmette Institute has steadily expanded. In 2015 it is offering nearly 50 courses to about 1,200 learners. Over 110 countries have been represented among its nearly 9,000 learners. Some 40 percent of its 60 current faculty are women. With its expansion into web video, the Institute is now offering specialized webinars and free Web Talks.
The Wilmette Institute conducted its largest and most effective faculty meeting to date during the evening of August 7, attended by eight faculty. Those present reviewed the Institute’s plans and made many suggestions about how to improve publicity, marketing, and course functioning. The faculty were enthusiastic about the Institute’s direction, especially its goal of gaining college credit for its learners.
The final Wilmette Institute meeting was a general meeting on Saturday evening, August 8. Only two, beside the moderator, attended. One was a new faculty member who had been unable to attend the faculty meeting on the previous day and who had some questions about her duties. The other was an inquirer who knew nothing about the Institute. He was so impressed that he signed up for the Wilmette Institute eNewsletter on the spot, so he could keep abreast of the latest news. You and your friends can also sign up by e-mailing the Institute at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org; please include your name and e-mail address.
The Wilmette Institute is grateful for the assistance of Anne Perry, who planned the display, and Dr. Steve Friberg, who consulted with Drs. Stockman and Perry about the content of the three meetings. Greater faculty involvement was the key to making the Wilmette Institute presence at Association for Bahá’í Studies so successful.