When students arrive on campus to begin their theological education at Truett Seminary, they bring with them a testimony of God’s work in their lives, their call to ministry, and the cultural experiences that have shaped them. The students of Truett come from diverse backgrounds that together make up the rich tapestry of the Truett family.
Through the years, several student groups have been established to celebrate God’s work through specific populations. Truett Student Services assists the work of these groups as they seek to support each other and to help educate their fellow students. Currently, the Seminary houses the Truett Black Seminarians Association (TBSA), Truett Latinx Seminarians Association (TLSA), and Truett Women in Ministry (TWiM).
Each student group grew from the need to foster a community that is supporting and encouraging and that develops leaders both in the Seminary and for the work of the Kingdom. In its mission statement, TBSA commits to being “scholars engaging in prayerful and critical thought with our peers, our churches, and our community on Black Church Tradition in order to magnify Christ’s name.”
TBSA President Troy Dicks recognizes that the time for advocacy and recognition of the other does not begin after completing a seminary degree.
“Now is the time to be considering people around me and the issues around me and to ally and advocate for them now and not just a later date,” Dicks said. “The chair you sit in now will not be yours, so leave the table set for the next person.”
TLSA grew out of a need for Hispanic students to have a place to celebrate their Latinidad, or Latin-ness. The group’s co-president, Nataly Mora, recalls her first semester on campus and going months without speaking Spanish. TLSA offers her a place to feel more at home, both in language and custom. By hosting meetings that honor Latin culture, up-bringing, and church, Waco began to feel a little more like home, not only for Mora but for many of her peers.
TLSA seeks to encourage their constituency that the minority voice matters, not simply for minority culture, and advocates for all cultures to be introduced to and to value Latinx theologians.
Many women who participate with TWiM share a history of lack of support in their callings, and for some, this group is the first community to affirm and encourage God’s call to ministry. TWiM’s mission is to “equip, educate, and encourage women as they pursue their call to ministry, as well as to educate men so they may better empower the women in their communities to pursue calls to ministry.”
In pursuit of this mission, the group holds meetings throughout the semester and assists with the bi-annual Women in Ministry Conference held at Truett Seminary in collaboration with Texas Baptist Women in Ministry. TWiM President Stephanie Stewart recognizes the generations of women in ministry that have preceded their current work and knows that the work they do today seeks to pave the way for others, because “the fight is not lost if you keep moving forward.”
While each of these groups was formed to encourage and offer support to a specific community, they share a common purpose of encouraging and educating the Truett family at large. The groups are generally led by second- and third-year students along with a sponsoring professor. Each association’s president affirms their responsibility to engage first-year students, integrate them into the work of the group, and model the way forward in leadership.
Leadership development is an ongoing endeavor and increases the reach of ministry done by these student associations. Seminary can be an isolating time, especially for minority students. Having a community that surrounds, invests, encourages, and equips students for ministry may be the difference between a good seminary experience and a great one. Many lifelong friendships are forged through the deep bonds shared within these student associations.
Moreover, the majority culture benefits greatly from robust, diverse voices that illuminate God’s work in, through, and by each group, both in the Seminary and in the world. These groups encourage participation in order to build awareness and to strengthen advocate voices that are developed while studying at Truett. While the work is far from complete, the strides made through the collaborative work of TBSA, TLSA, and TWiM has shaped, challenged, and blessed Truett Seminary.
These groups hold the tension of valuing the uniqueness of everyone with the communal bonds that unite Christians through the Holy Spirit. Truett and the world are better for it.