Willamette/CST Partnership: Frequently Asked Questions

Please review the questions below for answers to frequently asked questions about a potential partnership between Willamette University and Claremont School of Theology. Additional questions may be directed to willamette-cst@willamette.edu.

  1. What has been decided about a potential partnership between Willamette University and the Claremont School of Theology (CST)?
  2. Why is CST considering merging into Willamette University?
  3. What does a due diligence process entail?
  4. How long will the due diligence process last?
  5. Does embedding CST within Willamette mean a move for CST?
  6. Would CST become a third graduate school at Willamette?
  7. Would embedding CST make Willamette more of a “religious school?”
  8. Would embedding CST change Willamette’s standing as a national liberal arts college?
  9. What can you tell me about CST?

1. What has been decided about a potential partnership between Willamette University and the Claremont School of Theology (CST)?

Preliminary conversations among faculty and staff at both institutions have shown a strong desire to move forward with embedding CST into Willamette University.

Both CST President Jeffrey Kuan and Willamette President Stephen Thorsett are enthusiastic about a potential partnership. Willamette and CST share a common mission to educate students and prepare them for lives that contribute to and transform their communities. Willamette’s strategic plan calls for Willamette to be a true liberal arts “university,” with distinct schools and programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels that support each other and create unique partnerships and opportunities for collaboration.

CST’s strategic plan identifies “Creating a Difference for the World We Live In” as its primary institutional purpose - with three goals around transformative education, engaging local and global communities, and achieving long-term sustainability. This vision and the objectives outlined in CST’s plan match very well with Willamette’s strategic initiatives, especially around the enhancement of student experiences and programs and emphasis on engaging a sense of place - both locally and globally.

In addition, CST brings to the Northwest a progressive approach to education in theology that has the potential to add value not only to the student experience, but also for society and for the communities where graduates live and work.


2. Why is CST considering merging into Willamette University?

Over the past year, CST’s leadership spent a significant amount of time determining  a strategy that would set up the school for long term success and best serve its students and faculty. During this process, CST was drawn to Willamette because the two institutions share common values and a commitment to high quality education programs.

CST is known for its theological diversity. While rooted in the Methodist tradition, the school is one of only a handful to be truly inter-faith in its approach. It offers study in Islam, Judaism, Buddhism and other religious practices/traditions.

Like Willamette, CST is made up of students, faculty and staff from a variety of religious, social and cultural backgrounds. More than 40 faiths are represented amongst those studying at the school.

CST provides a potential partner to add curricular and co-curricular options for undergraduate students, as well as creates opportunities for expanded options for graduate study. Some of CST’s graduate programs could pair with Willamette’s existing graduate programs. The faculty expertise at CST has the potential to strengthen our religious studies offering, while also bringing a diversity of theological scholars into our community. The presence of Claremont’s faculty and graduate students in the Willamette community has the potential to deepen programs, research and work of faculty and students in many different fields, including religious studies, history, environmental science, politics, languages, management and law.

Both Willamette and CST have engaged their communities in recent years to develop programs and structures to support equity and inclusion efforts. CST’s philosophy of desegregating religious education so students can better learn about others as they learn about themselves is a ground-breaking approach to ministerial education. Willamette prides itself on engaging its campus community to tackle important issues around equity and inclusion through its curricular and co-curricular offerings. The university recently added a Vice President of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion to its senior leadership team.


3. What does a due diligence process entail?

Due diligence is an important process to evaluate whether embedding would be mutually beneficial and successful - strategically, financially and legally. In addition, it is the hope of CST and Willamette to provide opportunities for students, faculty and staff members from both institutions to connect with one another.


4. How long will the due diligence process last?

There is no set timeline for the due diligence process - though both Willamette and CST would like to move expeditiously to ensure there is as little disruption in the student experience as possible. Also, should the partnership move forward, both Willamette and CST would like to give as much time as possible to transition CST from California to Oregon.


5. Does embedding CST within Willamette mean a move for CST?

Through preliminary conversations and a review by CST’s Board of Trustees, the most viable financial option is to move CST and co-locate and embed within Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. Details on potential spaces, buildings and locations would be part of the due diligence process. As noted above, CST’s progressive approach to theological education would be unique in the Northwest and strengthen Willamette’s commitment to having strong graduate programs as part of its university community.

Additional information about CST and its current status can be found on its “sustainable future” FAQ page.


6. Would CST become a third graduate school at Willamette?

CST’s degree programs at the graduate level would be offered in a similar manner to the College of Law and the Atkinson Graduate School of Management. In addition, CST would bring its own independent faculty and staff as well as financial resources (including its endowment) to support its operations, contribute to central overhead costs and assist with integrating its programs into Willamette University.


7. Would embedding CST make Willamette more of a “religious school?”

Although Willamette University has ties to the United Methodist Church, the university is independent and nonsectarian and seeks to provide a vibrant and intellectually stimulating learning environment. Understanding religion and the role it plays in people’s lives is important to any discipline and has the potential to deepen the academic experience for students and faculty.


8. Would embedding CST change Willamette’s standing as a national liberal arts college?

No. Willamette would retain its current Carnegie classifications if CST was a part of the university.


9. What can you tell me about CST?

Additional information about CST and its current status can be found on its “sustainable future” FAQ page and more information about the school is listed below.

About Claremont School of Theology:

CST traces its roots to the 1885 founding of Maclay College in California’s San Fernando Valley. The School is celebrating 60 years in Claremont, California, offering graduate level programs, including Master of Art, Masters of Divinity, Doctorate of Ministry and Ph.D. degrees in religion and theology. CST is fully recognized and approved as one of thirteen official theological schools of The United Methodist Church, with close relationships with other Protestant denominations, especially the Disciples of Christ and United Church of Christ, the Episcopal Church, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America - as well as interreligious partnerships with Bayan Claremont, an Islamic Graduate Institute; Academy for Jewish Religion, California; and University of the West (Buddhist).

About Willamette University:

Willamette University is a nationally renowned private liberal arts university based in Salem, Oregon. It was founded in 1842 as the first university established in the western United States and commemorated its 175th anniversary in 2017. Today, Willamette enrolls approximately 2,600 students in its undergraduate College of Liberal Arts and in its two graduate schools, the College of Law and the Atkinson Graduate School of Management. The university is recognized for providing students with a challenging, exciting, and engaging classroom experience and a strong emphasis on sustainability, civic engagement and place-based learning.