Washington Adventist University Announces Suspension of Several Programs in Wake of COVID-19

Editor’s Note: In a press release from the Washington Adventist University Board of Trustees dated May 6, 2020, the school announced the suspension of several degree programs including “Education (Traditional), BioChem/Chemistry, Communication, History, Math, [and] Political Science.” Additionally, the Bachelor of Social Work, an Andrews University off-campus program offered at WAU, will be discontinued on June 30, 2020. The press release is included in full below:

As Pandemic Prevails, WAU Makes Difficult, Necessary Adjustments

Washington Adventist University (WAU) is a vibrant and robust institution that has been serving the Adventist and local communities since 1904. We are proud of the lives we’ve influenced over the decades through rigorous education and consistent spiritual foundations. In 2020, a threat of unprecedented challenge and complexity has created a need for intentional, prayerful, and decisive adjustments to maintain health and longevity, and create financial flexibility for the institution.

Today, May 6, an adjusted business plan was presented to the WAU Board of Trustees in a regularly scheduled meeting. This pro-active plan takes into account the possible shrinking of enrollment, loss of donations, philanthropy, record unemployment, and many other economic factors related to COVID-19. WAU is consistently in a state of strategic exploration that has allowed the university to build strength into its foundations over the last decade. As Vision 2020 ends, WAU begins its new strategic chapter with Vision 2030. Many of the strategic pieces of Vision 2030 have been accelerated to strengthen WAU against the prevailing winds of this global pandemic.

“Just as God led our university through difficult times in the past, I am confident He will continue to guide and direct our steps and our administrative team, led by Dr. Weymouth Spence,” says Dr. Dave Weigley, president of the Columbia Union Conference and chair of the WAU Board of Trustees.

The proactive adjustments being made to the university will move WAU toward a more consolidated model. WAU will focus on our strengths and allow the university to reinvest in programs that align with student enrollment to the successful career markets each of our students expect in their comprehensive learning experience.

The suspension of programs and degrees does not eliminate the possibility of them being re-instated but allows the university to be flexible in responding to changes. The following degree programs will be submitted to the Maryland Higher Education Commission with the potential to be reactivated or discontinued: Education (Traditional), BioChem/Chemistry, Communication, History, Math, Political Science. Additionally, the memorandum of understanding for Social Work with Andrews University ends June 30, 2020.

Each impacted WAU student will be guided and supported with one-on-one attention to continue toward successful completion. Provost Cheryl Kisunzu states that “The highest regard will be given to our precious students as they take their next steps toward their ordained futures. We intend to offer individualized care, such that we create vibrancy and optimism within their chosen path.”

“These adjustments to our faculty and staff will be painful for our university community,” said President Weymouth Spence. “However, it is with a solemn mindset that we approach each change and adjustment to the structure of the university. We must be faithful to the calling we have been given to continue the strength of WAU for its students, alumni, Adventist Community, donors, and friends. These adjustments will help solidify both the immediate and long-term financial health of Washington Adventist University.”

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Washington Adventist University is Montgomery County’s only four-year private college. Part of the Seventh-day Adventist system of higher education, Washington Adventist University has been educating college students since 1904 on a 19-acre campus in suburban Takoma Park, close to the nation’s capital. Approximately 1,100 students of all faiths participate in the university’s nine graduate and 42 undergraduate programs. The 2016 edition of U.S. News & World Report ranked Washington Adventist University among the best regional colleges in the north.

Media Contact: Richard Castillo, 405-802-5661, [email protected]

Image courtesy of Washington Adventist University.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/10419

wow…i wonder what’s left…this sounds like the first step towards closure…

Nursing remains, but is still on warning status with the state Board of nursing. Too few graduates pass the licensure exam, and in fact in 2019, the passing rate was the lowest among the schools on warning status. Every community college in the state had a higher passing rate than WAU.

Weak Leadership. It’s Not a covid-19-crisis.

Our schools have often made the mistake of not seeing the importance of contextualized education. This article seems typical. The Adventist college in the Washington metropolitan area decides history and political science are the first things on the chopping block? These seem to be two majors that would lead someone to want to attend a school in Washington.

It’s the same path the AUC administration took. AUC was the only Adventist school in New England, a region noted for history, literature, art, and music. So which were the first majors cut? History, literature, art and music.

I’m glad I attended AUC in its golden era, with professors in each of these departments who excelled in their fields, and who drew upon the riches of the region. Dave Knott knew the hills and roads like the back of his hand, and each feature mentioned would elicit a story from him. The history department had us use the JFK library, the American Antiquarian Society, the Boston Atheneum, and other resources. Margarita Merriman took us to concerts and art openings in Worcester and Boston. Theology department professors took us to hear lectures in Boston by Hartshorne, Gilkey, and Pannenberg. AUC knew its place, and had roots in that place, and inculcated in us a love of place.

We need a strategic vision for mission and ministry. That’s what led the church to put the headquarters in the DC area. By focusing on which programs generate income, we have lost the vision that we need schools in particular places so that they may soak in the atmosphere of those places, and introduce students to what is unique there, and that they may (hopefully) serve as centers of influence.

We should have that same strategic sense in promoting and endowing public campus ministry in cities like Boston, New Haven, Washington, New York, Chicago, Houston–places where we need to be in conversation with the community and the culture. It hasn’t yet happened. It doesn’t look like it will happen. We have no sense of place.


AUC definitely had a “golden era”, and it definitely was the place to be at one time…it’s still the place that has the strongest influence in my life, even though i enjoyed my much shorter times at PUC and AU…i would move to massachusetts tomorrow, if i could afford it…


An interesting comment, Bill. What you seem to be talking about here is a preservation of the liberal arts. But the liberal arts are under tremendous pressure all across higher education, and Adventists are not the only one making such cuts. The “golden era” of the liberal arts education appears to have ended–at least as we once knew it. There are those who insist that in an AI world the liberal arts will become all the more important and will provide a valuable source of irreplaceable skills and creativity.

I certainly do agree that our institutions of higher education have not been in contact enough with their intellectual and cultural surroundings. And I remember, as well, an AUC that was a shining example of liberal arts education, which soaked in all of the richness that is New England. I love your idea of educational institutions that are in conversation with their surroundings. Unfortunately, too many of them were designed to put students in contact with nature and an agrarian lifestyle, as opposed to being placed near intellectual and cultural centers. Is there a way to “retro-fit” such institutions? And why have schools like AUC and WAU–right at the heart of such vibrant centers–been the first to go?


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