A studio is a small learning community

What is a studio?

Studios are digitally-forward advanced courses that connect students with faculty and vocational experts in a small-group environment. It is through these courses that students hone their specialization and vocational skills. By combining the best of online and face-to-face instruction, these courses allow students to have flexible schedules while still building close relationships with peers and mentors in their field.

Key elements of a studio

  1. Specialized – Studios are about depth, not breadth. As upper-level courses, studios build on core classes and empower students with rich expertise. Many studios move beyond conceptual study and into practical application, which sometimes includes the creation of a useful artifact, such as a sermon series or business plan.
  2. Relational – Studio courses are designed to help students be known—both by their peers and their instructors. With only six to twelve students, studios foster engagement, collaboration, and mentorship.
  3. Vocational – Studio courses help prepare students for life after seminary by offering connections to people and opportunities outside the school. 
  4. Holistic – Studio courses are designed to shape the mind, heart, and body. Students will not only engage with reading material and discussions that challenge their lens, but will participate in immersive face-to-face experiences—such as retreats or trips to local cultural sites—that engage the whole self.
  5. Innovative – Each studio course is taught as a hybrid between an online and traditional course, which blends the flexibility of remote learning with the power of relational connection. During the fall and spring, studios last sixteen weeks and include an immersive face-to-face experience about halfway through the semester. During the summer, studios last ten weeks and kick off with an immersive experience at the start of the course.

Summer 2018 Studios


Darla Tillman-Samuelson, MDiv
Ben Sand, MDiv

Modern culture demands entrepreneurship from today’s ministry leaders—and that means not only coming up with creative ideas, but knowing how to raise money and implement a sustainable plan. During this course, students have an opportunity to learn the necessary business skills from one of the region’s most innovative ministries: the Portland Leadership Foundation.

This course begins with a four-day immersive experience at the foundation’s offices, where CEO Ben Sand will teach students how to write a concept paper, how to frame and build a budget, and how build a logic model for predicting outcomes. Students will also meet with the leaders of the foundation’s various initiatives to find out what’s worked and what’s flopped. During the remainder of the course, which is online and led by Darla Tillman-Samuelson, students will use digital tools to connect and collaborate as they craft the basic elements of their very own ministry plans.

Note: From the registrar’s perspective, this seminar is split into two five-week courses. In practice, this summer studio is designed as one cohesive ten-week experience.


Leonard Sweet, PhD
Mindy Smith, DMin

Modern Western Christians have an acute case of what Dr. Leonard Sweet calls “versitis”—that is, a lens for scripture that’s zoomed in to focus on specific verses and words rather than the stories, letters, and poems they comprise. In this course, students will learn to adjust their lens to study the Bible as it was written and teach it in a way that honors the cognitive power of narrative. 

This course begins with a four-day immersive experience that’s designed to reflect a monastic way of life. Students will rise early and stay together late into the evening. They will eat together, pray together, and even go to the movies together. This relational foundation will carry students through the rest of the course, which is online and facilitated by Dr. Mindy Smith, as they use digital tools to discuss assigned readings and individual projects. By the end of the ten weeks, each student will have completed a publishable artifact—such as a video, audio piece, or journal article—that teaches a Biblical story in a storytelling way.

Note: From the registrar’s perspective, this seminar is split into two five-week courses. In practice, this summer studio is designed as one cohesive ten-week experience.


Lacy Borgo, DMin

As students finish their specialization in spiritual formation and discipleship, this course invites them to put theoretical skills into action. Over several weeks, students will engage in new spiritual practices, discuss methods for facilitating spiritual development, and create a final project designed to share what they have learned with their friends, family, or congregants. 

This course begins with a four-day spiritual retreat centered on rest, grace, and identity in Christ. During this time, students will simmer in the truth that they are the beloved of God. It is from this place of rootedness that students will develop and execute an artifact of some kind—be it a sermon series, retreat curriculum, devotional guide, or mobile app—that puts to use what they’ve learned about formation and discipleship. Using online forums and video chat, students will come together digitally each week to collaborate on their projects and discuss assigned readings. In the end, the goal is to empower students with practical tools to embody Christ-like presence and facilitate deeper spiritual growth.

Note: From the registrar’s perspective, this seminar is split into two five-week courses. In practice, this summer studio is designed as one cohesive ten-week experience.


Randy Woodley, PhD

To have a theology of place in the United States is to wrestle with an uncomfortable reality: our churches are built on stolen land. In these back-to-back five-week courses, students will explore faith and worldview through two uncomfortable lenses: the culture of the people from whom our ancestors stole this land, and the very ground they took.

Students will begin with an immersive experience visiting key cultural and geographic sites where they will engage with indigenous people and with Oregon’s natural environment. Through these experiences, students will face the decidedly Western nature of their own worldviews and ask hard questions about their relationships to the land. In the weeks that follow, during which time the class is held entirely online, students will use readings and discussions to explore how we ought to walk upon the earth that Jesus created, inhabited, died for, and is working to redeem.

Note: From the registrar’s perspective, this seminar is split into two five-week courses. In practice, these courses are designed to build on one another as a cohesive learning experience.

Contact the Admissions Office

Ty SohlmanTy Sohlman
Admissions Counselor