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Historic transition: A Q-and-A with President-Elect Carol Taylor

January 31, 2014 | Ashli O'Connell

The Fall 2013 semester was a historic one for higher education in the Assemblies of God (AG) as the fellowship consolidated Evangel University, Central Bible College (CBC) and Assemblies of God Theological Seminary (AGTS), creating a comprehensive Christian university offering degrees from the bachelors to the doctoral level.

The doors to the new university opened last August, and the historic first semester is now behind us. The challenges of consolidation and a higher-than-anticipated enrollment brought the expected growing pains to the staff and faculty, but students are thriving, and the campus community is uniting to embrace and advance the new mission of the University. Leading the transition is president-elect and chief executive officer, Dr. Carol Taylor, who began her tenure in July 2013.

Dr. Taylor, an alumnus of both Evangel and AGTS, holds a Ph.D. in multilingual/multicultural education from Florida State University. Prior to her appointment at Evangel, she served as president of Vanguard University in Costa Mesa, California. She  has also served as vice provost for undergraduate education at Biola University. Prior to returning to Christian higher education, Dr. Taylor worked at several state universities and in the world of large-scale assessment and research.

In addition to being the first woman to lead an Assemblies of God university, she also holds the distinction of being the first female college president in Springfield, Missouri.

With the first semester now behind us, we invited Dr. Taylor to share her perspective on the transition and the future of Evangel.

When you graduated from Evangel in 1973, did you ever imagine or dream you might one day return as president?

Not at all.  When I graduated back in ’73, I never imagined the journey that God would have for me in higher education.  If someone had asked me then about any aspiration of being a college president, I’m sure I would have laughed.

With the first semester now behind you, what are your thoughts on how the transition is going?

In many respects the implementation of the consolidation is going better than I imagined.  AGTS had a very successful Association of Theological Schools (ATS) visit, and we received a positive report from the visiting team from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) that was on campus in mid-December. The Evangel community has been amazing.  The students are engaged and inspiring.  The faculty and staff are enthusiastic about the mission and continue to pour their lives into our students. President Spence has been wonderfully supportive and generous in introducing me to our Springfield community leaders. Our leaders at the National Office and area churches have been a wonderful support, and I am frequently encouraged by messages from alumni and friends that remind me that they pray for us daily.

Did you see much of an impact on enrollment with the consolidation?

Yes, our overall enrollment grew to over 2,500 students.  However, many of our transitioning CBC students will be graduating in May along with a large graduating class, so we are anticipating a dip in enrollment for next fall.

What would you say was the highlight of the first semester for you?

Discovering that what I think of as the deep DNA of Evangel – that passionate commitment to pursue spiritual vitality and academic excellence – is unchanged.  I love joining students in worship and hearing their stories.  I love getting to know the faculty and staff.  And I really love the improved campus and facilities that inspire community and learning.  Another highlight has been getting to know Springfield again after so many years and the beauty of the Ozarks and friendliness of small Midwest cities.

What are your priorities for the campus over the next year?

In the fall, the Board of Trustees endorsed 9 priority goals for the next year:

  1. Nurture shared identity as the new Evangel University.
  2. Support the work and development of the Board of Trustees
  3. Strengthen financial sustainability
  4. Sustain quality academic and student programs with focus on efficiency and effectiveness
  5. Increase capacity for fund development
  6. Strengthen enrollment and strategic leveraging of financial aid
  7. Integrate structures, systems, and operations to provide effective support for Evangel and AGTS
  8. Build executive leadership team and administrative structures for effective, visionary leadership for Evangel
  9. Prepare for ATS and HLC special visits

What inspires you most about Evangel students?

Their passion to pursue and know God and then serve the church and society as Spirit-empowered leaders across every area of vocational calling.  I love their authenticity, their creativity, their stories of how God is at work in their lives, and their willingness to follow Him with abandon.

Evangel is a strengths-based campus, can you share your top 5 strengths?

Achiever, Maximizer, Learner, Arranger, Relator

Winter in the Ozarks is a far cry from Southern California — especially this year. Are you enjoying the snow?

Only when I’m looking out at it from the comfort of my den with the fireplace blazing.

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