Hundreds of researchers, educators, and students across Seventh-day Adventist Universities in Inter-America met during the 4th International Research Conference held online March 10-13. The event, which was hosted this year by Colombian Adventist University, in Medellín, Colombia, provided a space for the group to share their research findings and projects in an effort to share knowledge and showcase developments and innovation for the Adventist educational system across the territory.
The international conference has the intention of encouraging research projects in universities as well as strengthening inter-institutional relationships for joint projects, said Dr. Gamaliel Flórez, education director for the church in Inter-America and main organizer of the event.
Rethinking the mission of Adventist education
“Our focus this year was about re-thinking the mission of Adventist education today and onward as the circumstances of the pandemic linger, and fulfilling the mission continues,” said Flórez. At its core, the mission of Adventist education is to restore human beings to the image of God as revealed by the life of Jesus and to foster a spiritual, physical, intellectual and social-emotional balance of the whole person to prepare them to be good citizens in the world and for eternity, he said.
A big part of the conference was the opportunity to disseminate the latest research by experts, educators and students among the 1,350 who registered, added Flórez. In addition to the 20 keynote speakers, there were 200 research projects submitted from 20 countries in the Inter-American Division (IAD) territory.
During his special message on March 13, IAD President Pastor Elie Henry praised those who took part in the conference for their commitment to rethink the mission of the church. “Research, development and innovation are key elements in the life of a university and what you bring about from this conference will be important in integrating it in the overall strategic plan of the Inter-American Division where education, evangelism and service to the community are top priorities,” said Pastor Henry.
Inter-American Division President Pastor Elie Henry delivers the spiritual message during the worship service online on Mar. 13, 2021.
Keeping the church’s identity
Pastor Henry pointed to ensuring that the church not lose sight of its identity as described in the Three Angels Message found in Revelation 14. “We all have a mission to fulfill, a word to share and a life to lead,” he said. “We are all called to become missionaries wherever God leads us.” He especially thanked educators and their dedication to continuing to intentionally point to Jesus in their teaching courses every day and integrating faith into their lectures. “All the knowledge about God gained from theological studies doesn’t equal a real ministry in communion with God, unless we use that in the service of the community,” said Pastor Henry.
In his presentation Challenges of Adventist Education in the New Normal, Julián Melgosa, PhD, associate education director for the Adventist world church, said that while we continue to carry the challenges brought on by the pandemic, the mission in the Adventist education system needs to be fulfilled. Although, there has been a decrease in the number of students enrolled in the educational system, he said, “we must continue adopting the technology before us just as the vast majority of teachers and professors did at the start of the pandemic and still continue.”
500 students in research projects
Among the highlights included in the conference were the research projects presented by dozens of students. Organizers reported that there are 500 students taking part in research projects across the 13 Adventist universities in the IAD. The initiative began in Colombia Adventist University several years ago with what they called seedbed of researchers. consists of helping students through the process of developing and finding resources for research projects.
Dr. Wanda Chesney, provost from the University of Southern Caribbean in Trinidad, presents her research entitled “Changing Gears: Reengineering A New Higher Education Model,” on Mar. 10. 2021.
During the conclusion of the conference, educators reaffirmed the importance of research as fundamental to educational institutions, preparing the next generation of researchers and scientists, as well as collaboration among universities as essential for growth.
Network of IAD researchers
As a result of the conference, a new platform will be developed to connect the network of IAD researches in the specific areas of health, education, engineering, administration and theology research. The initiative is expected to be completed before the end of the year, organizers said.
Presentations during the research conference ranged from Re-engineering a New Higher Educational Model, Paradigm Transition in Ministerial Training Through Virtual Platforms, Integrating Non-academic Counseling/Approaches to Building Student Resiliency, Understanding the Social Responsibility in the Context of the Confessional University, Tools to Rethink Education for Distance and Online education, Research on hope, Seventh-day Adventists and mental health, How to Fulfill the Mission through Scientific Methods, among others.
Part of the Fieles Voces (Faithful Voices) group from Colombia who sang during the conference on Mar. 13, 2021.
The next Inter-America’s International Research Conference is scheduled to take place in 2023, hosted by the Central American Adventist University in Alajuela, Costa Rica.
To view the online conference, click HERE
This article was written by Libna Stevens and originally appeared on the Inter-American Division website.
Photos courtesy of IAD website. Main photo: Dr. Gamaliel Flórez, education director for the church in Inter-America.
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