Ten Pillars Vision Realized

“We’re now at about 3.300 students overall and our graduate school is now at about 900 students.”– HBU President Robert B. Sloan, Jr.

THE PILLARS: Do you remember the genesis of the Ten Pillars vision?

DR. SLOAN: I do. I had just come to HBU in 2006 and the first thing that I was privileged to do was to meet the staff and faculty here. I had small group meetings to learn about HBU and just get a feel for the culture. I would ask people, “okay what goes well? What do you do? What do you enjoy doing? Are there any issues or problems that we need to look at?” Because there are always things that bare improvement. And in the process of learning about HBU and learning the great history and tradition we have here I could also begin to hear their aspirations. And it was really out of those meetings that I knew that I was already getting the foundation points for what later came to be the Ten Pillars.

So fast forward a year and a half later, we started a formal process of building a vision document. We had “town hall meetings” around the campus and asked them one question: What would you like
HBU to look like in the year 2020? The idea was not to put a dollar limitation on it, but to dream whatever you want about programs, buildings, culture, academic programs, athletics, etc. It was
very exciting. We are a great Christian university in a great city, and that was the beginning point of the narrative because Christian universities tend to drift from their foundation, from their moorings of commitment to Christ and commitment to a scripture-informed Christianity. We don’t want to do that. We think you can be academically excellent and still be committed to Christ and to a faith that has honesty and integrity. A faith that’s willing to ask questions.
And here on campus we actually have ten pillars that came from the Galveston County Courthouse that was devastated by the 1900 storm of the century in Galveston. Those pillars remained standing. And when the courthouse was taken down, Dr. Stewart Morris and
his wife Joella bought those pillars and brought ten of them to our campus. Ten is the number of strength in scripture, and there’s the Ten Commandments, so our vision document is called the Ten Pillars.

THE PILLARS: So much has happened under your leadership. You have to feel a sense of real destiny to the steps that you’ve taken.

DR. SLOAN: I really do believe the Lord has blessed HBU throughout our history. You can’t explain a place like HBU without the hand of the Lord going back even before the University was legally incorporated in 1960.

THE PILLARS: In recent months you’ve had emphasis on finishing the
Ten Pillars, give us a snap shot of what that would entail.

SLOAN: Well here it is 2016 and we have only a few years left for the Ten Pillars vision. The question was “What do you want HBU to look like in the year 2020?” The goal here is to ask ourselves how can we finish strong in the implementation of the Ten Pillars vision. So a lot has been accomplished – our Honors College, for example. Starting an honors college and being in Division I NCAA athletics again – seeing the University grow in so many professional areas of education, nursing, business – those have just been huge growth areas for us. Seeing the University excel in the fine arts was one of the priorities of the Ten Pillars. Our School of Fine Arts is probably the finest private university School of Arts in America. I know that’s a bold statement, but I really believe that’s true. We just recently again won  what’s called the Rising Eyes of Texas  exhibition, where our art students were  recognized. The MFA program and our  Bachelor’s degree in  Fine Arts are gaining  recognition, along with  our Department of Music,  which continues to grow  and strengthen. It’s very  exciting to see under the  leadership that’s there.  We have a new program  in creative writing that  is also a part of fine arts,  as well as an outstanding  program in Cinema and  New Media Arts. The  greatest strength of HBU is in the area  of theology and biblical studies – and  now we have Apologetics and Christian  Philosophy. The University is very  strong. A lot has been accomplished and  we have exciting things lined up for us  in the future.  For example, on Hwy. 59 and Fondren  we have that 25-acre corner of the  campus, which we sometimes refer to  as the Campus Edge project. It will be  called The Pillars at HBU. It’s a shopping  center. It’s a whole development that will  draw great attention to the University  with a retail section, a parking garage,  an office building, a hotel and conference  center, and a 5,000-seat arena. Brick is  being put up on a beautiful retail section  of that development right now. Our  architectural look will be extended all  the way to the front tier by the freeway.  It’s very exciting.

THE PILLARS: You have now entered  into the digital domain through  robertbsloan.com and The Story  of the Bible through partnership  with LifeWay and its outreach on  WORDsearch to nearly 400,000  churches, a precursor of a very direct  and digital outreach of HBU. Can you  encapsulate that? 

SLOAN: I’ll try to. Dr. Johnston, you have been very instrumental in leading us in that area, but yes, the University  now has a very exciting partnership  with LifeWay. We have got Philippians,  which is an online, certificate program,  and I know Dr. Jeremiah  Johnston, your son, has  also done some wonderful  things in this partnership  with LifeWay and we’ll  be seeing faculty getting  involved with them also.  This LifeWay opportunity  will create certificates and  non-credit certificates and  other opportunities that  can lead to credit hours  for individuals who sign  up. This will expand the  visibility of the University  and give our faculty members a platform  to teach online.  All that I’ve mentioned are answers to  The Ten Pillars’ challenge for growth.  We have grown where many private  universities have not. We’re now at about  3,300 students overall and our graduate  school is now at about 900 students.  One of the next phases of our growth will  be with the traditional undergraduate  and graduate student, through the  online experience. For example, we  currently have a partnership with  Educate, which is an online program  for nurses. We now have an online  competency-based program that  will allow a registered nurse to get a  bachelor’s degree in Nursing, a Bachelor  of Science in Nursing. So the RN to BSN  that’s exclusively online.  The College of Business and our College  of Education are very dynamic in this  area. Even in art, classes are can be  taught online. The College of Education  and Behavioral Sciences is going to start  a whole emphasis on mental health  and Christian psychology, which we  think is going to explode because of  the excellence of the people that we  have involved. Of course we won’t  abandon our traditional campus. We  are very strong in the philosophy area,  biblical languages, and in the classical  languages, and now we also have a  whole new area that we call the Center  for Law and Liberty where we will teach  the founding principles of American  democracy and the American practices  of government. Things like freedom and  free markets, these are very important.  We think human freedom is a gift of God  and it ought to have the opportunity to  flourish.

THE PILLARS: We look forward to  your Story of the Bible and just one  final question, did you ever think you  could step into an HBU studio and  teach the Bible, the Book of Philippians  and it be marketed digitally to 400,000  pastors?

SLOAN: It’s amazing. No, but right here on campus we have this gorgeous  studio with cutting-edge technology and  cameras. We have the ability to shoot and  produce our professors’ content every  day and capture this content and make  it available to 400,000 church members,  pastors, and staff members who can  study the Book of Philippians or the  Story of the Bible. It is wonderful. We’re  glad to have the opportunity to harness  the things that God gives us to be able to  expand our mission, to share the gospel,  to teach and to allow the expertise.  I want people to see the growth that’s  going take place at HBU through the  online opportunities for for-credit and  not-for-credit growth, very exciting.

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