The education systems across the globe have undergone significant changes over the past couple of decades. Particularly, with the advent of online learning and the rise of technological advancements, new leaders are emerging in the education landscape. However, veterans like Dr. Roger Parrott (President of Belhaven University) have the experience and wisdom to blaze new trails of innovation in this era of ever-increasing competition.
A Proficient Career
Having earned his Ph.D. from the University of Maryland in Higher Education Administration, Roger has completed 33 years working as a university president. He was first elected to presidency at the age of 34 – as the President of Sterling College in Kanas – and was one of America’s youngest college presidents. He has also served the broader Church as a member of the Board of Mission America, a coalition of 100 denominations and 750 service ministries who have joined together for cooperative evangelism in America.
Roger has served for a quarter-century on the Executive Committee of the Lausanne Movement and was the chairman of the 2004 Forum for World Evangelization in Thailand. Besides this, Roger has also served on the boards of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, National Association for Intercollegiate Athletics, and over a dozen local and regional boards of ministries and non-profit organizations. He has also served as the consultant for leaders and boards of nearly 100 different ministries and denominations.
“To serve, not to be served”
Roger joined Belhaven University in 1995. During his tenure at Belhaven, he has led the university to complete 25 new constructions or significant renovation projects. Today, Belhaven University is one of the fastest-growing and innovative colleges in the region–transforming from a small women’s college into a dynamic coeducational university of 5000 students.
The university offers undergraduate degrees in 75 areas of study, 20 master’s level degrees, and doctoral programs in business and education. It is renowned as a leading Christian College in Arts, as one of only 33 schools in the world earning accreditation in all four primary arts—theater, music, visual art, and dance. Alongside these, Belhaven also offers additional arts majors including creative writing, graphic design, arts administration, and film production.
Additionally, Belhaven offers an MBA in China, which is taught in both English and Mandarin. It also provides distance-based graduate programs for international students working in the United States. Every academic program offered by the university offers a thoughtful, loving, and biblically-based Christian worldview–to inform the thinking, strengthen the faith, empower the calling, and motivate the service. “Belhaven University has sought to fulfill the mission expressed in its motto–‘to serve, not to be served,’–since its inception,” says Roger.
Advancing with the Technology
Roger believes it has become easier for universities to become technologically updated as most students come to the college with their own computers and technology skills. “As a university, we can focus on the cutting-edge software that enhances teaching and learning–and we have it all,” he adds. At Belhaven University, campus-smart classrooms, advanced learning laboratories, and blazing fast wireless internet enhance the students’ academic experience. Moreover, students have an opportunity to study in Mississippi’s dynamic state capital, famous for its literature, art, sports, music, cuisine, medical research, media, and business opportunities.
Diversity and Compatibility
Belhaven is recognized as one of the most ethnically diverse private colleges in the Southeastern region. Its international center brings students from around the world. All the international students are matched with an American host family. While living in Belhaven’s residence halls and studying on its campus, students can connect with their host family, giving them an added experience in America.
Roger adds that competitive pricing, substantial scholarships, and innovative degree design with accommodating scheduling offered by the university ensures that students graduate in four years with top-quality, private Christ-centered education at public university prices. Faculty, coaches, and staff at Belhaven support each student’s unique learning style, needs, and passions with mentoring relationships categorized by compassion, encouragement, understanding, and respect.
Empowering the Students
Under Roger’s auspices, Belhaven helps students to be industry-ready and build a strong resume to thrive in the rigorous job market. “We begin career preparation for students during their freshman year. We want students to use their God-given gifts to secure a good career,” says Roger. He further mentions that the university is focusing activities toward building a career resume at each step and through each student’s academic path.
Alongside providing career guidance, Belhaven ensures students are known, cared for, and cherished. “We are a campus where students feel a sense of belonging and support from the other students, staff, and faculty,” adds Roger. The university offers a wide gambit of student activities for residential students. Moreover, since it is located in Mississippi’s state capital, students get the opportunity to live in a city with exciting events and activities.
Furthermore, two years ago, Belhaven launched ‘fifth-year-tuition-free’ for double majors. Roger is convinced that students need a broader education to be equipped for the marketplace of the future. If students want to pursue a double major and that additional course work pushes them into the fifth year, the university does not charge them any tuition fee for that year.
Developing Creative Solutions
The COVID-19 pandemic forced numerous changes in the education industry. Roger believes that the core needs of students have not changed, however, how students learn, connect, and envision the future has drastically altered. Belhaven’s priority has always been to build programs and learning experiences around students, rather than forcing them into learning assumptions from the past.
The pandemic pushed Belhaven to develop creative solutions that bring hope during difficult times. Having learned the importance of virtual classrooms during the pandemic, this fall, the university offered each of its campus students a free online Master’s degree if they remain continuously enrolled through graduation. It is extending this offer for students coming in the fall of 2021 as well.
The Bright Future
Roger believes that 2021 is going to be a year for universities to ‘bounce back’. However, as several schools were facing financial difficulty before the pandemic, Roger expects 20% of colleges to close in the coming years after the termination of the government’s pandemic funding. Belhaven University, on the other hand, is currently in the strongest position in its long history. “The future is exceptionally bright and we look forward to a normal year. We welcome students to our charming campus, where they will be loved, challenged, and prepared,” concludes Roger.
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