by Breanna Westenbroeck, correspondent
For a small group of MBI students, nights spent writing NT and OT papers are not broken up by adventures to Oak Street Beach for a late-night swim or to Portillo’s for a cake shake, because these students are not spending their freshman year in Chicago or on Moody’s campus; instead, they are spending it online.
Beginning in 2010 with 12 participants, the First Year Online Program (FYOP) was created by Vice President and Dean, Dr. James Spencer to address online student’s “professional, social, and spiritual development.”
Hannah Tung, the FYOP Coordinator, was originally hired as one of two graduate interns in 2010 to develop a curriculum that spanned an entire year, rather than the typical eight-week curriculum. This program has partnered with admissions ever since and has grown to accommodate approximately 70 students each year.
Tung said that the purpose of the program is “to create a space for students to grow online just as they would on campus. The First Year Online Program is designed to create students who excel in leadership, academics, socially and develop long term impact for the kingdom. It has found great success in all of those areas!”
Those participating in the program applied for acceptance to the Chicago campus, but were offered the FYOP as an alternative. Students who choose to accept this offer take one year of freshman level courses through MDL, complete a 100-hour internship program, engage in weekly online mentorship meetings, and reapply to get on campus for their final three years at MBI.
“I felt like a year in Chicago and at Moody had been taken from me that I wouldn’t be able to get back,” said Chelsea Bloom, a senior ministry to women major who was in the program for the 2014-2015 school year. “But it just made me that much more intentional to get involved, learn as much as I can, see the city and experience more since I only have three years, rather than four. If anything, I feel I have had a much fuller time here these past two and a half years because of that.”
“I think most FYOPers have a greater appreciation for being on campus and for the school itself,” said Isaiah Gorman, a junior in the youth ministry program who studied online for the 2015-2016 school year. He is the RA of Culby 18 and said that the lack of community during his year online motivated his desire to be an RA on campus.
Gorman also said that he loved the internship portion of FYOP that the students are required to complete.
“That part was great because you get real time ministry experience your freshman year,” he said.
FYOP students are also given the option to do their orientation on campus, to meet the people that they will be talking to through Blackboard discussion boards all year. For the class of 2018 FYOP students, on-campus orientation led to many long-term friendships. Out of this pool of students emerged multiple roommate pairings, a handful of dating relationships, and one marriage.
“By being a part of FYOP, I was able to form a close-knit community that knew me and related to my situation well because of being in the program together,” Bloom said. “Moving on to campus was not stressful because I felt like I was finally able to be a physical person in these people’s lives, as well as having them in mine.”