New dean of PLTS sparks discussion

The Rev. Karen L. Bloomquist of Bellingham, Wash. was appointed as the dean and chief administrative officer of Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary shortly after plans for the merger with California Lutheran University’s Thousand Oaks campus were finalized in November.

Bloomquist’s first day as dean of the seminary, which is located in Berkeley, Calif., began when the merger was enacted on Jan. 1.

Peter Carlson, who has a doctorate in the history and is a CLU professor in the religion department, is “ecstatic” about Bloomquist’s nomination.

“She has a passion for the peace and justice mission of the church,” Carlson said.

The merger will create new opportunities for exchanging ideas and facilitating conversations regarding both theological and academic issues.

Bloomquist will be a key facilitator in what Carlson describes as, “the shared goal of PLTS and CLU to help scholars and students find their calling.”

Carlson commented on the boldness of Bloomquist’s policies and leadership philosophies in the face of the changing ethical landscape.

“I believe that we are called to name injustice when we see it and to dismantle the systems that perpetuate it. I am delighted that Dean Bloomquist agrees with that,” Carlson said.

Several CLU staff members, like Leanne Neilson, provost and vice president for academic affairs, share this sentiment.

“She has a global perspective because she worked for the Lutheran World Federation,” Neilson said. “So, she has connections all over the world.”

The merger and Bloomquist’s new responsibilities come at a time when many young adults face financial burdens due to the rising costs of higher education. Neilson hopes that by offering more practical tools like enhanced education programs for seminary students pursuing a master’s degree in divinity, CLU and PLTS can alleviate some of this financial burden.

“It’s challenging to go through a program that is as lengthy as that when salaries for pastors make it difficult to pay back student loans, so the direction a lot of students are going in is having a bi-vocational career,” Neilson said.

By offering additional curriculum options at CLU for those attending PLTS, seminary students will be able to pursue religious studies while supplementing their education with programs that are more business-oriented.

Sam Thomas, associate professor of religion, notes that while Bloomquist will face challenges, he has confidence in her abilities.

Thomas said he believes Bloomquist is a progressive thinker  who seems interested in “seeing how PLTS can continue to offer more traditional models but also start to engage in more non-traditional approaches to preparing people for all kinds of different ministries.”

According to the PLTS website, Bloomquist’s mission as the newly-appointed dean will encompass “the global horizons within which I have been networking, teaching and writing over the past decade… I am eager to find ways in which my experience, expertise and perspectives might be drawn upon in the preparation of religious and other leaders in settings throughout the world.”

Bloomquist will meet with CLU’s religion department in February to discuss the intersecting goals of both institutions.


Allison Tade
Staff Writer
Published Feb. 4, 2014