Southwestern Assemblies of God University has proudly announced its first recipient of the Doctor of Ministry degree. The degree plan was initially launched in the fall of 2014.

Teresa Blakney, M. Div., will be the institution's very first to walk the stage this May and receive a diploma for the new Doctor of Ministry in leadership and creative communication.

“This whole process has been very humbling,” Blakney said. “It’s hard to believe that it’s actually finished. It feels very good but also very humbling. I had someone tell me along the way, just think, you’re going to be an expert! The truth is I do not feel like an expert. Instead, I feel that there is so much more that I would like to learn.”

The D. Min. is a 30-hour degree that is offered in a cohort model in which students move through the prescriptive program with their peers. Dr. Marvin G. Gilbert serves as SAGU’s D. Min. program director and has had the pleasure of guiding Blakney through the process of receiving her doctoral degree.

"Teresa Blakney is one of the most focused and determined student researchers I have ever taught," Gilbert said. "She has completed her research project exactly as planned more than two years ago."

Blakney began the program during the first semester of the program’s launch with approximately 15 individuals in her cohort.

“I remember when I looked around that room and saw everyone in my cohort, I felt so insignificant,” she recalled. “I thought all of these people will do it and I don’t know if I can. I was insecure, but now I know we all felt that way!”

For the past four and a half years, Blakney has persevered through the doctoral program while still serving full time as an instructor within the Bible and Church Ministries Department. Though she’ll be the first to admit the level of commitment needed and stress involved with doing both, the nature of the degree and the project provided a direct application to her current position.

“With every course I took, I could take the information I was learning and immediately apply it. That was so practical and so useful,” she said. “Everything that I have done so far, I’ve been able to use it in my class teaching.”

Blakney’s doctoral project consisted of research over incoming students’ biblical knowledge and how that affects their behavior and overall worldview.

“I had begun to notice that students didn’t know the Bible,” Blakney said. “I did a project with the freshmen and gave them surveys to test their Bible knowledge and Christian worldview. The results of the surveys, as well as results from two focus groups, provided a picture of where the first-time freshmen stood.”

There were several aspects of the program that Blakney thoroughly enjoyed and was able to apply to her teaching position, including a class taught by John Davidson about using story and image to get people interested.

“It’s an image society that we live in - everything is images. And that one course was very instrumental in the way I teach, trying to draw image into everything,” she said.

Blakney also mentioned the impact of the leadership classes taught by Dr. Dennis Robinson, Dean of Graduate Studies, and the preaching courses taught by Dr. Jeff Magruder, professor of Bible and Church Ministries.

Though she mentions the program did prove to be challenging especially with her full-time teaching career, it was an enriching experience for Blakney. While working on the project, she decided to get up at four a.m. every day to work on her writing for an hour before she started her day.

“He (Dr. Magruder) had us actually record ourselves preaching three types of sermons, and I’ve never done that," Blakney said. "Even though I’ve been in the ministry, I have never actually preached and I loved it. I absolutely loved it.”

For anyone wanting to get their doctorate in ministry, Blakney highly recommends SAGU’s program, but also says that it will require hard work and a bit of sacrifice.

“You think long and hard before you go into any doctoral work because it requires more than just school,” she says. “If you don’t decide that you’re going to give up something, you won’t finish it. You’re going to have to sacrifice something to have time to do the project. And once you realize that, SAGU is a good place to do it."

The Doctor of Ministry degree is a viable option for any individuals looking to enhance their understanding of Bible and Theology while also gaining practical experience to prepare them for a wide range of ministry professions and leadership roles.

To learn more about SAGU's Doctor of Ministry in Leadership and Creative Communication, visit www.sagu.edu/admissions/doctor-of-ministry-dmin-in-leadership-and-creative-communication.