Interview with Derek Cooper


Yesterday I posted a quick blurb about Derek’s “So You’re Thinking About Going to Seminary” (Brazos, 2008). Derek kindly agreed to answer a few questions that I had. FYI, Derek has his PhD from Lutheran Seminary and is Visiting Professor at our very own Biblical Seminary.

Phil: Derek, it sounds like the impetus for this book came from your own varied experiences at several seminaries. Now that you are a teacher, what key recommendations do you have for incoming students to help them succeed in their academic work?

Derek:I recommend that incoming students think about managing their time. Many seminarians these days work part- or full-time, have spouses and/or children, are involved in church, and have other similar responsibilities. It’s important that they establish good study habits early in their studies that balances all of their work and family commitments.

Phil: Amen to that. Most could benefit from a study skills or reading skills class! Well, what is the most common mistake prospective seminary students make in the application process? 

Derek: I think students tend toward one of two extremes: either applying to too many schools (I’d recommend applying to no more than five, but preferably fewer) or underestimating how detailed and time-consuming the application process can be.

Phil:You know what one of my favorite mistakes is? Having an email address like, Gsusismyhomeboy@…. It tells a lot more than you know! On to my next question: If you were starting over, what would you do differently in your seminary education?

Derek: I would have chosen more carefully which seminary best suited me (in terms of theology, career prospects, contacts, location, and academic specialty). Phil: Good point. Now, I also notice that a number of students fail to think about life post graduation as they are overwhelmed with current classes. Or, if they do start to think about career, its in the final semester. What would you do to encourage students to start earlier?  

Derek: I believe students should begin thinking about career prospects during their first semester of school. I encourage students to isolate classes of special interest, speak with professors and staff members, network with students, talk with real-life pastors, academics, and ministry leaders, and attend local conferences of interest to learn about their compatibility with certain careers.

Phil: Me too. I tell my counseling students that they need to find people in the workforce doing things they want to do, introduce themselves and take them to lunch to ask they how they got to this point in their life and for advice. Who doesn’t like free lunch and being asked for sage advice. Plus, you can get an internship or a mentor out of it many times.

Final question Derek: What is one thing you wish Seminaries did differently to enhance the education of students?

Derek: I believe that seminaries need to do a better job of providing and connecting students to real-life practitioners so that they are better equipped and adequately exposed to what types of vocations they are most suited for.

Phil: Derek, thanks for stopping by and for your work in our counseling program. Happy Thanksgiving.

1 Comment

Filed under book reviews, Doctrine/Theology

One response to “Interview with Derek Cooper

  1. Ryan

    Nice post Phil. If I were to ever move to Philadelphia, I may look you up and invite you to lunch for some sage advice.
    Ryan

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