In 1974, one-hundred professionals were selected for a Task Force (1974-1981) to determine how best to change the world in their lifetime. After considering many options, it was decided to initiate a graduate program for mature, social professionals as a freestanding research institution appropriate for Christian scholars. The program was designed with two groups in mind: mature graduate students and working professionals who desired to continue their education and develop additional competency in their occupation by engaging in scholarly research. While the degree was from an American institution, the MLitt and DPhil degree designations established a link with the European approach to graduate studies and specified an alternative delivery system.
After a decade of academic relationship building with the University of Oxford (UK), ACRSS (American Centre for Religion/Society Studies) submitted an application for Centre Accreditation. On January 16, 1992, the Secretary of the Delegacy of Local Examinations at the University of Oxford announced that the Delegates had approved the appointment of the institution as a Centre for Examinations. The name and number given were Oxford Graduate School #10101.
While maintaining similar requirements as other graduate programs, the graduate program is distinctive in five areas. (1) All credits are class-based and core sessions are concentrated at significant points during residency sessions to deliver a specialized curriculum. (2) Faculty direction was individualized to cope with the diverse needs of graduate students. (3) Students were provided interactive guidance in the development of a research direction. (4) Problem-solving scientific research applied to a social profession or vocation, and (5) academic work demonstrated an integration of religion and society and was directed toward positive social change.
The development of the “American Oxford Concept” was based on four assumptions about graduate work. First, the academic program builds on the foundation of previous course work and is not a duplication of previous studies. Second, contact with faculty was structured to fit the academic needs of students, but is not a substitute for self-discipline in acquiring both content and competency in a specified curriculum. Third, campus courses are supported by faculty-generated full-length texts/syllabi and essential components presented in core sessions concentrated with some transactional distance elements to promote in-depth learning of a subject and an adequate application of knowledge. Fourth, graduate study encourages faculty and students to interact with the problems of the social professions through academic research in resolving critical problems with the eventual outcome having a beneficial impact on society.
The traditional characteristics of education have changed since Omega (then “Oxford”) Graduate School was chartered in 1981. The natural features of the education landscape seem to change almost daily. Procedures and methodology that were taboo yesterday are acceptable or even advanced today. The past criticism of the Old World tutorial method has turned into imitation as it is used with new technology to meet the tutoring needs of learners separated from the traditional classroom. These concepts are compatible with the original intent of the Oxford Task Force (1974-1981) that proposed the development of an institution for mature adult learners and a system to enhance lifelong learning. The education process for adult learners was guided by these essential elements that characterize institutions structured to support lifelong education.
During the past decades Omega Graduate School has carved a niche in American higher education. The academic venture is fully accredited and alumni and students are active participants in positive social change endeavors around the world. The founders were not willing to follow a totally secular or sacred model, but were concerned about interdisciplinary education that created a program where students from multiple faith-based groups could have a safe place to think, study, and integrate the essential elements of morality and ethics into society through positive social change using social scientific research.
–Hollis L. Green, ThD, PhD, DLitt
Founder and Chancellor, Emeritus