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April 24, 2024

MA Program Builds Life of the Mind

Graduate programs often fail to push students to grow in mental strength and excellence. These programs are narrow scholarly tracks drowning in political ideology. They shun the intellectual rigor that once was a staple of collegiate work. This is not the case with the master’s degree at New Saint Andrews College. Dr. David Talcott, graduate dean, describes the program as “a time of deep intellectual pursuit, of reading great authors, and having one’s mind formed in the slow-burning crucible of a faithful and scholarly community.”

The Master of Arts in Theology and Letters offers a foundation of Reformed theology that complements graduate-level courses in liberal arts. The program is in-person in Moscow, Idaho, and it places students in the robust, intellectual community of NSA and the local churches. Dr. Talcott says the program “is not just a stand-alone graduate program but integrated in the broader academic life of New Saint Andrews College.” Students in the program participate in graduate-level courses, Graduate Forum, Disputatio, and other events at the college. In this program, professors mentor students, so the students grow intellectually and can contribute to the conversation of the larger academic world. Dr. Talcott says this program is “not only for the head but also the heart and the whole person.”

“All knowledge holds together in Jesus Christ,” Dr. Talcott explains. “And everything can be understood in light of eternal theological truths.” The program works to instill in students a robust understanding of Reformed theology. With this theological foundation in place, students have a place to stand as they take courses across different disciplines. The program aims to push students to advanced levels of scholarly work so they can reason well with a strong understanding of Reformed theology.

“We study not just theology but the broader humanities in order to gain a breadth of insight into the human condition.”

Dr. Talcott adds, “We study not just theology but the broader humanities in order to gain a breadth of insight into the human condition.” The interdisciplinary structure of the program inculcates in students a deep understanding of pivotal authors from the Western tradition. It is not enough to study a single curriculum. The place where intellectual excellence is achieved is at the intersection of disciplines. Through this integrative curriculum, students are pushed to wrestle with challenging ideas from across disciplines so they can see how these ideas have shaped history and culture. In this way, students become masters of theology and letters.  

This program instills deep reasoning in students as they work closely with top scholars. One distinctive feature of the program is the Graduate Forum, where students and faculty meet occasionally to hear lectures and presentations. Dr. Talcott says this event “is a chance for students to see what the professors are working on, and what guest lecturers, who come into town, are working on.” He adds, “Students can start participating in the real academic culture of graduate students and professors.” Through a rigorous academic forum, participants learn to sharpen their abilities as they reason through complex ideas in a given field. 

“Students can start participating in the real academic culture of graduate students and professors.”

The Graduate Forum prepares students for work on their graduate thesis, where they must do original, scholarly research. A professor mentors them through the thesis project, giving them feedback and guidance. Dr. Talcott says, “It really represents the abilities of the student to carry out original research.” Students also present this material and defend it before a faculty panel. 

Dr. Talcott summarizes the master’s degree, saying, “We want to equip the church with the intellectual tools for a new reformation.” This program sharpens students intellectually so they can think with a strong Reformed foundation. In this way, they are prepared to rebuild, renew, and advance Christian scholarship and culture in the next generation.