Dr. Mary Lowe, associate dean of Erskine Seminary’s Virtual Campus, has followed an Erskine tradition and her calling to serve students, not only academically, but also in their personal development.
Spreading the Gospel was a key focus in Mary Lowe’s family. Her parents were missionaries in Haiti and Suriname for 26 years. Lowe and her husband, Professor of Christian Education Dr. Steve Lowe, make regular trips to Haiti, sometimes with Erskine Seminary students. The Lowes have helped to support a church in Port Salut, Haiti, and were leading a mission trip in the rural town of Les Cayes in January 2010 when a devastating earthquake struck the Caribbean country.
Some of Lowe’s earliest experiences in Haiti helped to form her views about community and education. Rather than require that pastors with few resources attend Bible school on the mission station, she recalls, her dad would travel to remote areas to lecture and teach students in their communities.
Today, Lowe believes online education gives people access to an education and an experience they otherwise would not have received. “Access does not cheapen education, it gives more people more options,” she says.
Lowe has seen the community that develops among students and faculty, and she is amazed by the sacrifices students make to attend classes on the Due West campus or other seminary campuses. Some students spend several hours each week commuting, even while keeping up with ministry and family concerns. Faculty members make sacrifices, too, driving long distances in order to teach a single Saturday course. The dedication of the faculty is “more than a calling, it’s a way of life and an investment in the lives of students,” Lowe says.
She has also observed how a community of students forms around an online course. Students participate in online community forums, learning from one another and about one another. Lowe and her husband have written about spiritual formation in distance education, identifying the relational component that can be present in online classes.
“We cannot develop without relationships,” Lowe says. Through generations at Erskine, relationships between faculty and students have been nurtured through their interactions with one another. This relational component of Erskine’s history is Lowe’s hope for Erskine’s future.
“One way we ride out the storms is through the relationships we have with one another,” she says.