Overview of the Initiative In January 2021, Lilly Endowment Inc. launched a three-phase initiative, “Pathways for
Tomorrow,” designed to "help theological schools strengthen and sustain their capacities to prepare and support pastoral leaders for Christian churches." Phase One
consisted of nine month planning grants of up to $50,000 to 234 ATS member schools to help them explore challenges and opportunities they wished to pursue. Phase Two was launched in January 2022 and consisted of five year grants of up to $1
million awarded to 84 ATS member schools to help them prioritize and respond to their most pressing challenges as they work to prepare pastoral leaders for Christian congregations both now
and into the future. In the competitive third and final phase of the Pathways initiative, the Endowment will fund large-scale, collaborative projects. Theological schools will
collaborate to strengthen their capacities to prepare and support pastors and lay ministers, and work toward offering sustainable models or strategies that—if effective—could be
adopted by other schools. The Endowment anticipates announcing these grants in July 2022.
The ATS Coordination Program
In December 2021, ATS received a five-year grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to oversee the coordination program for its Pathways for Tomorrow initiative. The coordination program currently
focuses on Phase Two of the initiative. The Coordination Program
will provide resources, research, support, and a learning community for the grantees focused on innovation, collaboration, and adaptive learning. Activities will include:
• webinars and team gatherings aimed at strengthening grantees’ projects,
• peer learning communities centered on various challenges and opportunities being
addressed by the grantees,
• annual research projects to support the work of the grantees,
• mentors and coaches for cohorts of senior leaders as they lead their organizations through
• support for project leaders—including the onboarding of new personnel,
• an advisory committee to aid in the design of peer groups and research projects, and
• a virtual resource center to make learning and research available among ATS, its member
schools, collaborating organizations, and theological education researchers.
Jo Ann Deasy joined the ATS staff in June 2014 as director, institutional initiatives and student research. Her responsibilities include coordinating the Economic Challenges Facing Future Ministers initiative as well as the management, collection, and interpretation of data for the Entering Student, Graduating Student, and Alumni/ae Questionnaires. She also serves on the research team at ATS and recently contributed to research projects related to assessing spiritual and personal formation, women in leadership in theological education, and mapping the graduate workforce of ATS.
Deasy served for seven years as the dean of students and community life at North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago. An ordained pastor in the Evangelical Covenant Church, she has also served on staff at congregations in Duluth, Minnesota, and Mercer Island, Washington, and came to ATS from Sojourner Covenant Church in Evanston, Illinois, where she served as lead pastor for four years.
Deasy graduated from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary with a PhD in congregational studies with an emphasis in congregational leadership and contextual theologies.
Christopher M. The was named director of student research and initiative management in 2022, having previously served as director of commission information services upon joining the ATS accreditation staff in 2017. In his current role, he assists member schools with gathering, analyzing, and disseminating insights from the ATS questionnaires and student data; he also oversees the virtual infrastructure for ATS grant-funding initiatives and collaborates with coordination personnel for the Pathways for Tomorrow Initiative.
The came to ATS from Fuller Theological Seminary where he served in a variety of student services and educational support roles, while also pastoring an Indonesian American congregation in the American Baptist tradition. He was selected to participate in the 2014 Summit for Future Theological Educators of Color/Summit on Christian Leadership, was named a 2016 fellow of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (BJC), and has represented the Religious Liberty Council on the BJC board of directors since 2021. The has published refereed articles and contributed to book chapters on resourcing immigrant churches for civic engagement, leveraging evaluative principles for character formation in theological education, understanding the unique mentorship needs of doctoral students of color, and surveying diasporic Indonesian communities and their placement among world Christianities. An editorial board member since 2014 of the Indonesian Journal of Theology, he is presently completing a qualitative research dissertation on ethnic/immigrant congregational identity formation in second-generation Indonesian American emerging adults from two Los Angeles-area churches.
A former English Ministry pastor at two Asian American congregations in Southern California, The was raised in an immigrant congregation in the Chinese-Indonesian Reformed tradition and later ordained to ministry by a Chinese/Taiwanese church in the Pentecostal tradition. He earned an MAR in theology and ethics from Azusa Pacific University and an MDiv from Fuller Theological Seminary, where he is presently a candidate for a PhD in practical theology.