North Park Seminary Receives Prestigious Lilly Grant

Photo Credit: Karl Clifton-Soderstrom

North Park Theological Seminary is celebrating a new $1,000,000 grant from Lilly Endowment Inc.

The grant is part of phase two of Lilly Endowment’s Pathways for Tomorrow Initiative. NPTS applied for the grant under the concept “One Thriving Seminary.” Funds will be used to support alignment and infrastructure. The seminary has branched out into many areas, and, in order to truly thrive, strategic alignment and healthy infrastructure are necessary to sustain the school into the future with unified programming and recognizable outcomes for the diverse constituencies.

Michelle Clifton-Soderstrom, dean of faculty, says, “We’ve grown so much in the past eight years. We now have student cohorts in two different conferences, in two prisons (Logan Correctional Center and Stateville Correctional Center), our main campus students, and distance students. We’re trying to integrate all of the cohorts, building infrastructure so we have equity across all our platforms, in all of our programming.” Funding will also include reentry pathways and support for North Park’s students who are incarcerated.

The goal is for every member of every cohort to see themselves as participants not just in their own specific program but in the overarching mission of North Park Theological Seminary. NPTS plans to use the grant to increase its marketing to tell its story and the stories of students it serves. They also plan to enhance internal systems for better efficiency, resource allocation, and technology.

Dave Kersten, dean of the seminary, says, “It is significant to see different cohorts together in learning experiences made possible through technology. Additionally, we would like to leverage our physical campus and incentivize students to be on campus, as well as to be the seminary of choice for North Park University students.”

The students in the School of Restorative Arts, master’s programs in other conferences throughout the Covenant, distance learners, and MA students on campus take essentially the same courses, with some variants based on certificate programs. The connective tissue and strength of One Thriving Seminary lies in the consistency of coursework and the expertise of the faculty, says Kersten.

NPTS has submitted a concept paper to Lilly Endowment as part of its proposal for a grant in the third and final phase of the Pathways initiative. Grants in this competitive phase are to be awarded in early 2022. That grant would be for $5,000,000.


  • Jill Riley

    Jill Riley is a freelance editor with the Companion. A former church planter, she now dedicates her time to writing and speaking on issues surrounding mental illness and the faith community. Her podcast, Post Traumatic Faith, is available on iTunes, or you can follow her at

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