Vice President for Applied Research

Announcement of Search for
Vice President for Applied Research
at Auburn Seminary


Auburn, a seminary that equips leaders to bridge religious divides, build community, and pursue justice in our complex, multifaith, media-driven world, is launching a national search for a Vice President for Applied Research. The Vice President for Applied Research will chart a course for the future of research at Auburn in support of the theological education enterprise. S/he will shape and direct an action-oriented research agenda that continues Auburn’s tradition of renowned research while responding to the challenges and opportunities of the changing religious and cultural context in America and globally.

Auburn Seminary

For almost 200 years, from its founding in upstate New York to its global presence today, Auburn has prepared religious leaders “hardy enough for the frontier.” Auburn’s early history was marked by a commitment to theological openness, educational excellence, and engagement in addressing the great social issues of the day: slavery, poverty, children’s rights, women’s suffrage, and the education of women and African-Americans. During the Great Depression, Auburn moved to New York City and reinvented itself, changing from a degree-granting institution to an innovator in continuing theological education and a pioneer in theological research. Today, Auburn’s mission embraces a broad range of religious traditions and expressions of faith. Its work is animated by the question of how to equip leaders with the skills and resilience needed to meet the challenges of a new moment – one that is multifaith, multiracial, and “majority minority,” and includes constituencies like “nones” and millennials.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called for “a new architecture for a new world” that is “more Frank Gehry than formal Greek . . . a dynamic mix of materials and structures.” Auburn, too, is building a new architecture, both for itself as an institution and for the movement of which it is a part. Auburn’s theory of change focuses on the role of leadership in building a multifaith movement for justice. Through a dynamic mix of pedagogy, content, structure, and partnerships, Auburn targets, trains, and elevates leaders of faith and commitment, equipping men and women of moral courage with the skills and resolve needed to tackle and sustain the work required to create a just world.

Auburn’s vision: We claim the possibility and God’s promise of a world in which difference is celebrated, abundance is shared and people are hopeful, working together for a future that is better than today. Leaders of faith and moral courage are essential to catalyze and advance this new world through building multifaith movements for justice.

Auburn’s mission: We equip bold and resilient leaders of faith and moral courage to build congregations and communities, bridge divides, pursue justice and, in so doing, heal the world. A seminary with multifaith commitments and Christian roots, Auburn educates through innovative pedagogies and methodologies, public platforms and applied research.

Auburn works to realize this vision and mission through distinctive programs in, and collaborations among, the areas of research, education, media, and action.

The Challenge

As Auburn approaches its 200th anniversary in 2018, its strategic plan sets forth a blueprint for Auburn’s future: to equip religious leaders to work for social change in order to heal and repair the world. Building on decades of experience in bridging religious differences through education, Auburn is becoming a leadership development think/act tank that connects faith with the most pressing public issues of our time. To realize this goal, Auburn is shifting from an organizational structure in which research, education, media, and action take place in separate silos to one that recognizes the interdependence of its programs and activities.

As a key player in the strategic plan, research at Auburn is also undergoing a transformation. For twenty years, Auburn’s Center for the Study of Theological Education has focused on research and consulting to support the accredited seminaries and rabbinical schools of North America. This endowed center has become a trusted national authority on a range of issues facing theological education. Longitudinal research with the stakeholders of theological education — students, faculty, administration, trustees, and the public at large — has resulted in the publication of 27 studies and background reports about such issues as student debt, seminary finances, public perceptions of seminaries and religious leaders, the preparation of future faculty, and the leadership of theological schools. Going forward, with the leadership of the Vice President for Applied Research, Auburn’s research agenda will emphasize contextualized, action-oriented research that explores today’s interconnected issues of religious leadership (in both traditional and newer manifestations), religious communities and structures, and the implications these hold for theological education. This effort promises to transform Auburn, as well as influence the field of theological education.


The Vice President for Applied Research will be the principal architect of Auburn Research, establishing the strategic vision, priorities, and methodology of a research agenda that reflects Auburn’s mission and is responsive to the needs of the field. S/he will direct and carry out research that has an impact on the education of religious leaders both nationally and internationally. The Vice President for Applied Research will be a member of Auburn’s senior leadership team, and report to the Executive Vice President, with access to the President.

The Vice President for Applied Research will be expected to shape, direct, and carry out an action research agenda that:

• Identifies what educational substance and methodologies will best equip religious leaders to meet the needs of the increasingly diverse communities they serve;
• Takes a broad view of the diverse contexts, within and outside of traditional and accredited institutions, in which religious practice and theological education now take place, and their implications for how theological education should occur;
• Examines the role faith plays in social justice movements, applying theology and analysis from multifaith perspectives to pressing social concerns such as immigration, inequality, moral economy, climate change, and gun violence, in order to understand how to equip leaders most effectively;
• Is attuned to the broad range of Christian theological perspectives and other religious traditions, and understands the multifaith context which religious leaders must negotiate;
• Supports the leaders of theological schools as they shape their institutions to meet the changing realities of faith leaders and the communities they serve, continuing to address seminary leaders’ concerns about fiscal issues while also addressing current concerns about relevance, denominational identity, and pedagogy;
• Addresses the needs both of well-established, stable institutions of theological education, and of newer or struggling providers of theological education;
• Identifies the skills and capacities religious leaders in practice need to guide their faith communities in building and sustaining a social justice movement, in order to deepen their understanding of the issues and their capacity to speak about these issues in the public arena; and
• Builds, integrates, and models best practices of research and evaluation in Auburn’s educational work and institutional life.

Toward these ends, the Vice President for Applied Research will:

• Direct and engage in both independent and collaborative research, building research teams and engaging consultants when appropriate;
• Work with Auburn’s leadership team to ensure that Auburn’s research is widely disseminated and promoted through technology, speaking, teaching, and consulting to religious leaders, congregations and communities, and the public at large;
• Harness the talents of allies and partners in the field of theological education and of researchers in the field through collaboration and convenings;
• Work as part of an energetic team of Auburn colleagues, both within the research area and in Auburn’s education, action, and media programs, to advance Auburn’s mission and priorities;
• Collaborate with partner organizations to determine the most effective methodologies for evaluating Auburn’s progress toward its aspirational and practical goals; and
• Work actively with Auburn’s President and Philanthropic Partnerships team to raise funds to support a robust research agenda.


Auburn seeks in its Vice President for Applied Research a leader with a demonstrated record as a scholar and educator in the fields of theological education, sociology of religion, social science, or a related field. The ideal candidate will have:

• A Ph.D. and a substantial record of research that employs both qualitative and quantitative research techniques;
• Experience in an academic or research institution, or in another context in which social science research is critical to the organization’s mission;
• Knowledge of and respect for the traditions of theological education and research, combined with an understanding of current issues in the field and an innovative spirit that embraces new approaches to equipping leaders to guide increasingly diverse religious communities;
• A thorough knowledge of the questions and methodologies that dominate educational research, including theories and practices concerned with the diverse ways people learn, education in a multifaith environment, theory and practice of teaching and learning, curriculum theory and construction, praxis learning at the intersection of the theological disciplines and the practices integral to the professional work of clergy and other religious leaders, and educational leadership;
• Exceptional written and oral communication skills, including the ability to present cogently and forcefully the substance and excitement of research in theological education to a variety of audiences both within and outside the field;
• Ability and enthusiasm to engage with, and build bridges among, a broad range of institutions across religious traditions, within and outside of the field of theological education, and reflecting diverse perspectives;
• An understanding of the broad landscape of American religious life;
• A personal, vital faith or spiritual foundation;
• Skill in and energetic commitment to collaboration and partnerships within and outside of Auburn;
• Strong management and team-building skills;
• An interest in and ability to embrace Auburn’s mission and core values; and
• The resilience to thrive in a fast-paced, challenging entrepreneurial organizational environment.

Auburn has formed a national search committee. Review of applications will begin immediately and will continue until the position is filled. The desired starting date for this position is July 1, 2014.

To Apply

All inquiries, nominations and applications, including a resume and cover letter, should be directed in confidence to:

The Rev. John Vaughn
Executive Vice President
Auburn Theological Seminary
3041 Broadway
New York, NY 10027

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