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Claremont School of Theology Casts Hopeful Vision at Opening of New Westwood Campus (CST)

The Claremont School of Theology (CST) community gathered for “Reigniting Our Future” to kickoff its next chapter at the school’s new Los Angeles campus at Westwood United Methodist Church. 

CST President Grant Hagiya set the tone for the event with words of welcome, gratitude, and excitement for the future. Rev. Molly Vetter, a CST alum and current Senior Pastor of Westwood UMC, then spoke about the strong alignment of vision and mission shared by the school and church and officially welcomed CST to their new location. 

“This move allows us to reimagine CST around our signature values of ‘Compassion, Justice, and Belonging’ by expanding upon our recognized distance learning excellence and transformative in-person hybrid experiences, allowing for increased flexibility and accessibility as a global community of learners,” said Hagiya. “We see Westwood as a strategic move that allows us to begin to retire debt, expand our online digital offerings, and continue to reach toward our 150th year.”

The well-attended event featured a panel discussion that included professors Dr. Yohana Junker, Dr. Venu Mehta, Dr. Frank Rogers Jr., and President Hagiya, who each presented their hopes and plans for this next phase of the school’s life and answered questions from the audience. There was also an exchange of commendations between President Hagiya and the recently appointed President of Methodist Theological School (MTS) in Seoul, S. Korea, Rev. Dr. Kyoung-Dong Yoo (represented by MTS professor and CST alum Dr. Jinsook Kwon). 

Multiple United Methodist bishops were in attendance, including Resident Bishop of the California-Pacific UMC Conference and CST Board Member Rev. Dr. Dottie Escobedo-Frank, who highlighted the strong historic and ongoing partnership between the school and the Cal-Pac UMC Conference, retired Bishop Mary Ann Swenson, and Resident Bishop of the Greater Northwest Episcopal Area Rev. Cedrick Bridgeforth, who served as the event host for the evening. 

The event was followed by tours of the new space and refreshments. The school will also host CST Day  on March 3, 2024 in the congregations of the Desert Southwest Conference of The United Methodist Church, which will be a time for local churches to celebrate CST during its Sunday worship services and help fund student scholarships.