The mission of Baptist University of the Américas, as an institution of higher education, is the formation, from the Hispanic context, of cross-cultural Christian leaders.
It is our passion to fulfill our mission. We believe that mission is a job description from God for what he desires BUA to be. The words were chosen through a deliberate and specific process to identify that invitation from God. Here’s how we unpack the thought process behind our mission:
• FORMATION- means that our goal is the transformation of our students into people who reflect the character of Jesus himself. Our educational curriculum is attentive to the whole person: Spirit, Mind and Body.
• FROM THE HISPANIC CONTEXT- means that since 1947, BUA has been educating leaders in the bicultural context of the Mexico/Texas borderland. The foundation of our understanding is distinctly Hispanic, but flows from there to crossing all cultural lines with the gospel message of Jesus Christ.
• CROSS-CULTURAL- means that the educational process involves our students not just learning the information, but forming the ability to interact with and even adopt as their own the cultural characteristics of the communities in which they live and serve. It means ministering as missionaries in whatever context they find themselves.
• CHRISTIAN LEADERS- means that our goal is to become like Jesus himself and serve the people around us. Leadership is the ability to bring people together to attain a desired goal; and Jesus’ method of leadership was serving. This broadens our potential student population beyond the traditional pastor role and includes any follower of Jesus who desires to truly be a servant-leader in the tradition of Jesus.
Heritage and Vision
For over 60 years, BUA staff and students have responded passionately to the call of God
to serve Him with all of their “heart, soul, mind and strength.”
Baptist University of the Américas began life as the Mexican Baptist Bible Institute in San Antonio in 1947. The Institute started in humble beginnings under the auspices of the San Antonio Baptist Association, conducting its first classes in the evenings at Palm Heights Baptist Church.
The Institute changed its name to Hispanic Baptist Theological Seminary, then to Hispanic Baptist Theological School and, in 2003, to Baptist University of the Américas as the scope expanded to granting accredited college degrees while maintaining the focus on training ministers for Hispanic churches.
From its inception in 1947 until 2000, the primary language of instruction was Spanish. For most of those years, the school offered a non-accredited, non-certified diploma in traditional seminary areas like Bible, Religious Education, and Music. Even though the school was not accredited or certified by the State of Texas to offer degrees, the institution provided quality education within the context of the Mexican culture. Graduates moved fluidly into successful ministry positions throughout Texas and the United States. With the exception of those who came from Latin America, Puerto Rico and Spain who already had theological education, most Baptist Latino(a) ministers in Texas were trained either at the school or one of the affiliate Bible institutes.
The school experienced some of the best years in enrollment and support during the 1970s and 1980s. Gifted educators taught during those years such as Dr. Josué Grijalva, Dr. José Rivas, Dr. Alcides Guajardo, Dr. Daniel Rivera, Dr. Fermin Flores, Dr. Abdias Mora, and Dr. Sylvestre Ayala. However, the school suffered a decline in enrollment during the 1990s when programs were dropped and reduced. Discussions circled about the possibility of closing the school. However, leaders made the decision to invite Dr. Albert Reyes as President of the school, and a new period of growth began during his tenure. Dr. Javier Elizondo arrived in 2000 to lead the student services area and later the academic area. Dr. Marconi Monteiro arrived to take leadership of the student services area in 2003. With two credentialed leaders guiding the two most important areas in the University, the University was positioned to move forward aggressively.
A period of sustained growth and deepening of its historical roots has been taking place since the arrival of René Maciel as President in the summer of 2007. Teo Cisneros, a graduate of BUA, also came as Vice President for Development, Craig Bird as Vice President for University Relations, and Ed Braswell as Vice President for Administration and Finance. With a full, competent, and highly committed team in place, the University is positioned to make an even greater contribution to the Kingdom of God through the training of servant leaders.
In 2000 BUA changed the primary language of instruction to English, primarily to facilitate the road to certification with the State and accreditation. After the move to English occurred and an intensive English as a Second Language program was strengthened, school leaders saw other benefits besides accreditation. Before the language change, most of the students were Spanish speakers only when they arrived, and they left with a solid theological education, but were still primarily Spanish-only speakers. Once they moved away from the San Antonio and the Border area, they were challenged in their ministry because they did not know English. Since the shift to English instruction, many of the students still arrive speaking only one language, but leave functionally bi-lingual and bi-cultural.
BUA also reaped the benefit, because of English instruction, of enrolling students from other cultural/language groups such as African-Americans, Anglos, Koreans, Dutch, Hungarians, Japanese, Indians and students from Africa and non-Spanish speaking Latin American countries. This added diversity improved the educational experience of all students. In the Fall semester of 2009, the University had an enrollment of 250, and the “country count” of non-American students/alumni reached 20. This cross-cultural experience enriches the ministry potential for success among BUA students.
Another advantage of English instruction that affected enrollment was that Latinos(as) who only spoke English were able to consider coming to study at the school. BUA leaders found that many English-speaking Latinos(as) desired to attend the University.
Three major events took place in 2003: the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board granted a certificate of authority to offer a B.A. in Biblical/Theological Studies, the school became fully accredited by the Association for Biblical Higher Education, and the school adopted the name Baptist University of the Américas (BUA). In 2005, BUA added an A.A. degree, followed by a B.A. in Business Leadership and a B.A. in Spanish in 2009.
Following accreditation and certification, BUA students successfully transfer credits to other Baptist institutions and seminaries. Prior to 2003, graduates usually needed to attend another Baptist University an additional two or three years in order to receive a B.A. in Bible or religion. Including the time to learn English, the process to attain a B.A. took a full-time student six to eight years. Since 2003, BUA students earn their B.A. and can transfer directly into Master’s programs at ATS seminaries and most religion departments of Baptist universities.
Because a student learns English at BUA, the time needed to move through a B.A. and Master’s is shortened, as well. Consequently, a student can earn a B.A. and a Master’s degree in about the same time as former students took to receive a B.A. The implications for Latino leadership training are: students are able to learn English and do high school remediation work if needed; they are able to move into a degree program at the same school; they are able to progress in a timely manner avoiding discouragement and reducing the drop-out rate; they are able to graduate with the B.A. degree and move into their places of ministry or a graduate program in a timely manner; and the number of students who opt for pursuing graduate education is increased, producing a higher number of graduates who complete a higher level of academic training.
From 2003 to 2008, BUA graduated 83 ministry students with a B.A. in Biblical/Theological Studies. Of these, 27, or 32.5%, entered a Master’s program and enrolled at least half time at an ATS or other accredited school. Ten of the 27, or 37%, already received their Master’s, and the rest are still enrolled and making progress toward their degrees. In addition, six students are taking graduate courses but are enrolled less than half time or have interrupted their studies. Including the last group of six, the total number of BUA students who have progressed to graduate school totals 33 students, or 39.7% of the graduates. Two of these students have been accepted into Ph.D. programs and one is applying to enter in the fall of 2009. Considering that Latino(a) enrollment at institutions accredited by the Association for Theological Schools has traditionally been fewer than 3%, BUA’s impact in preparing students for graduate academic work and facilitating their transfer to graduate school is remarkable.
Baptist University of the Américas enrolls more Latino(a) ministry students in its Biblical/Theological program than the other eight Texas Baptist universities and the two seminaries combined. Teaching and learning take place in the context of both the Latina(o) and Tejana(o) heritages, welcoming the contributions of other cultural groups as well. This unique culture provides two benefits. First, the feeling of being at home for Latino(a) students frees them to concentrate on the learning experience and reduces the amount of energy spent when forced to immerse in a foreign culture. Second, the Latino(a) context of the teaching and learning experience prepares students well for the work to be done in the Latino congregations they serve and will serve in the future.
In addition, Baptist University of the Américas has the third largest religion department of the nine Texas Baptist universities. Only Baylor and Dallas Baptist University enroll more students in their religion department than BUA.
Significant implications for future Latino(a) leadership training can be made as a result of the success of BUA. In 2008 the University opened Piper Village, a student housing complex that can accommodate 250 students; former housing held 70 students. With this housing availability, enrollment projections climb as high as 500 within five years. Furthermore, if the percentages continue the present pattern, each year 70 to 80 students could graduate; 23 to 26 graduates could enter graduate programs; and 7 to 8 graduates could go into Ph.D. programs.
The University maintains a cross-cultural team of faculty and staff that includes Mexicans, Tejanos(as), Latinos(as), Anglos, Brazilians, and African Americans. Since the year 2000, between 50% and 86% of offered courses have been by professors with a terminal degree. The faculty team consists of highly credential educators with extensive experience in ministry and profession. Faculty members with doctoral degrees include: Mario Ramos, Nora Lozano, Fred Loa, Jesus Romero, David Maltsberger, Javier Elizondo, Marconi Monteiro, and Walter Goodman. Professors with one or more Master’s degrees consist of: Maria Monteiro (completed all courses for doctoral degree at Duke University), Terry Martinez, Ana Chavez, Sandee Elizondo (completing all coursework for Ph.D. from Dallas Baptist University in May, 2009), Craig Bird, Ed Braswell, and Louis Villamar. To be able to assemble such a high number of credentialed professors in one place is a remarkable accomplishment, but to gather them in a small institution with limited financial resources makes it even more so.
BUA has provided through the years ministry leadership through the Instituto Bíblico Bautista, an extension program of the University of non-accredited, non-certified diploma and certificates in Bible and Ministry that are offered primarily in Spanish. In 1999 the extension programs enrolled approximately 150 students. In the Spring of 2008, the enrollment reached 635 and 108 students graduated from either a diploma or certificate program. As part of the accreditation process, and to allow the Instituto to maintain its own strong identity as a provider of quality, theological education, the University asked the Office of Hispanic Work, under the direction of BUA graduate and former trustee Rolando Rodriguez, and the Hispanic Baptist Convention to transfer the Instituto Bíblico Bautista program. The three entities worked together to establish the Instituto Biblico Bautista as a separate entity from the University. The Instituto will be requesting to be accepted as one of the auxiliaries of the Hispanic Baptist Convention of Texas during their annual meeting in June of 2010 in San Antonio.
Missionary Paul Siebenmann begins offering night and weekend classes for thirty-two Hispanic students at the Baptist Goodwill Center under the auspices of the San Antonio Baptist Association. The school is called the Mexican Baptist Training School.
The school holds its formal opening on Jan. 2, 1948, at Palm Heights Baptist Church at the corner of Nogalitos and Malone streets. The stated focus is to teach three groups of students:
(1) Latin Americans who have had limited education,
(2) Latin Americans with a high school education or who are capable of carrying college work, and
(3) Anglo-Americans who desire to prepare for work in Mexican missions.
The first president is Dr. Calvin Guy “C.G.” Carter. Under his administration, the name changes to the Mexican Baptist Bible Institute in 1950. It is housed in a two-story brick home on the southwest corner of West Martin and North Leona streets by July 1950. Enrollment grows to 91 students during its first 11 years.
Dr. H.B. Ramsour is the school’s second president and uses his skills to galvanize denominational support and find a permanent home for the school. Seven buildings are constructed during his tenure, which ends in 1976.
Baptist General Convention of Texas votes to provide financial support to the school.
The school receives a gift from the Woman’s Missionary Union that allows it to purchase a 12-acre tract for a campus on I-35 South for $60,000 and begins building the current campus.
First building is erected on the new campus in 1964, followed by the library and language department building by January 1965. Classes begin on the campus.
Dr. Daniel J. Rivera named the third president and the first Hispanic president. He focuses on academic recognition.
The school is renamed Hispanic Baptist Theological Seminary (HBTS).
Dr. Josué Grijalva is elected president of HBTS until he retires in 1993 when enrollment reaches 193 students.
Dr. Omar Pachecano becomes the school’s fifth president and begins the process of accreditation with the Association of Biblical Higher Education. He also creates an independent governing board.
Dr. Albert L. Reyes becomes president. In compliance with state legislation, the school’s name becomes the Hispanic Baptist Theological School (HBTS).
The Commission on Accreditation of the Accrediting Association of Bible Colleges grants candidate membership to HBTS.
The primary language of instruction changes from Spanish to English, which subsequently changes the student body to a younger age.
The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board grants HBTS authority to grant BA degrees for the first time in its history.
The Association of Biblical Higher Education grants BUA initial accreditation.
BGCT approves name change to Baptist University of the Américas.
The school purchases a 78-acre tract of land and creates a master plan for a new campus across from the current location.
The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board grants BUA authority to grant Associate of Arts degrees for the first time in its history.
BUA breaks ground on a new 78-acre Baugh Family Campus across I-35 from its current campus and accessible by a walk-over bridge.
René Maciel is installed as the seventh president of Baptist University of the Américas.
In January 2008, BUA opens Piper Village, a new student housing community on the Baugh campus. Apartment buildings are dedicated as: The Paul and Katy Piper House, The John & Eula Mae Baugh House, The Josué Grijalva House, and the José Rivas House.
BUA reaches a record fall enrollment of 336.