Conway may have another higher-education option through a partnership between Ouachita Baptist University and New Life Church.

According to a press release from OBU, an action by the university’s Board of Trustees in December "authorizes Ouachita administrators to ‘establish a partnership with New Life Church to offer courses leading to the Associate of Arts degree at NLC’s Conway, Ark., campus beginning in August 2014, pending approval by appropriate accrediting bodies.’"

Brandon O’Brien, who is directing the partnership on behalf of New Life, said there could be an Associates of Arts degree offered at the New Life campus, but nothing is official until they receive a letter of accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. The commission meets in mid-January and this project should be on their agenda.

"We’re hopeful that we’ll have good news by the end of the month," O’Brien said.

Currently, OBU does not offer this kind of degree, which would be a general studies degree covering many core classes as well as some electives.

"Our goal will be to offer a full schedule of those [core] classes as well as a full schedule of electives that will transfer to even state schools in the area," O’Brien said.

The program will be geared toward students thinking about ministry, but it leaves the door open for students to go into another field if they choose to continue with either Ouachita or another institution.

"What we hope to accomplish is that every student will have a chance to come in and discern their ministry gifting, whether they plan to be in ministry down the road or just be a regular layperson," O’Brien said. "We do hope to have students invested in other ways."

O’Brien said all faculty will have academic credentials, but the church location will provide a unique opportunity to have guest speakers from the church share insights students might not otherwise receive.

Additionally, there may be opportunities for volunteering or mentorships to help students get hands-on experience.

"There are certain things you just can’t learn until you do them," O’Brien said. "We’re hopeful that this experience will put those two [academics and experience] together."

This model of having a higher-education institution at a church is one O’Brien said he hasn’t seen — at least not the way New Life and OBU are attempting it. Often if a church is the host site for a school, the classes are strictly ministry focused.

"We’re really trying to make it a hybrid program to bring together the OBU liberal arts background and New Life’s innovative ministry efforts," O’Brien said.

In a statement, Stan Poole, Ouachita’s vice president for academic affairs, said, "We’re excited about the potential for such a program not only to prepare young people for additional educational opportunities but also to mentor them to become faithful Christian leaders wherever they eventually live and serve."

More information about specific degree plans, requirements and admissions will not be announced until the Higher Learning Commission provides a letter of accreditation.

(Staff writer Angela Spencer can be reached by email at or by phone at 505-1212. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to Send us your news at