New Life Church and Ouachita launch degree program

New Life Church in Conway recently hosted a dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate a new educational partnership between NLC and Ouachita Baptist University.

Rick Bezet, lead pastor of New Life Church in Conway, speaks during the dedication of a 7,000-square-foot facility on the church campus that Ouachita Baptist University will use to offer associate of arts degrees in general studies and Christian ministry.

OBU at NLC will offer associate of arts degrees in general studies and Christian ministry with in-depth opportunities for students to serve with and be mentored by NLC pastoral staff in hands-on ministry experience. Eleven students already are pre-registered for OBU at NLC’s inaugural semester which will begin Tuesday, Aug. 26.

The partnership was approved by Ouachita’s Board of Trustees in December 2013. Since that time, the Higher Learning Commission has approved Ouachita’s request to offer associate degrees and approved the university’s application to offer degree programs at an off-campus location. Dr. Stan Poole, Ouachita’s vice president for academic affairs, said a confirmation visit from the HLC will be held within the first six months of the program’s operation.

The resolution adopted by university trustees affirms that Ouachita and New Life “share a vision for equipping the next generation of Christian leaders with a quality education and passion for Christ’s work in the world.”

The resolution adds that the new degree programs “will provide a high-quality, relational and ministry-focused Christian education that is both nonresidential and highly affordable.”

"Equipping the next generation of church leaders with a Christian education has been part of the NLC vision from the beginning,” said Rick Bezet, lead pastor of New Life Church. “We are honored to be partnering with such a prestigious institution to make that vision a reality."

Ouachita President Rex Horne noted, “It is my hope and expectation that the endeavor with NLC will see more students experience the difference of a Ouachita education.”

Dr. Brandon O’Brien, a 2004 Ouachita alumnus, is coordinating the work of OBU at NLC. "We are grateful for the high caliber students the program has already attracted,” he said. “Our admitted students have excelled academically in their previous studies and have demonstrated a commitment to ministry in the local church.

"This program offers a unique opportunity in the city of colleges: a chance to receive a world-class Christian education in the context of a life-giving local church,” O’Brien added.

The June 10 dedication ceremony featured remarks by Bezet, Poole and O’Brien. The 7,000-square-foot facility is being remodeled specifically for OBU at NLC classes and administrative offices. It is located on the Conway campus of New Life Church at 633 South Country Club in Conway. A second phase to construct a permanent facility on the Conway NLC campus currently is in the planning stages.

New Life, with cooperation from generous supporters from the Conway community, will award scholarships to the inaugural class of OBU at NLC students.

Scholarships will be awarded based on a variety of criteria. Every full-time degree-seeking student who begins coursework in the fall will be eligible for a one-time award. “The Founding Student Grant is a one-time gift that honors the pioneering spirit of this first class of students,” said O’Brien. “These students are starting something important. This is our way of saying thank you.”

Other scholarships will be awarded on the basis of academic achievement. NLC will fund two full-tuition scholarships for students planning to enter full-time ministry after college.

Recipients are selected by a scholarship committee made up of NLC staff, OBU at NLC faculty and staff, and members of the community.

All scholarship funds are provided by NLC and private donations. So far, $45,000 has been pledged, with Steve and Lee Anne (“Lee Lee”) Hess being the first to contribute to the scholarship fund. “My wife Lee Lee and I love the fact that OBU at NLC will provide an environment where young people can complete their general education requirement through the lens of a healthy, life-giving local church such as NLC, while still maintaining the quality and rigor of the best institutions for higher learning,” said Hess. “We could not be happier to be associated with such a wonderful endeavor.”

Current fundraising efforts are aimed at securing funds to assure the availability of scholarships for the 2015-2016 academic year and beyond.

For more information, contact Abbey Ichter at 501.712.6448 or [email protected]. For additional information about OBU at NLC, contact Brandon O’Brien at 501.328.5433 or [email protected] or OBU Registrar Judy Jones at 870.245.5580 or [email protected].