A Cohort for Local Black Students with Tuition Fully Covered

Generous donors, Frank and Robyn Sims, are the primary funders of this 48-credit-hour Master of Arts in Leadership degree program for eight Black students in the Twin Cities.


The shaping of theological education over the years has had a bias toward white supremacy. In the words of Willie James Jennings, its desired outcome has been to form “the self-sufficient white man.”  As a result, Black persons of every gender identity have not enjoyed the same opportunities for theological education as their white counterparts. Black students and faculty have rightly challenged this paradigm, but creative institutional space has been sparse. United is responding to this call with a new initiative for a select group pursuing the Master of Arts in Leadership degree.

The “Sims Scholars” program is designed to address racial disparities in higher education. Because Black students often find their minority presence challenging in a historically white institution, this initiative will build an intentional cohort for mutual support, special studies, and mentoring. Generous donors, Frank and Robyn Sims, will be the primary funders of this 48 credit-hour degree program, and those admitted will receive a full tuition scholarship.

The focus of this program is leadership development for persons interested in a variety of vocational pursuits: nonprofit leadership, congregational ministry, public service, and education. Members of the cohort also might include persons already ensconced in a profession but who desire theological studies that would acquaint them with the richness of Black spirituality in its contemporary forms, with attention to womanist scholarship, constructive theology, biblical hermeneutics, church history, and other areas of interest. There will also be special learning opportunities in this track that speak to Black experiences in church and society that extend beyond the core curriculum.

United is committed to systemic antiracist work. The piloting of this program falls under that larger initiative. Transforming institutional culture to become a racially just learning space will be enhanced by launching this selective program.

Generous donors, Frank and Robyn Sims, will be the primary funders of this 48 credit-hour degree program, hence those admitted to the program will be known as “Sims Scholars” and will receive a full tuition scholarship.

Criteria for Selection

In addition to the regular criteria for admission to United, there are exemplary expectations for Sims Scholars. These criteria will ensure a high-quality experience for those selected.

Students who comprise the cohort will be exceptional in aptitude, vocational promise, and commitment to the mission of theological education. Prerequisites for admission include: a baccalaureate degree from an accredited undergraduate institution; a grade point average of a B or better; be a resident of the Twin Cities area so that the cohort can meet face to face for mentoring and special events; and commitment to being an active participant in the cohort.

Because of the selectivity of the cohort, there will be a personal interview required of those applying. The program seeks persons with strong leadership promise, therefore applicants will be asked to submit an artifact that provides evidence of their vocational pursuit or prior leadership experience.

The Master of Arts in Leadership can be an entry degree for those who ultimately desire the Master of Divinity. While not a dual-degree program, the curriculum of the MAL is foundational and transferrable to the MDiv.

Interest Form


Questions related to the program can be directed to United’s Admissions team. >