Date: November 21, 2006
Providing relevant and interesting Sabbath School programming for college-age young adults is an important challenge facing the Seventh-day Adventist Church around the world. Sabbath School University (SSU) is an attempt at providing a newer, more technologically advanced solution in a televised format. SSU features four university-age participants and a host interacting in a lively discussion of each week's edition of the young adult lesson quarterly. Programs are aired worldwide two or three times a week on the Hope Channel and via podcast on their website. The 2007 series of programs marks the second time SSU has chosen to film on the campus of Andrews University at its Media Education Center (MEC), formerly International Learning Systems. The first time SSU filmed at Andrews was back in 2004 for the 2005 series.
SSU first aired in 2001, when it was produced at Adventist Media Productions (AMP) in Southern California, in a partnership between the Sabbath School Conference and the Hope Channel. After one and a half years at AMP, Gary Swanson, associate director of the General Conference Sabbath School Department and executive producer of Sabbath School University, made the decision to film the program at different media centers and campuses around the world. Thus, Sabbath School University spent the next two years at the Adventist Media Centre in Sydney, Australia, with host Casey Wolverton building on work already started with the youth in Sydney.
In the summer of 2004, Sabbath School University, with Wolverton as host, came to the campus of Andrews University to film the 2005 series. Neal Boger, producer and CEO of the MEC, says, "The AU campus was selected for its diverse and capable talent, as well as the presence of a professional production house (MEC)." The following year, Sabbath School University filmed at Helderberg College in South Africa, to assist in the development of its media center.
After filming the 2006 series, the Sabbath School University team was faced with a new need-funding for future programming. Boger affirms that "the greatest challenge is to raise the necessary funding each year." As an experiment, a letter was sent to Adventist institutions around the world, pitching the idea of hosting Sabbath School University in a media center. The best response came from Andrews University.
In addition to its broad international representation, Swanson notes that Andrews "also has a deeper vision of what we want to accomplish." With little time to orchestrate the filming, "Key people stepped back into familiar roles, and it went extremely well." Operations manager, Patrice Jones, declared that adding to the familiarity, the MEC "had already made capital improvements since the last taping." For the 2007 series, three hosts were selected: Adam Deibert, graduate student at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary; Georgiana Palmer, graduate communication major; and Pierre Quinn, instructor of communication. Quinn also had previous experience as a Sabbath School University crew member. "All three brought unique gifts to the program," noted Swanson. Shooting for the first quarter of the 2007 series commenced on November 6 and wrapped on November 12.
Sabbath School University will return to Andrews in February, May and July of 2007 to shoot the remaining quarters. Swanson hoped that viewers would see it as he did: a way "to provide content pertaining to Sabbath School, content that could be presented as a part of transactional learning." Boger added that "as AU is a microcosm of our global community, it serves as a wonderful location for the current and future SSU productions."