New Partnership Will Train Future Humanist Leaders

I am pleased to announce a new partnership between the American Humanist Association (AHA) Center for Education and the United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities (United). This fall, the AHA’s Humanist Studies Certificate Program (HSP) will work with United to offer a Master of Divinity (MDiv) in Humanist Studies and a Master of Arts in Leadership (MALS) in Humanist Studies.

This partnership opens opportunities to our community not previously available. It realizes a vision long sought after by The Humanist Institute (now AHA Center for Education) by offering accredited degrees for humanist leaders, spokespersons, educators, and advocates, preparing them for organizational and community leadership careers in various contexts.

As David Breeden, Chair of the Center for Education’s Advisory Committee, said, “With this new opportunity, the vision of The Humanist Institute is at last realized, not only educating in humanist thought to humanists but also joining in the wider conversation of a pluralistic world.”

Over the years, those seeking humanist-oriented careers have had to piece together the education needed for their chosen field. Humanist chaplains, for instance, have looked to pluralist or liberal divinity schools, similar to United, to meet the requirements for national board certification. Outside of these institutions, students pursued their humanist education by combining independent study, movement leader mentorship, the American Ethical Union Leaders-in-Training program, or the Humanist Studies Certificate Program. With this partnership, individuals will have the advantage of acquiring a higher education concentrating on humanist values, philosophy, and practice in one place.

While rooted in the United Church of Christ, United is also committed to interreligious engagement and has always been on the leading edge of progressive theology. It welcomes all denominations and traditions, providing a learning community that is “intentionally open, socially aware, and theologically adventurous.” United offers a wide range of programs and studies from Unitarian Universalist, to Islamic, to Baha’i’. It provides a culture that shapes leaders to transform the world by emphasizing rigorous academics, community experiences, mentorship, and building supportive relationships.

Jared Anderson (a Humanist Chaplain endorsed by The Humanist Society) will graduate next month from United with a Master of Divinity in Interreligious Chaplaincy. Jared has worked in hospice, prison, and hospital chaplaincy for the past six years, and his next step is to become a Chaplain in the Army Reserves. He said,

I am thrilled to hear that United and the AHA Center for Education are working together to provide an MDiv in Humanist Studies and a MALS in Humanist Studies. United encouraged me to embrace, refine, and articulate my approach to the human experience, including interfaith work on the function of spirituality and religion. Reverend Karen Hutt, Vice President for Student and Community Engagement has been a phenomenal humanist mentor. Not only did the United faculty respect my humanist approach, but my classmates engaged me with consideration and curiosity.

My goal as a Humanist Chaplain is to move through the world with training, credentials, and effectiveness equal to any traditional religious minister. United has the ideal training to facilitate that dialogue and vocation. I am excited to see how these innovative programs increase awareness of humanism, improve cultural conversation, and help us work together to live into the shared goal of helping heal the world.

The concentration includes four courses; Humanist Worldviews: Then & Now (pre-requisite); Humanist Philosophies: A Journey through All the Big Questions; Humanist Aesthetics & Practices; and Humanist Leadership: How to Run Organizations. These redesigned courses incorporate the foundation of what was formerly the program of The Humanist Institute, consolidating its nine courses into four, bringing in new perspectives reflective of today’s society and inclusive of diverse expressions of humanism.

As the Director of Education, I couldn’t be more pleased with this union. I am especially pleased with this partnership because United had trained a humanist leader who had an immense influence on me and others. My mother, the late Carol Wintermute, attended United in the 1970s, seeking to become a Unitarian Universalist Humanist Minister. Her aspirations led to Co-Deanship at The Humanist Institute, and the education received at United always served as a foundation for her humanist leadership. Now, I hope it can do the same for others.

Humanist Worldviews: Then & Now is currently being offered this spring with Adjunct Faculty Kevin Jagoe and Vanessa Gomez Brake. The pre-requisite 14-week course begins May 19-August 18, 2022, and United will allow students to transfer in credits. To register and learn more, go to