At ACU, we believe in not only informing students through their studies, but also forming them into the people God intends them to be. That belief motivates Dr. Tera Harmon’s mindset as assistant professor and director of distance learning for the Graduate School of Theology at ACU. Through her devotion to biblical text and theological history, Tera is equipping students for various mission fields and supporting the discovery of their role in the Kingdom of God. Learn how this ACU graduate-turned-faculty member is making an impact on students in person and online.
Called to ministry
Tera’s childhood was rooted in the church community in her hometown of Los Alamos, New Mexico. Tera’s father and mother both worked in ministry and heavily influenced her devotion to the Lord from a young age. In addition to her parent’s guidance, Tera gratefully recalls how each church member supported the growth of her faith throughout her Christian walk. Because of the encouragement she received, it became evident that the Lord had called her to pursue ministry.
Tera’s Wildcat experience began her freshman year in the College of Biblical Studies. From the start, Tera was interested in exploring ACU’s Bible courses, but wasn’t quite sure how her passion for scripture fit into the span of opportunities provided by the department. As she invested in her coursework and explored how the Bible was originally transcribed, Tera discovered her niche in Biblical text and Greek classes. After graduating with her bachelor’s degree, Tera continued to deepen her interest in church history and received her Master of Divinity from ACU’s College of Biblical Studies in 2007.
From there, Tera attended the Catholic University of America to study patristics, the study of Christian writers and church history, where she completed her Doctor of Philosophy in Church History in 2016. Since graduating with her Ph.D., Tera has been teaching with ACU Online in the Graduate School of Theology. After adjunct teaching part-time for a few years, Tera and her family moved back to Abilene in the fall of 2022 where she currently serves as an assistant professor and the director of distance learning.
Guiding a new generation
As Tera returned to Abilene, she reflected on the impact that her time as a student had on her educational journey. “I found really great mentors as an ACU student who recognized that I could do the academic work required to succeed even before I did,” Tera said. “That is something I’m very aware of, and see the importance of while mentoring students as they find their own vocations.”
While some may think ministry only means becoming a preacher or youth minister, ministry takes many forms. These degree plans not only prepare students for ministry roles in the church, but also equip those interested in a variety of fields—such as marriage and family therapy, chaplaincy, counseling, and even social work. “I encourage students not to hesitate pursuing a theology degree even if they feel like what they want to do doesn’t fall into the category of ministry,” Tera stated. “If you’re interested in doing God’s work, we want to help form you into the type of person who can do that.”
Reaching new communities
As the director of distance learning, Tera has the unique opportunity to work with students in-person and remotely. This allows her to communicate with a variety of faculty and staff members, ensuring the curriculum and student experience is aligned throughout the university’s offerings.
One of her favorite parts of working with on-campus and virtual students is how the Graduate School of Theology can accessibly offer high-class theological education to a diverse and broad range of individuals. Tera has worked with students from across the country and has even been able to bless students who are ministers in Africa who traditionally wouldn’t have the ability to attend classes on campus. Through discussion boards and live forums, students and faculty are able to grow varied perspectives and experiences in their online communities. “As people become more and more accustomed to using platforms like Zoom, they are able to learn virtually from where they are and receive ministerial training,” Tera explained. “Our options of how to approach our courses and support students is expanding and that’s been exciting to witness.”
Forming students’ faith
In the classroom, Tera typically teaches church history, something that many students have not had exposure to, even if they grew up attending church as Christians. She focuses on explaining how the church was developed and how Christianity is tied to historical events that have shaped what religion has looked like throughout our modern world. “Christ came in the middle of history and during messy relationships,” Tera went on. “The church was developed through a very human process, and it’s important to understand that and have it inform the work we do.”
Tera’s main goal as a teacher goes beyond just training students to do certain tasks. She also wants them to become certain types of people, individuals who pay attention to God’s work in the world and act on it. “We want our programs to help students to be formed, not just informed,” she said. While the program’s courses provide an extensive amount of information, it’s foundational to have students develop habits and practices that span more than textual knowledge. In short, Tera wants to teach as she was taught as a student at ACU years ago.
Interested in learning more about how your skills and passions can be used for the Kingdom of God? Visit acu.edu/online or contact us at 855-219-7300 today to find out about our online programs and offerings.