With an expanding student body, a new online university, and now NCAA membership, how does Azusa Pacific University stay rooted in its beliefs? For Terry Franson, Ph.D., vice president for student life and dean of students, it is by staying true to our God First motto.
“I picture the university as a big oak tree. As it ages, it gets larger and the branches extend, becoming a solid, massive structure,” said Franson. He explained that these branches relate to anything from student life, athletics, or academic scholarship. But what matters most, he emphasized, is the foundation on which the school is built.
“An oak tree is only as strong as its roots. As we have grown from the Training School for Christian Workers, to Pacific Bible College, then merging with Los Angeles Pacific College, and now as Azusa Pacific University, we have stayed deeply rooted in our mission as a university,” said Franson. With programs such as D-groups, mentoring, chapel, Alpha, and many others, the APU community continues to focus on God, the strongest root. “APU remains a place where the transformation is preeminent and where we continually learn new things.”
The people of APU and the Christ-centered relationships that are formed here are one of the university’s strongest roots. For example, students and professors openly discuss subjects crucial to the student’s growth both in and out of the classroom. “The greatest service is to help students reach their full potential,” said Franson. “Whether it is introducing them to a future career connection, taking extra time to help them on an assignment, or being a mentor, APU faculty and staff encourage students to continue their spiritual growth and live according to God’s purpose for them.”
One of APU’s newest branches is its acceptance into the NCAA Division II. “As Cougar Athletics venture into a whole new playing field, we are being presented with a very exciting opportunity to not only measure ourselves athletically at a different level, but more importantly, be a light to others in how we compete and perform,” said Paul Svagdis, M.A., APU’s head baseball coach. “Our God First values and Christ-centered approach will continue to be the motivation and philosophy on which we recruit and develop young people at APU.”
With the creation of Azusa Pacific Online University (APOU), the institution seeks to accommodate a clear need for affordable, accessible online academic programs that integrate faith development. “The more lives we are able to transform and touch, the more opportunities we have to share the Good News and still stay true to our mission and purpose,” said Franson. APOU is an opportunity for the university to live into its Cornerstones in a new way for students from all walks of life around the world. “Even though we are branching out in more directions, we continue to hold our mission mindset. We are strengthening our core values daily in every aspect of the APU community.”
To make sure APU’s roots remain strong, the university strives to honor a Christian perspective on scholarship, community, and service, and the commitment to sustaining the identity, purpose, and mission that first inspired the Training School for Christian Workers in 1899. “The tree is a by-product of the roots,” said Franson. “APU’s roots are firmly grounded in God, which will allow us to grow and prosper for many years to come.”