WASC Committee Evaluates Faith Integration

by University Relations

As the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) accreditation review nears completion with the Educational Effectiveness Review (EER) slated for October 10–12, 2012, the APU community gears up to present evidence of progress toward supporting its goals of faith integration, God-honoring diversity, intentional internationalization, and transformational scholarship.

Focusing on faith integration, theme leader Ben Nworie, Ph.D., professor of special education, guided the process to clarify the concept for the APU community and helped coordinate collaborative efforts between offices and departments to incorporate a developmental programming model of faith integration, including the Faith Integration Guidebook. Grounding the endeavor, the university defines faith integration as: informed reflection on and discovery of Christian faith within the academic disciplines, professional programs, and lived practice, resulting in the articulation of Christian perspectives on truth and life in order to advance the work of God in the world.

The Office of Faith Integration and the Faith Integration Council (FIC) work together to provide educational opportunities for faculty to advance a campus-wide understanding of faith integration and enhance APU’s effectiveness in this area. Graduate-level courses, seminars, workshops, and online resources allow new and veteran faculty members to engage in the foundational practices of faith integration. Evaluations show that faculty members have permeated their courses with aspects of faith at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. In addition, the Office of Faith Integration partners with Student life leaders to provide opportunities for faculty and staff to engage in faith-living activities that ensure every student is educated from an evangelical Christian worldview, and that interactions with faculty and staff develop their mind and shape their character in a manner that reflects God First.

Students, however, come to APU at different phases of their spiritual journey, from different faith traditions (including no faith tradition at all), and at different places in their development. APU takes intentional steps to enhance the partnership between faculty and staff to ensure a consistent, holistic, and seamless Christian environment in which students can develop spiritually. To accomplish this, five spiritual development outcomes—Explaining the Gospel, Embodied Faith, Corporate Worship, Redemptive Relationships, and Spiritual Disciplines—guide cocurricular programs to deepen and strengthen students’ Christian faith during their APU undergraduate experience.

Student evaluations affirm the model as a success as they consistently rank faith integration with high marks. The WASC visiting team echoed the students’ statements at the conclusion of the 2011 Capacity and Preparatory Review (CPR) visit, commending the university “for the extended and sustained efforts it has made in the area of faith integration,” noting that the university has “developed an extensive infrastructure to support faith-learning and faith-living initiatives across the curricular and cocurricular landscape.” The WASC Commission also commended APU for being “clearly seen as a leader in… the world of faith-based higher education.”

Despite the praise and progress, APU plans to continue efforts to increase student participation through the Center for Student Action, the Center for Academic Service-Learning and Research, discipleship ministries, and spiritual disciplines. Ongoing assessments and research drive the movement to infuse faith into the cocurricular experience at APU. “Faith integration is not a fad or phase, it is a theme, a concept, a teaching, a learning that is fundamental to who we are and what we do as faculty and staff in Christian higher education,” said Vicky Bowden, DNSc, RN, professor of nursing and WASC accreditation liaison officer. “We will continue to explore, develop, and refine how to integrate faith into the ‘calling’ of those who choose APU for their education or vocation.”