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Graduate Students Gain Increased Support and Resources

by University Relations

Significant growth in the graduate student population over the last decade positions Azusa Pacific as one of the leaders in advanced education. Serving more than 5,000 graduate students each year places Azusa Pacific 55th among all U.S. private, 17th among all religiously affiliated, and 7th among all U.S. private Carnegie-designated doctoral/research institutions. To better serve this substantial segment of the student body, the university hired Patrick Horn, Ph.D., as executive director of graduate and professional student support services. Upon arrival, he focused on the needs of students and faculty and prioritized objectives.

One clear need drove the expansion of the university’s Writing Center services to the regional centers, which serve a large percentage of APU’s graduate and professional students. Based on student surveys and faculty reports, students highly value the support available for writers across disciplines and often travel to the Azusa campus to seek assistance. Excellent writing skills prove critical in every field. The written word often constitutes the first impression and certainly weighs heavily in the reader’s assessment of the writer’s level of competence. From résumés, cover letters, and application essays to reports, emails, client correspondence, and presentations, written communication must be concise and clear to properly convey ideas and concepts. “We hired online Writing Center consultants last May and in-house consultants for two of our regional centers last fall,” said Diane Guido, Ph.D., vice provost for graduate programs and research and history professor, who headed the effort. “We will monitor the process and student responses to inform the decisions we make about expansion of the services to other centers. Students will now be able to access handouts and other reference materials and receive the personal attention and expertise traditionally only offered on the Azusa campus. This is an important initiative for the university as we continue to address the growing needs of graduate scholars.”

In addition to bolstering invaluable resources, Horn also focused on strengthening communications with graduate and professional students. “Part of this effort includes hiring the first director of the Office of Graduate and Professional Student Affairs, Linda Perez,” said Horn.

In her role, Perez facilitates the interpretation of university policies and procedures to students, directs their judicial affairs, serves as the administration’s liaison for a new graduate student government, and assists in the development and communication of university services for this population. The office provides a tangible way of recognizing the impact of graduate and professional students on the entire campus community as well as the global community they will join post-graduation. Supporting this effort, later this spring the APU website will include information specific to graduate and professional student affairs, offering a single point of contact for addressing student affairs issues for this group.

“Through these additional programs and personnel, the university seeks to demonstrate its value for this significant student population, while supporting their academic goals, providing guidance, and advocating their rights. We want all students to experience the full measure of what Christian higher education at Azusa Pacific has to offer, including the privilege of participating in discussions around key issues that affect them,” said Perez.

Addressing students’ desire to exert a stronger voice in administrative decisions that affect their education, the university will form a graduate student government. “APU enrolls nearly as many graduate students as undergraduate,” said Hal DeLaRosby, a doctoral higher education student. “Though both groups require similar support services, the approach and process are very different. A government body provides advocacy for and information to graduate students, embracing all students in the university’s community of scholars and disciples.”

“These developments expand and improve our support of graduate students as they lean into God’s call upon their lives in their chosen professional fields,” said Heather Petridis, vice president for graduate and professional enrollment and student services. “By continuing to invest in the development of our graduate students, we invest in our broader community as individuals become teachers, nurses, social workers, pastors, therapists, and academicians who make a difference in their workplaces, neighborhoods, families, and churches.”

Originally published in the Spring '14 issue of APU Life. Download the full issue (PDF).