Fall 2002 State of the University Address
Most of you in this room know exactly what I am talking about in regard to change because the APU community has been living at what feels like the epicenter of change. As we have tried to responsibly embrace unanticipated growth, strategic initiatives, and new vision, many of us have at times felt like we are barely keeping up. Let me take this moment to personally thank each of you in this room for your dedication to the God First mission of this university and the way in which you have all responded to change with God-honoring excellence. I really do want you to hear me on this — the sacrificial service and commitment by this faculty and staff remains one of the core motivators for this president and our Board of Trustees. We are deeply thankful for the many ways you have responded to meet the challenge, solve the problem and advance the mission of the university. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
So, what do I see for this year? Let’s begin with the verse that is on your table.
Blessed are those who trust in the Lord
and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.
They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
with roots that reach deep into the water.
Such trees are not bothered by the heat
or worried by long months of drought.
Their leaves stay green, and they go right on
producing delicious fruit.
I used this verse in my inaugural and last year at this same Kickoff dinner. As a community, we will stay with this verse for some time. I believe the promise and the metaphor strike directly at the heart of who God has called us to be. Tonight I want to highlight four areas where I believe our roots need to reach deep as we witness first-hand the way God unpacks the next chapter in our history.
Last year I asked for this community to focus on several strategic initiatives. I want to thank you for the many efforts you made as administrators, deans, directors, department chair, faculty, and staff with those initiatives. One of the lessons that I have learned as a new president is the importance of staying on task and clearly within mission. This year I am asking each of you to commit with me to these four emphases: advance diversity, grow a culture of scholarship, embrace God-honoring excellence, and live out truthful and effective communication. These four, taken from the great start we made last year, will continue to frame my leadership and the direction of this university.
Across recent years, significant steps have been made within the APU community to advance God-honoring diversity. In the last five years, the number of ethnic faculty has increased from 10 percent to 16 percent. When both undergraduate and graduate student enrollments are combined, more than 25 percent of our nearly 7,000 students come from minority populations. I am particularly pleased that the search committee for the special assistant for university diversity has worked through a significant pool of applicants and have identified and interviewed this week, our two final candidates. I expect an announcement to be made soon regarding the selection for this very important position.
Recently the university, working with the consulting firm, Scannell and Kurz, reviewed our current recruitment and financial aid policies in light of our long-term goals, including this goal of healthy diversity within our student body. One of the most significant findings by Scannell and Kurz was the fact that our current undergraduate demographic recruitment profile excludes large portions of the Southern California evangelical minority population. This is particularly important when you consider that the predicted increase in new students that form the 2002-10 West Coast tidal wave will be primarily students of color. The President’s Cabinet and Academic Cabinet, after reviewing this study, have agreed that the demographic footprint of our recruitment effort must be expanded. This responsibility has fallen primarily to Deana Porterfield, associate vice president for enrollment. Working with our administration, academic deans, and the admissions committee, Deana will begin to craft an enrollment management plan that opens the door for these minority populations. Increases in the number of students from minority populations is not enough to move us as a university to where we need to be with diversity — we must also increase the number of multicultural faculty and staff. And, we must specifically target retention programs and support services for the unique needs of these student populations if we are to reach this goal of a richly diverse university community.
While we are on this topic, let me just comment briefly about enrollment growth. As most of you know, the growth in our undergraduate population has primarily come through a significant increase in student retention. As a matter of fact, the data shows that our freshman to sophomore retention rate has risen over the last five years to just under 80 percent, and our six-year graduation rate now stands at 62 percent, up from 48 percent just a few years ago. I do not foresee undergraduate enrollment continuing to rise at this pace. I believe we are at the point where gains from retention will level out and the university’s undergraduate FTE will increase annually much closer to the 75 new students per year identified in our Strategic Plan.
In addition to advancing diversity, we must also continue to grow a culture of scholarship. Last year the provost and the dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences chaired a task force composed of both graduate and undergraduate faculty. The purpose of this task force was to form a draft statement that would begin the process of defining what scholarship means at Azusa Pacific University. I want to thank David Weeks, Ph.D., Pat Anderson, Ph.D., and the seven faculty members who served for their diligence in pushing through with this draft statement. This year Michael Whyte, Ph.D., and I will host a series of occasional lunches to have conversation with any faculty member who would like to comment on this draft. Next spring I will forward these comments to the faculty senate for their input and then to the Board of Trustees for their approval.