Fall 2002 State of the University Address
One of the most important applications of scholarship in the university community is that it informs our teaching. This kind of scholarship that keeps us current, shapes our thinking, and ultimately impacts the student in the classroom is the same kind of scholarship that I have asked the Board of Trustees to undertake. This year our board will engage in discussion and study that will bring clarity to the meaning of evangelical as it is used in our university mission statement. In addition, I have asked the board to thoughtfully begin to study the issue of human sexuality. In light of biblical teaching, sound theology, and a commitment to grace-filled practice, our board will begin to lead us to a Christ-centered understanding. I have spoken here of a kind of scholarship that informs the teaching of our faculty and the leadership of our board. I also want to speak to the many staff that are here this evening. Our commitment must be to new learning — scholarship if you will, that informs our service. We must model with the faculty and the board a commitment to lifelong learning. Every staff person fills a position and performs a service that can be raised to a higher standard of excellence by active involvement in personal and professional growth. I challenge you this year to involve yourself in any of the many opportunities available to you through the Human Resources office.
Advance diversity, build a culture of scholarship, and embrace God-honoring excellence. Many of you have heard me previously say that “excellence honors God.” I do believe with all my heart that APU must continue to measure all of who we are and all of who we believe God is calling us to be against the highest standards of excellence. With this in mind, the Board of Trustees last spring began a discussion to identify the core values of the university. A full day was given at the board retreat and significant progress was made. And now we need to take the next step as a university community, which is to address the effectiveness of our current mission statement. I am taking the leadership role with John Reynolds’ assistance, to initiate a university-wide discussion that will look at our mission statement, our core values, and an emerging vision for the 21st century. A task force consisting of representatives from the Board, staff, and faculty will lead this course of action. Please be in prayer as we move ahead in this important process.
When I think about excellence at APU, one of the most important standards of excellence that primarily lies with administrators, deans, department chair, and supervisors, is the process of hiring new employees. As you may know, all full-time faculty have a final interview with both the provost and the president, and all full-time staff at the director’s level and above are interviewed by a member of the President’s Cabinet. While it is true that I ask several general questions related to a faculty member’s area of study and classroom methodology, and I ask staff questions about their span of care and scope of responsibilities, I usually expect that these questions will have been covered before they make it to the final interview. Therefore, much of the interview is clearly and precisely focused on that faculty or staff person’s relationship with God, their faith, their discipleship, and their scholarship. As many of you in this room can attest, I ask every new employee about their willingness to enter into dialogue with students about their journey toward Christ. I usually ask them this specific question: “If a student were to approach you after class or during work with a question about how to accept Jesus as Savior, how would you respond to that student, and how would you support their spiritual journey?” I expect that those of you involved in the interview process will ask similar faith questions. Commitment to God-honoring excellence must include a commitment by all of us in this room to our students’ spiritual journey and to our own journey of growth and obedience. We must as a faculty and staff community recognize the tremendous responsibility placed in our hands by God for the spiritual journey of all of our students, both traditional undergraduate, and our large and growing adult-student population.
Another important step in moving the university strongly behind commitments that we have made to raise the bar of excellence is the university’s ability to accurately and adequately align financial resources. One of the stumbling blocks to this has been the fact that our strategic plan runs out five or six years into the future, but our budget process barely extends 12-14 months. This year, Joan Singleton, our CFO, has committed to move the university into a multiple-year budget process. Many of you in this room are the budget officers for your department or school, and your enthusiastic support will be necessary in helping the university embrace this standard of excellence.
Advance diversity, build a culture of scholarship, embrace God-honoring excellence — and finally, live out truthful and effective communication. Again, let me say that much progress was made in raising the bar of effective communication in our community this last year. I want to thank Dave McIntire, Ed.D., the faculty moderator, David Borgeson, the out-going Staff Council chair, and all of you who served on standing committees, task forces, councils, and special project teams, for your commitment to full disclosure and effective communication. This year the IMT department, in an effort to build on this goal of better communication, has established a new webpage entitled, “APU Talk.” This is simply a new iteration of the good old suggestion box. Tomorrow morning, John Reynolds will send an APU everyone with the link and a general invitation to all of our faculty and staff community to share any concern, comment, or encouragement. This is an important piece as we embrace the value of adult-to-adult conversation within this community.
For just a moment, I want us to think about communication outside the APU community. In the coming weeks and months, we will have several opportunities to engage in a process of listening to our Azusa neighbors as we dialogue over the university master plan. Last year, I was intentional about being in the Azusa community one or two times a week, meeting our neighbors, talking with local business people, trying to catch a sense of who they are and who they perceive us to be. As we listen to the heartbeat of our neighborhoods, we may even find a strong connection to the call of God on our life. This year in my Walkabout group, I met one such student. Rebecca Ylvisaker and Ben Gaines are graduating seniors, engaged to be married next June. Rebecca and Ben listened to the call of God on their hearts, and this last year reached out to the more than 50 children living in the Lime Street neighborhood, just behind Arby’s, in what is most certainly, one of the most needy neighborhoods in the city. Ben and Rebecca earned the right to represent the love of Christ by sponsoring Saturday soccer games. Although Rebecca is from Bellevue, Washington, and Ben is from Detroit, Michigan, their June wedding will take place here in Southern California, so the children and families of this community can share in their special day. They have even tentatively identified that same Lime Street neighborhood as the place they would like to begin their married life. Living out truthful and effective communication can have this same kind of powerful effect, both inside the APU community and outside the APU community. Please join me in thanking Ben and Rebecca who are here tonight.
Okay. I need to bring closure, but I have not yet told you about Alice Watkins, Ph.D., our dean emeritus, and her journey with Azusa Unified School District. I have not unpacked how thrilled I am for the more than $26 million of construction that is currently underway on the student post office, the new residence hall, and the Duke Academic Complex. I did not get a chance to say, “Yeah God,” for the U.S. News and World Report recognition that came last year, the approval of our doctorate in physical therapy, and the many accreditations that came for several of our departments. What I do want to take time to do, however, is revisit one more time this historical tree planted by God, whose roots run deep.
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