Jon R. Wallace, DBA, President
Good morning. A lot of planning and thought went into this morning, and it is in some ways different than how we usually do this.
On the day we filmed at Hippos [in Israel], I think there were five or six of us who went up late in the day. It was 105 to 110 degrees when we started the long walk from the road down by the Sea of Galilee up this trail to Hippos.
Let me tell you something about Hippos. In the time of Christ, it is one of the 10 cities of the Decapolis on the northern part of the Sea of Galilee. It has autonomy. It gets to even print its own money, but it is a pagan city. In the revolt, about 67 AD, members in that city offered up some of the Jewish citizens to the government in a terrible act of betrayal. But something happens in Hippos. Under Constantine, it becomes a Christian city.
Today, they have excavated eight Christian churches, and from the fourth century to the middle of the eighth century, for 400 years, the doors open. Hippos will be absolutely destroyed in the middle of the eighth century by a massive earthquake that destroys a number of cities in that part of the world, and it never comes back to life after that. Residents move out. As a matter of fact, the excavation showed pillars lying on their sides. But for those 400 years, it is the seat of the bishop of the church.
For those 400 years, [the city of Hippos] is absolutely a culture changer and a difference maker for the Church, for the growing Church in that part of the world. Maybe those citizens were clearly aware that when Jesus, in Matthew 5, opens up the Beatitudes and is looking for an example, he points to Hippos; maybe that’s what drew those citizens to who God had called them to be—to influence their culture.
Let me tell you what we are going to do in the minutes that I have left. I am going to go through some specific goals that we’ve laid out for the next 9–10 months. As a matter of fact, we’re going to do something interesting this year. On May 7, 2013, we have scheduled that day when we recognize those employees who have a long tenure. We’re going to combine that event with a celebration and report how we did with these goals.
Last week I met with the President’s Council, 22 of us. We brought our strategic plans and goals, and everybody brought their list, but they had to identify their top three goals. I knew, by the way, that 80 goals would probably take us through lunch, and we wouldn’t get the faculty workshop going. We had a robust conversation and identified 21 that represent senior leadership goals, but it doesn’t mean that they are not representative of specific goals you may have to advance Mission, Academic Reputation, Valuing People, and Financial Excellence. [Shared Vision 2022]
So we are going to move through these, and I want you to be aware of where we are going. In the middle of our mission statement are these 14 words: “disciples and scholars who seek to advance the work of God in the world.” I think that when you begin to think about our call and the 47 words that represent our mission, [these words] really speak to the heart of who God has called us to be.
Our first goal is to complete the values and ethos process with the APU board. A couple weeks ago, all employees of the university received this university identity document, “What We Believe,” with a letter from me. We intentionally mailed that to every person because we were all involved in that remarkable conversation clarifying and bringing distinction to who we believe God has called us to be—the identity of the university. Please read through these. Please make this an important part of your journey at Azusa Pacific, and then agree with me to affirm, support, and sustain them. At the September board meeting, we’ll give this to the board and report on the really good work of the community. And we will say that there are recommendations moving forward on how to make these come alive so that they are more than just a document that sits on the shelf and gains dust.
You may remember the Values Enrichment Task Force, the Hiring Task Force, the task force on the implication of this and the identity of students, and the Faith Integration Task Force brought some great recommendations, and we are going to give those to the board. We are going to let them look at the hard work of this community.
We also have another goal under the Mission door. The higher education community of North America stood up and took notice particularly on two events that happened in the last 12 months. One was the University of Virginia, where the board moved with some deliberation and haste in a decision related to senior administration. But I think the one that really galvanized American higher education was Pennsylvania State University, when the Freeh report came out and identified that there were apparently places in the university where the core values of Penn State didn’t penetrate ahead of the core values of that particular area. Higher education stood up and said maybe there is a place for the board to have appropriate insight and inquiry so that this kind of thing doesn’t happen again. I’ve had conversations with Peggy Campbell, our board chair, for a new board committee on institutional integrity that would not just deal with this, but would look at how we handle risk at the university, and how the board revisits this on a regular basis to make sure it’s current. I think that will bring Azusa Pacific once again into a place of best practices where a lot of private schools, and most of the Christian colleges, are saying, “I wonder what Azusa is doing about this.” I’m pretty excited that the board is willing to have that conversation.
Under Mission, I put a third goal: the election year. I remember 2008; it was a great year. More college students voted in 2008 than we had seen in a number of elections before that. I also remember how divided the conversation was, and I remember that members of our student life leadership and many in our academic community at Azusa Pacific said, “Let’s take a step and see if we can’t carve out civility.” I’ve got to tell you, in the last four years, I think both parties have been guilty of conducting a conversation that is pretty divisive. I know I’m talking right now on the last day of the Republican National Convention, and I’m not making any kind of political statement here today. I’m saying, I think as a community, we can be missional by how we model this conversation for our community. I think our conversation can absolutely guarantee the constitutional right of free expression. I think our conversation must be robust because we’re an academic community and we’re supposed to have important and robust conversations. I think our conversation can be tethered and built on the Christian command to love our neighbor. Around those three values, I believe our mission can move forward, so I put that down as a goal.
Finally, the last goal under Mission is what we are going to do related to our commitment to growing our international presence. We’re asking John Reynolds and the international collaboration committee to come up with specific goals and an execution plan for that.
The second door, the second pillar for moving forward after Mission is Academic Reputation. I love that quote from [Abraham] Lincoln. Lincoln says, “Your character is the tree and your shadow is what people think of it.” I’ve had some conversations with people who say, “Jon, it bothers me that you keep talking about reputation. It seems like Christians shouldn’t worry about their reputation. That kind of blows with the wind.” I guess I have to agree with that, except I have to say this: In higher education, and in Christian higher education, I believe there are places whose academic muscle has given them an appropriate, excellent reputation. It does come back to who we are, our identity, our character, and a strong academic setting. We have a WASC visit in 40 days. I think it’s going to be a home run. I’m an optimistic guy, but seriously, there is a lot of work that has gone into that visit. Please be in prayer. For those of you who are involved in that visit, it will be a significant statement about our academic reputation.
More than 65 white papers were submitted by this community to support the comprehensive campaign, which we are launching even as I speak. I want to thank those of you who submitted papers. Now we have to go through the process of seeing which ones best fit with the comprehensive campaign, which ones best fit with other kinds of budget funding, and which ones might fit with the grant funding. So one of our goals is to integrate and prioritize those white papers with the strategic plan going forward.
Under Academic Reputation, we need to successfully complete year two of the [NCAA] Division II candidacy. I am so impressed with the conversations I’ve had at the national level with the NCAA Division II presidents. I am impressed that they’ve actually reduced the number of competition days that take students out of the classroom. I’m impressed that they have specific goals in place for the student athlete. I think that God is directing us to the D-II not just because our Christian witness will shine brightly, but because it is going to strengthen who we are understood to be within the academic arena.
Finally, under Academic Reputation, Dr. Mark Stanton and I had a conversation with Dr. David Weeks. I am strongly passionate about seeing our Honors Program becoming an Honors College. I’ve asked Dr. Stanton and Dr. Weeks if we can move that conversation forward to create an Honors College. I don’t want to get ahead of those academic leaders, it is their turf to cover, but should we get to that place, you realize that the potential rise of that academic Honors College would be larger than many Christian colleges. Imagine the impact of what God would allow us to do. We are going to report on that and its progress in May.
Dr. Mark Stanton and I agreed that within the landscape of higher education—in the U.S.News & World Report, [The Pricenton Review, and other reports]—there are academic dashboard indicators that forward a perception of quality. Mark has assumed the responsibility with the Academic Affairs Committee of the board to identify those indicators and come up with a strategy to move on those we identify are important to our reputation.
Our third door is Valuing People. All people matter to God, and if we’re a community of people, touching other people, witnessing to our neighbors, and having a positive impact, we think that this is an important goal. Several months ago, Dr. David Bixby, John Reynolds, Dr. Stanton, and I had a week away to think about the future of the university and we actually had an “ah-ha” moment. We went through a morning of deep reflection and a contemplative exercise, and it occurred to us that this is a pretty rare community. Azusa Pacific tends to attract people with leadership gifts. Now, your leadership gift may not necessarily mean that you are the next president or the next board chair, but I certainly believe that God brought you here and that this is a deep pool of leadership gifts. We want to create a plan for developing the leadership gifts of APU employees. I don’t know what that means yet, but I do know this: People from around the country and from around the world come for several of our academic programs because they are the best of the best at developing leaders. If we can do that for undergraduate, doctoral, and APS students, we can certainly do it for faculty and staff. That is a goal that we will report on.
You may have heard of the Open Hire [system] by Silk Road. In valuing people, we really think we need to value applicants. We had a goal several years ago to become the preferred destination for employment in the San Gabriel Valley. I think we’ve become that, but I’ve got to tell you that people are really frustrated with the application process. [Open Hire] is a 24-7 process of accessibility and availability. I am excited for its implementation.
Over the last four years, in the midst of this significant financial downturn, salaries were improved 10 percent. That’s not really good enough for us. We really do believe we need to find ways to bring resources to bear on both salaries and benefits, and although we are not yet there on the benefit side—I mean I can’t announce anything—I will say this: Bob Johansen tells me that we have been reviewing what we are currently looking at for the cost of insurance next year, and it is probably our smallest increase that we’ve seen in a long time. Let me announce today that effective November 1, 2012, all permanent full-time and part-time employees will receive a 3 percent salary increase. Congratulations.
In valuing students, we need to be more transfer friendly. We have too many hurdles. We’ve talked to too many people who have transferred to Azusa and they say it is the hardest thing in the world. We will launch an Office for Nontraditional Enrollment Service. It’s not really called this, but it’s kind of like the one stop shop for nontraditional undergraduates, especially those who are at our regional sites. We think that would absolutely serve them better. We also want to launch an Office of Graduate Support Services. That’s really a student life and business affairs deal. We think that by paying attention to student needs, we are going to value people.
When you leave today, you are going to receive the Athletics Family Pass. We’re doing this because we just think that you need to be a part of what we are doing in a God-honoring athletic program. The pass is good for four people for any regular-season athletic event. You’re going to see this go on sale for $25, and there will be a whole bunch of athletes outside. Just trust me, when you leave, they will swarm on you. So let me say this: I also think the way we value people is how we value guests to our campus, and while I’m huge on athletic tradition, I just have to tell you that one of my great dreams is that visiting teams and visiting fans will experience the kingdom of God when they are on this campus, so my request is show up to everything and reflect the life of Christ and shine the light of truth. You will get that pass today.
We said that the fourth pillar was Financial Excellence, and I want to thank Bob [Johansen] for his leadership in finance since he’s arrived. We’ve had some challenges in the last four years. We had a failed Irish bank. We did the best practice in issuing bonds and got into default credit swaps. State and federal funding have absolutely taken a hit. You probably read about the question of whether the Cal Grant was going to even be in existence this year.
But let me talk a little bit about the accomplishments. On June 30, $9 million went to two reserves, the fiscal reserve of $6.5 million and a debt reserve of $2.5 million. We’re actually accelerating the debt payment at the university. We decreased the debt at the university over the last four years by $25 million. We had this other thing called noncash liabilities; Bob came up with an ingenious solution, and by God’s hand we took $25 million in noncash liabilities off our balance sheet. It was a huge success. We increased revenue over the last four years by $46 million. And we strengthened enrollments across all areas.
Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, who is an APU alum and has two daughters at APU, spoke on our behalf and on behalf of every AICCU school, the private colleges in California, and the Cal Grant was saved. It was saved because the mission of the private schools in the state of California was articulated by Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla. Today we have a Cal Grant, though diminished, but we have a Cal Grant. It was not certain for much of last year. Those are some huge accomplishments.
Let me tell you what our financial goals are for this year. We want to do the same thing on June 30, 2013, that we did on June 30, 2012, which is send $9 million to reserve—$6.5 million to fiscal reserve, and $2.5 million to debt reserve. We have a goal to have 10 percent of the operating budget of Azusa Pacific in a cash reserve. We want to grow revenue this year by 4 percent. We want to execute the first steps of the comprehensive campaign. On September 13, Dr. Bixby and Louise Furrow and I, and a faculty member, are going to have a conversation with a group of donors who have previously not given to the university. We’re taking one of those white paper ideas with us. Please be in prayer. I know that God owns the cattle on a thousand hills. I would like God to direct to us men and women who are caught up with the vision of who we have been called to be.
We have some enrollment goals to support our financial plan. We intend to limit undergraduate enrollment growth on this campus for a couple reasons. It’s not sustainable to keep building buildings to support growing freshman classes until we have other financial bases covered. As a matter of fact, we’ve seen significant growth at our regional sites. Did you know that 25 percent of our enrollment is at regional sites now, and 38 percent of graduate enrollment is at regional sites? We are seeing God bless exponential growth, connecting faculty and students in faith integration at regional sites. I think this is a doable goal.
The fall 2012 APOU class that comes in just a week or two is the largest in APOU history and exceeds their enrollment goal for that enrollment period. I really believe we have reached the tipping point and, remember, we are doing this because I believe that the higher education model is broken. I believe families cannot afford a $140,000 education without significant financial resources, and APOU allows us to do a Christ-centered mission at the highest standards of academic excellence for one-third the cost. We’re going to find a way to make that successful. Count on it.
Now, that is what I hope God allows us to do. I want to tell you why, which by the way, is far more important to me than what. You see what Hippos did, how God used that place. Hippos was a culture changer and a difference maker. We think that supporting those four goals of Mission, Academic Reputation, Valuing People, and Financial Excellence allows us to accomplish the why. APU exists because we believe that God’s redemptive work in the world includes us. Remember that: disciples and scholars advancing God’s work in the world. I believe that each of you are called to be culture changers and difference makers just like those early Christians in Hippos. I believe that every faculty member, in every class, engages in God’s redemptive work in the world by instructing and teaching current and future culture changers and difference makers. I believe every staff member, on every workday, engages in God’s redemptive work, serving with God-honoring excellence and thereby empowering our community to be difference makers. What happens here over the next four or five days will prove it. Thank you, by the way. A lot of you are working extra hours and overtime to get [Orientation] done.
I want to show you a video that most of you have not seen. This video tells the story that we give to undergraduate parents and students who are thinking about admission. I want you to know that we could do this theme for graduate and adult students at any regional center. I want you to watch this video, and then I’m going to tell you what I think the core values around it are. By the way, it was done by several film students and a couple of alumni. [Watch the abbreviated Visit Azusa Pacific video.]
I love that video, and often when a visitor comes to campus I’ll sneak in and the admissions people are gracious to let me get in the front of the line. I like it because Dr. Michael Bruner, Dr. Craig Keen, Dr. Kimberly Battle-Walters Denu, and Dr. Matt Browning, and students Ricky, Lauren, James, and Jamari, basically say, this is a community of culture changers and difference makers, and if you want to be one of those, come here. Ricky says, “I will never forget that moment in class when this thing broke for me and I got it.” Do you know that happens every single day on this campus, at our regional centers, at the High Sierra site, at South Africa? That happens every single day.
When we showed the graduation video, Carter Posladek, last year’s student body president, said this: “We gather here not to come to, but to go forth as movers and shakers equipped to do more than we ever could imagine.” That’s what the student body president said when he could have said anything else to those graduates.
This Sunday is the Orientation worship service. When [new students and their families] come in, they are going to get a piece of sidewalk chalk. I’m going to tell them that God has called them to a journey that means they’re going to be culture changers and difference makers. I’m going to ask them to find a place on campus, draw a circle, and make that their altar of obedience. I’m going to show them this picture. I’m going to say, I want you to get your son or daughter, or if you don’t have parents here then grab someone else’s, and get in a circle. When you come back to this campus, that can be your place to gather and remember what God has called you to be. I’m telling you this because on Monday when you come to work, I hope there are circles all over campus. I hope they are outside and not on carpets. I want you to know we are going to keep telling people that God has called them to make a difference.
On your seat is a bag. Can you take it out? Inside is a compass. I was privileged to do another Walkabout a couple weeks ago with a group of students. We took the compass out when we wanted to know what bearing we were headed. We were hiking uphill all day, one of the most challenging days I’ve had in the wilderness, 12 hours of hiking in full sun. We needed to make a decision on where the lake was, where we were going to spend the next three days. We got out the map, but what we really needed to know was from where we were to where we were going, what is the true direction we must travel. A compass is about direction. A map is about a plan. I’m asking for you to put this [compass] on your desk—that you would think about Christ-centered Mission, Academic Reputation, Valuing People, and Financial Excellence. I don’t care what your job is. I don’t care if you’re faculty or staff, part time or full time. I don’t care if you work with undergraduate, graduate, or accelerated students. For me, everyone is on board with those four doors. On the tag, I’m going to ask you to write a word or a phrase that will help you stay true to the direction that God is calling you as a culture changer and a difference maker. Here is what I’m going to put on mine: Full devotion. For me, I have a tendency to slide away from full devotion. There are days when it’s hard to come to work, but then I remember that God has called me to this remarkable thing—as a husband, a father, in my ministry and role in a local church, and as an employee in a confessional community like Azusa Pacific. My call is to full devotion in every one of those areas—to do it with excellence and not settle for mediocrity—that’s what is on my compass. I want you to choose a phrase that best serves you and have that as a reminder for the rest of the year.
I’m honored that you came this morning and we could start this year as we have before. I love commissioning services, and we’ve had four already with student groups that I’ve been a part of this week. I love standing before God and saying I’m coming to the starting line again. I’m all in, and I’m all in with these people who are all in with me. As best we can for Your honor and Your glory, we’re going that way. I love commissioning services and we are going to end that way today with Peggy praying for us.
We have some special guests today: more than 100 members of the university choir here under the direction of John Sutton. This theme—listen carefully to the words of this song—has followed all the way through from the very first video to the Lincoln reading, the dance, and recognition of those who serve in an uncommon fashion, but represent all of us. It’s about being culture changers and difference makers. It’s about being that place that God has called us to be, to shine the life of Christ and His revealed truth.