Partnering with Our Community

by Patricia S. Anderson, Ph.D.

Recently, I talked to a college administrator who enthusiastically reported that his college had purchased 200 acres on the city's outskirts to build a new campus. The city borders the current campus on all sides. The new campus will offer opportunity for growth far into the future. I sensed the excitement as my colleague described the opportunities that would await the college in its move. There would be space for residence halls, classrooms, athletic fields, offices, and just walking around space. But what about the hundreds of colleges that, because of history and opportunity, find themselves in the middle of a city or suburb?

Some universities have struggled with a town and gown relationship over the years with issues of parking, campus growth, and community communication. California colleges are in the midst of a surge of incoming students that will not slow for at least another 15 years. So, how does a university expand its presence in a city without alienating citizens? We accomplish this by partnering with the city in ways that draw the best from both. Where the university has expertise and human capital, we seek to assist the city and its resources to do more than could be done alone.

Land purchases and sales have provided challenges for APU over the last two decades. The university bought and sold land as it strived to maintain a vision for growth balanced against financial constraints. Some might wonder why a university in the urban sprawl of the second largest city of the world would stay in the city. We do so because of our value for and tradition of service-based, experiential education. Our teaching and scholarship are always informed by practice. We realize that partnerships with Azusa’s vital people and groups enrich learning. APU is not an isolated enclave where students study behind walls. Rather, students undertake service to our community through the Offices of Campus Ministries and Community Service Learning. These offices work with students and faculty in identifying partnership opportunities in the city. While an APU student tutors a child, plans games and activities to supervise children before school, or assists a high school student with writing a resume, that student learns how to develop relationships, counsel opportunities in the city. While an APU student tutors a child, plans games and activities to supervise children before school, or assists a high school student with writing a resume, that student learns how to develop relationships, counsel informally, and gain understanding from another person. In this social exchange, each partner provides something that the other can use.

Students have been involved in area elementary and high schools for several years through the C.H.A.M.P. (College Headed and Mighty Proud) Program for fourth grade students, tutoring in the sixth grade, and student achievement and science laboratory programs for high school students. Our students march in the Azusa Golden Days parade, plant trees, and clean grounds. APU’s Community Counseling Centers and the Neighborhood Wellness Center provide counseling services and preventive health care for families. The School of Business and Management’s venture with the city created the first information technology program in a city-owned building. The program provides students experienced in Website development and marketing as a resource to local business owners.

Another growing partnership involves graduates from Azusa high schools considering Azusa Pacific for their college experience. We would like more graduating students from these high schools to select APU. Azusa graduates attending APU provide another link when they take their education in the liberal arts or professional studies and return to work in the community as teachers, nurses, computer programmers, or businesspersons. We are delighted that the Celebrate Azusa Citizens scholarships are given in honor of Nancy Moore, a dedicated Azusa Unified School District administrator who embodied partnerships with the community and with Azusa Pacific University. When Azusa residents see APU expanding, we hope they note how all of us can benefit from the growth. As partners, we see the value of each other's contributions. What is good for the city is good for APU and vice versa. And I would rather be in Azusa than on 200 acres of rolling land because here we have the opportunity to demonstrate the Christian values we hold dear