APU Launches Zephyr Point Tahoe Study Away Program

In January 2020, 12 Azusa Pacific University students will travel to picturesque Lake Tahoe, where they will spend the spring as the inaugural class of APU’s new Zephyr Point study away program. The program focuses on the connection between the humanities and natural sciences, allowing students to explore the interaction between modern society and the environment.

Program director David Williams designed the semester in three phases. In the first, students will go on an introductory back-country trip. “I’d love to see students with zero outdoor experience attend,” Williams said. “If you want to learn how to travel in God’s creation safely and ethically, it’s an amazing place to do that.” Students will explore Lake Tahoe and the surrounding areas to the fullest, while hiking, skiing, mountain-biking, paddle-boarding, kayaking, and swimming.

During the academic portion of the semester, students will take a humanities class on nature, and they can choose their electives from required general education courses. The class selection offered at Zephyr Point makes it possible for students from any major to study there. Special course offerings are designed for kinesiology majors who can benefit from the unique environment for their training.In the final component of the semester, Williams will lead a five-day trip to Yosemite Valley, where students will combine their knowledge from the first two phases to learn in nature.

Williams created the semester with Ryan McKenzie, Zephyr Point director of program ministries. “This is for students looking to break away from the campus experience, to get out of the city and spend a semester at Lake Tahoe, which provides space and time to explore personal depth and growth in who you are in the kingdom of God,” he said. Zephyr Point Conference Center has offered Christians an environment of serenity since 1924.

“Here, the fabric is thin between heaven and earth,” McKenzie said. “At Tahoe, we come face to face with God as He reveals Himself through His creation.”

Cost for the Zephyr Point semester will be the same as a traditional semester at APU. There are no extra charges and scholarships transfer. In addition, unlike most study away programs, students will have employment opportunities during the semester. “Students can work at the conference center in hospitality, foodservice, housekeeping, maintenance, and administration,” McKenzie said. “We host lots of Christian conferences and students will have the opportunity to see behind the scenes what goes into making a religious nonprofit work.”

Over the course of the semester, Zephyr Point students will partner with other APU students in the Sacramento study away program, which focuses on public administration and policy writing. “Lake Tahoe provides the perfect location for students to examine environmental issues quite broadly – historically, philosophically, biologically, theologically. Sacramento provides these students with opportunities to work on policies regarding specific issues like water rights in the West,” Williams said.

After this spring, Williams said the Zephyr Point program aims to expand its size. “We envision having 30-40 students per semester,” he said. “Each semester would consist of 12 APU students, along with students from other schools in the Council of Christian Colleges & Universities.” He envisions the program as a similar size to APU’s former High Sierra program.

Williams worked at High Sierra for 13 years. He said the new program offers students a similar experience in an even more beautiful location. “When you’re at these awe-inspiring sites like Lake Tahoe, it tends to raise your game academically and spiritually because you’re surrounded by something that’s just so awe inspiring every day,” he said. “We’ve been able to harness the reverence that’s inspired by Tahoe and connect it to a living learning community. I know this setting will be powerful and efficacious in the development of students’ lives in mind, body, and spirit.”