Graduating seniors face real and perceived pressure from multiple sources as they wrap up their final year of college, and many want to be better prepared for life beyond campus. APU’s NEXT program comes alongside them, addressing a wide range of issues and ensuring a smooth transition into the next phase of their lives. This new program, an extension of the former Omega program, launched last spring with its first conference on February 23, 2016, a Ted Talk-like format that featured seven speakers and drew more than 220 seniors seeking the tools to succeed after graduation.

Keynote speaker Megan Fate Marshman ’09, director of student ministry resources, kicked off the event with the topic of Purpose, establishing a firm foundation for students regarding their identity in Christ. By reminding students that they are not defined by any job or other worldly measurement of success, she set the tone for the other speakers, who presented complementary advice and practical tools for attendees. Ed Barron, M.A. ’12, Ed.D., chair and assistant professor in the Department of Leadership and Organizational Psychology, spoke about You. He urged students to let go and walk through life with an open grip, ready to encounter God; to step back and reflect on their lives, so they can see what God is doing; and to lay hold of the plan God has for their lives. Matt Browning, M.Ed. ’94, Ed.D., associate vice president for internationalization, talked about Friends, explaining how different life will be as relationships shift, and how to cope and hope with the change. Wendi (Waldron ’94) Dykes, assistant professor in the Department of Leadership and Organizational Psychology, followed with an address about Jobs, including how to find the right job, how to keep it, and how to grow in it. Jacqueline (Spelts ’02) Roth, executive vice president of Bolton & Company, presented Money, and advised students to set a budget, automate their expenses, and save, give, and live. Michael Bruner, Ph.D., assistant professor, School of Theology, spoke about Home, describing it as both a point of origin and a destination. Finally, Albert Tate, Board of Trustees member and senior pastor of Fellowship Monrovia, explored the Church as Gospel-centered, multiethnic, and intergenerational, culminating with a call for each student to intentionally build relationships with people who are different from them.

This inaugural event set the tone for a new direction and focus for graduating seniors that provides a plethora of practical resources to empower them and give them every advantage for success. After the conference, attendees were invited to sign up for the NEXT Discussion, a five-week, small-group session that meets once a week with a faculty member to discuss issues relevant to transitioning out of college, including: Taking Care of Yourself, Working the 9 to 5, Developing a Post-college Community, Managing Money, and Transitioning Well. The initial session enrolled 60 students and engaged them in practical dialogue about what to expect and how to prepare. Kalli Frampton ’14, alumni and student coordinator in the Office of Alumni Relations, oversees NEXT and intends to grow the program with more conferences, discussion sessions, and other resources and events that meet the needs of outgoing APU students. “We have received an incredible amount of positive feedback from these first two events,” she said. “Students have told us this is exactly what they needed, and that they feel so much more confident as they look ahead to graduation and beyond.”