As we approach a year since our transition to remote learning, I remain deeply grateful for and impressed by your resilience, adaptability, and perseverance in these unprecedented times. Like you, I am thankful that COVID-19 cases in L.A. County are declining, while vaccination rates are increasing. We are already starting to see positive developments in the L.A. County Department of Public Health guidelines, and have recently been able to approve a proposal from the College of the Arts for some students to safely return to campus to complete a film project required for graduation and another that enables athletes to be on campus for conditioning and competition. We will continue to monitor the guidelines and assess campus access as restrictions are modified.
These positive trends create an encouraging outlook for Fall 2021. I am pleased to announce that APU intends to return to face-to-face learning in Fall 2021 in alignment with state and county guidelines.
While remote learning and working has not been without challenges, significant advances have been made during this season that will benefit our community upon return, consistent with our Strategic Plan, Renewal. For example:
- Enhanced technology in the classroom that facilitates different pedagogical approaches and increases accessibility.
- Increased creativity and innovation in classroom and community engagement.
- Augmented health and safety on campus due to the advances made in the Student Health Center and Campus Safety.
- Refreshed value of and commitment to building a stronger APU community.
These advancements leave us well positioned for a safe return with increased accessibility and delivery of Christ-centered education.
There are certainly many questions you may have about our anticipated Fall 2021 return. We will be addressing these issues in the weeks ahead as our Return to Campus Task Force provides more details about a range of topics, including:
- Will the COVID-19 vaccination be required?
- What will the classroom experience look like?
- Will social distancing and remote learning still be a component of the experience?
- Will large gatherings/meetings be permitted?
- Will I still be able to work from home?
Answers to these questions will be updated in compliance with the state and county guidelines and will be made available through the FAQ on the Destination APU website. If you have additional questions not reflected there, we invite you to submit your questions for review. We intend to keep the community as informed as possible during this process and appreciate your patience as many of these answers will continue to unfold throughout the spring and summer.
As we look forward to Fall 2021, and as part of Renewal Grand Initiative 1, Becoming a Model Christian University, I am pleased to formally announce the President’s Scholarship Enhancement Grants Program. This faculty and student development opportunity, funded by donor-related property income, is designed to enhance faculty scholarship that contributes to the growth and development of the home academic department. During each of the next three years, grants of up to $30,000 each will be awarded during the Fall Semester to 4 faculty members and their Departments who develop proposals that best demonstrate the following potential outcomes from receipt of this additional funding: (1) increased ability to conduct publishable research or complete creative activity with students, (2) innovative Department approaches to faculty development as colleagues and collaborators, and/or (3) innovative strategies to enhance APU’s recognition as a premier Christian University. The Program Description and Submission Guidelines are accessible for your review. It is certainly my hope that this program will be a source of encouragement and support for you as we anticipate a vibrant return this Fall.
I also want to share several important updates:
Virtual Commencement 2021: While we are planning for a hopeful Fall 2021 return, it is most likely that large-scale events and mass gatherings in May 2021 will still not be allowed in accord with state and county health guidelines. Desiring to keep our commitment to honor and celebrate the Class of 2021 in the best and safest way possible, and enable planning for students and families, we will hold two distinct Virtual Commencements:
- Saturday, May 8, 10 a.m.: Undergraduate Virtual Commencement
- Saturday, May 8, 3 p.m.: Graduate Virtual Commencement and Hooding Ceremony
Faculty will also participate in a Zoom meeting that will be included as part of the Virtual Commencements. Faculty involvement in our 2020 Virtual Commencement was especially encouraging and impactful. Inquiries regarding Commencement should be directed to the Commencement website. Graduates from all classes will receive regular updates with details and further instructions from the Commencement team.
Jon R. Wallace Endowment: We are grateful for the depth of response to the establishment of the Jon R. Wallace Endowed Student Scholarship Fund. Since announcing this opportunity, the Fund has grown to $140,000 and remains open to additional support.
President’s Roundtables: During the Fall 2020 semester, 11 roundtable discussions were held with 110 faculty, staff, and students to provide a virtual space for increased engagement and input to University Leadership on important issues. These substantive discussions were all lovingly candid conversations that provided valuable insights. The President’s Roundtables: Virtual Engagement with the APU Community provides a summary of all these discussions and suggested actions. This document is available for your review on the Office of the President website.
In closing, I want to express my sincere thanks and appreciation to the Azusa Police Department, regional law enforcement, and our Department of Campus Safety under the excellent leadership of Paul Dennis who expertly guided our thorough response to the bomb threat to our campuses last week. We are grateful for the high degree of professionalism and care demonstrated to all of us in the APU Community that resulted in a safe outcome.
As we continue in our diligent efforts this Spring and prepare for the Fall, I encourage you to apply the words of Joshua as he prepared to lead Israel into the Promised Land after a long, challenging journey: “Sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you” (Joshua 3:5).
With deep gratitude,
Paul W. Ferguson, Ph.D., DABT President