Ai was a small Amorite town in the land God had promised to his people; so small, in fact, that Joshua sent just 3,000 men to subjugate it. But instead of a swift, painless victory, they suffered a complete rout and 36 Israelites were killed fleeing the debacle. The reason for the failure was an Israelite named Achan who had kept some of the plunder from a previous conquest, against God’s explicit instructions. Achan and his family were dispatched along with their booty, and Ai was thoroughly trounced.
By many key indicators Fresno Pacific is an excellent Christian university and, like every high-performing organization, exceptionally good at getting better and better at what we do best. We assess every activity and resource allocation in relation to the results we want to achieve. We hold on to what works and try to improve it. But like Achan, sometimes we are tempted to hang on to something wonderful from the past, instead of letting go to receive some new blessing from God.
Every great organization is constantly innovating, constantly finding not just a better way to do something, but actually finding something different to do. Finding a new outcome, and often a new method, is just as valuable as improving on what we already do so well. That kind of innovation is profoundly challenging. In fact, it is disruptive.
Recognizing the immensity, importance and potential blessing of this challenging innovation, the FPU Board of Trustees made sure the current strategic plan calls for developing new ways to achieve our Christ-centered educational mission and values. And to ensure this initiative would not succumb to the natural tendency to focus only on continuous improvement of current efforts, the board made it a special and explicit assignment of the president. A central element of the innovation was online and distance learning, and the measure of success was to have as many students and as much missional effectiveness in the new model as in the current one.
FPU is extremely efficient and effective at face-to-face Christian higher education for students in Central California. That is our current core model. A new initiative—Academic Innovation, our AI—is charged with making the university equally good at online, mediated Christian higher education for students across the nation and around the world.
Today we have 15 online programs, seven of which will be under AI, with Keypath Education as enrollment partner. AI is the home, the stimulus, the encouragement, the evaluator, the synergy-seeking coordinator and the source of expertise and support for expanding online and other courses outside our current core.
We need both models to be excellent. If we do both with equal fervor and commitment to transforming lives for God’s glory, each will thrive and enhance the other. Making true disruptive innovation a deep institutional value is difficult. Pray for AI to be a new blessing to the other programs, schools and centers of Fresno Pacific as well as individuals, churches, organizations and communities worldwide.