Strategic Priorities II: Living Out the Vision

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The FPU Board of Trustee’s approved Vision for the university is “… to be known for its Academic Excellence, Innovative Programming and Spiritual Vitality.” The Fresno Pacific Idea provides the philosophical framework for moving towards this vision. This semester we have coined a phrase that provides direction for its application: Engaging the Cultures and Serving the Cities.

We must remind ourselves that we are a comprehensive university serving in five locations across the Central Valley. Our student population is as diverse as the region. To fulfill the vision, we must first strengthen a learner-centered environment that is collaborative. This environment integrates faith, scholarship, praxis and civic engagement through community partnerships. We also will extend ourselves internationally and through online programming in our effort to broaden the influence of the values we revere as sacred.

In the last Connections we listed 10 Strategic Priorities that are foundational to our internal strength. They serve to empower the university in accomplishing its mission and vision. The first two priorities are precursors to the work of the other eight. This Connections will briefly review those two strategies and discuss others in editions to come.

FPU will Increase Efficiency and Effectiveness of Administrative and Academic Governance

“Teamwork appears most effective if each individual helps others to succeed, increasing the synergy of that team, ideally, every person will contribute different skills to increase the efficiency of the team and develop its unity.” Andrew Carnegie

“Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us…” (Romans 12:4-6).

Since my arrival in June I have been impressed by the qualities and gifts that faculty and staff bring to FPU. There is little question of a commitment to serve our students, but there seems to be a disconnect between communications, collaboration and cooperation. We work hard reacting to the immediate so often that we lose sight of those things that are foundational or important. Dwight D. Eisenhower said: “What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.” We are therefore assessing our “working culture” to find ways to increase our productivity, clarify our policies and procedures, reexamine duplication of services, and identify gaps and deficits in our operations.

This requires greater collaboration in all the staff and academic units. Our success is dependent on our interdependence. Considering these needs, we have expanded and re-structured the purpose of the President’s Cabinet and activated a President’s Council which includes the academic deans, the IT director and chair of the Faculty Senate. These groups are responsible for identifying the “important,” communicating and facilitating collaborative problem-solving.

To nurture a more cohesive community, we have extended invitations to write Connections to all faculty and staff of the university. This provides opportunity for others to participate in building an encouraging community. In addition, Fall and Spring Convocations have become occasions to encourage community through worship and celebration. These gatherings will expand to our regional campuses where we will invite our alumni in those areas.

As we become intentional about building a more productive community, we can expect changes in policies, position responsibilities, budgets and alignments with the strategic priorities of the university. We will become more intentional about the professional development needed by faculty and staff, and create a review system that is consistent with the university’s mission, vision and values. Program reviews as well as unit and departmental reviews will also align with the vision statement approved by the trustees. Our open communications and reviews will assist us in becoming accountable to one another as we affirm the gifts God has given to this community.

Our work in silos is no longer acceptable. Our strength is evident in the prayers of Jesus: “…that they may be one as we (Father and Son) are one…so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:22-23). Maximum efficiency and effectiveness can only be found in a unity that is surrendered to Christ Jesus.

FPU will Develop a Plan for Financial Stability

Sometimes we as a community identify with the words of Herbert Hoover: “By the time we make ends meet, someone moves the ends.” We again have addressed the urgent or immediate needs and neglected the important—the sustainability of the university. We have increased enrollment, built or leased additional facilities and raised funding for individual projects. We have given less time to thinking with the long-view in mind.

The work we do today will impact generations of students well beyond our tenures. Our coordinated work in enrollment and fund development can influence the lives of individuals we will never meet. The finance/revenue strategies cannot be the focus only of our immediate needs, but should extend to sustain academic excellence, innovative programming and spiritual vitality. Vision does not happen because we write it down, nor is a strategic plan of any value without strategic financing to accompany the goals. We have been dreaming for a long time. Sometimes when we dream too long we lose hope, but dreaming and hoping do not facilitate change. Strategic action with the long-view in mind are the initial steps in the journey towards sustainability.

We will therefore reframe our thinking about academic excellence and the 21st century relevance of our curriculum and academic programs. We will examine the place and purpose of our regional campuses, and determine how they best can serve their regions—Engaging the Cultures and Serving the Cities. We will restructure our fund development organization and activities to facilitate better coordination across campus, and service to our donors. We will build an “Endowment” that will secure the future of the university and its service to first-generation, low- and middle-income students.

We will be intentional about designing our facilities and grounds in a manner that gives testimony to the grace and glory of God. And we will be strategic in technological advancement, innovative programing and building community partnerships that advance the mission, vision and values of the university. Our goal is that the work of our learning community will serve our students, our neighbors and communities throughout the Central Valley. We shall become faithful stewards of the dollars and gifts afforded the university, and with integrity use those funds to honor the donors and advance the influence of the kingdom of God.

We are just at the nadir of the most exciting time in the history of Fresno Pacific University. The difficulties and challenges experienced in the past have prepared us for this future. God has always called us to “trust him with all our hearts and not to lean to our own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5,6). We have been in the wilderness for many years questioning our own identity, but now our pathway is clear: engage the cultures and serve the cities. This is not only our civic responsibility as a learning community, but it is the Christian mandate for which Fresno Pacific University was established.