Envisioning the Future: Academic Excellence

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“Teach the wise and they will be wiser still; teach the righteous and they will add to their learning (Proverbs 9:9).”

The wise will hear and increase in learning; and a person of understanding will acquire wise counsel (Proverbs 1:5).”

Over the past few weeks we have conducted several forums entitled: “Envisioning the Future.” We appreciate the participation of our staff, faculty and students in these discussions. Our objective was to encourage the community to imagine or reimagine the future of the university in the context of the university vision: “to be known for academic excellence, innovative programming and spiritual vitality.” We are processing your feedback and will provide for similar discussions with the FPU Board of Trustees in its upcoming meetings.

Albert Einstein said, “imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited; imagination encircles the world.” Envisioning the future stretches our imagination beyond the present and moves us into the possibilities of the future. We say to our students: “Possibilities happen here.” So, our definition of academic excellence should include the integration of faith, reason and innovation, which all generate new possibilities in the minds and hearts of our students. Integration of faith guides the use of knowledge; this is a pathway to wisdom. Reason matures the ability to analyze, comprehend and cultivate an informed judgement. Innovation searches for new knowledge which emboldens our creativity and strengthens our courage to act.

Most universities identify academic excellence as a key characteristic of their learning environment. Excellence has always been central to our vision. I trust we will consider what this means for the 21st century. I was reluctant to share my thoughts on excellence, innovation and spiritual vitality during the forums so as not to influence the direction of the discussions. I now take the time to provide some of my musings on academic excellence for the 21st century.

We all assume that we agree on the characterization of academic excellence within our community. As I have given this some thought it appears to me that academic excellence that integrates faith and learning (spiritual vitality) and encourages creativity (innovative programing) is academic excellence that matures wisdom and stimulates the imagination. I see five areas that we should consider envisioning or reimaging that are intrinsic to academic excellence. I think we need to explore how to be more intentional about infusing these elements into our learning environment. None of my musing would be a surprise to most of you. We can find evidence of all these areas in some place in our educational experience. The real question is, how do these distinctives flourish at FPU? I would suggest we consider more deliberately the following:

  1. Grow additional models of intellectually engaging student-centered learning.
  2. Increase opportunities for open inquiry, including undergraduate research, collaborative scholarship and innovative use of curricular technology.
  3. Design a diversity of reflective and experiential opportunities for service learning.
  4. Create or identify leadership development (conflict resolution skills, personal finance management) in our common learning.
  5. Expand global and domestic cultural engagement opportunities (study, travel).

These are just a few. We expect to communicate more of these ideas as they emerge from the forums. The diverse perspectives we received are our strength, our faith is our courage and God’s promises are our hope.

Proverbs tells us “the wise will hear and increase in learning…” I trust we all will listen to each other as we continue the dialogue on imagining the university’s vision for the future. We are all proud of our graduates and the education we provide. Jim Collins said: “Good is the enemy of great. And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great.” We are very good at what we do, but with God’s help we have the possibility of becoming the exceptional.