As we enter the long, hot days of summer in earnest, the “boys of summer” are well into the 2018 baseball season. I have fond memories of hot summer Saturdays as a kid, riding my bike three miles to my grandpa’s place to mow his lawn and then spend Saturday afternoon watching Major League Baseball with grandpa and drinking my fill of Coca-Colas. It was kid heaven. A more recent baseball memory was when my son and I attended the opening game of the World Series in 2012 as the San Francisco Giants took on the Detroit Tigers. There is nothing like the excitement, ceremony and pageantry of the opening game! Not only did our team (Giants) win, but we saw their slugger, Pablo Sandoval, tie a World Series single-game record with three home runs! Priceless.
One of baseball’s all-times sages, Yogi Berra, developed a reputation for coming up with a lot of nonsensical quotes which at the same time were gems of wisdom. One of my favorites is “When you come to a fork in the road, take it,” and another is “You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going, because you might not get there.” Such is the case regarding the future of FPU. Collectively we face some challenges, but at the same time the opportunities coming our way are more significant than any we have known. I believe FPU stands at the threshold of immense opportunity. As board chair, I have seen opportunities beginning to come our way which can be transformational. But some of those opportunities may also take us in the wrong direction if we are not careful to clearly define where it is we wish to go, who we wish to be and how we wish to be known as an institution. And if our vision of the future is not clearly defined, we may very well find ourselves falling short of our calling to be a unique, transformational community of learners seeking to be all we can be as image-bearers. In which case another Yogi-ism would then apply to us: “The future ain’t what it used to be.”
The primary focus of the FPU Board of Trustees meetings this past weekend was to spend time in conversation with one another to “envision the future.” Our discussion was facilitated by one of our board members, Ron Smith, Ed.D. With input from the campus envisioning forums, board members had some lively and stimulating discussion as we attempted to develop a vision for the future of FPU.
What would a stranger say about FPU five years from now? What do we want to be known for? What is the actual experience we are providing our students? How are technology and distance learning impacting our student experience? What is a “legacy program” and how might we develop more legacy programs at FPU? Since we are a Hispanic-Serving Institution, how can we better understand the needs of the HSI constituents we serve? If one of the distinctives of FPU is the availability of professors and students’ experiences interacting with them, how can we provide a better experience for both students and professors? How can we become less tuition-dependent? Why do faculty, staff and students come to FPU rather than to a state university or some other private university?
We wrestled with these and other questions as we grappled with our vision for the future. While the board has more work to do before it can articulate a clear and compelling picture of that future, members are very engaged in the process, asking the right questions and seeking to get out in front of the process so ALL stakeholders in this immense calling of Christian higher education might be drawn to a compelling vision without hesitation or reservation.
On a final note, this was my last meeting as chair of the board as I step down to assume the position of vice president of advancement of FPU and executive director of the FPU Foundation. It has been my privilege and honor to serve the university as board chair. I have served an outstanding board and worked with administrators and staff who have all been very gracious. It has been a wonderful experience for which I will be forever grateful. Now I look forward to continuing to make a significant contribution to Fresno Pacific University and Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary as the Advancement Office seeks new resources and expanding relationships with our partners to make a kingdom impact through Christian higher education. I believe our best days are just ahead of us and I am humbly grateful to be part of the process.