Serving, Engaging and Embracing our Region

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Have you read the latest edition of Pacific magazine yet? I was struck by the difference-making work that our alumni are doing right here in the Central Valley.

  • Carlanda Williams is energizing Fresno Unified with Whole Brain teaching.
  • 75 alumni coaches are leading winning teams throughout our region.
  • Aaron Panttaja is leveraging the liberal arts at a local correctional facility.

The longer I am here at FPU, the clearer it is to me: We don’t just exist IN this place, we exist FOR this place. God has placed our school here for a reason.

It is hard to imagine the void in education, business, social work, church and non-profit work if we didn’t exist. There are more than 4,000,000 people living in the Central San Joaquin Valley and yet we are the only fully accredited Christian university founded in the region; one of only two members of the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities. By comparison, Los Angeles County has 35 private nonprofit colleges.

While roughly 11 percent of the population of California reside in the Central Valley, only 6 percent of the bachelor’s degrees awarded in the state can be found here. The opportunity is significant and so is our responsibility to promote higher education and ensure our students are successful. An enrollment snapshot as of today (November 15, 2018), shows we have 4,346 students enrolled. Just 1,028 are traditional undergraduate students. The rest reflects degree completion, graduate and seminary students. Our students reflect this region: 49 percent are the first in their families to go to college, 67 percent come from families with a total income lower than $40,000 per year. These students face significant challenges. At FPU they find high-touch student services and a committed faculty. This is why we graduate students at a higher rate than any competitor in the Valley.

But we can do more. We are beginning to build new pathways and pipelines with the local community colleges. We host Enrollment Express events where students can be admitted to and registered with FPU in just one day. We guarantee qualified students can graduate in four years as undergraduates or two years as transfers. Our commitment to competitive financial aid packages and donor-funded scholarships keeps FPU shockingly affordable, with our graduates incurring less student loan debt than the average graduate from the CSU system.

Engaging our cultures and serving our cities means we need to fully embrace where we are. We need to take a step back and reflect on what we have equipped our students to achieve.

At University Assembly Day in August, faculty and staff started the year with a discussion about calling. In Steven Garber’s book, Visions of Vocation, he writes, “We learn the truest truths, the most important things, only when we look over the shoulder and through the heart, only when we can see that ideas have legs and that worldviews can become ways of life.” As we embrace the need, complexity and beauty of our region, it is my prayer we will be motivated by the eternal difference we can make.

  • Walter Saul

    Thanks, John, for your good news and good thoughts!