As the head coach of four athletic teams at FPU, I host between 50 and 75 prospective student athletes (PSAs) every school year on recruiting visits. For what it’s worth, about 25 of them choose FPU. A couple of weeks ago as I was giving a campus tour to one of those PSAs and his mother, I had a distinct moment of self-awareness. It was as if I was hearing my narrative of FPU as an objective listener, and I realized that this (by now) fairly scripted monologue has become a distilled encapsulation of what I think defines FPU and what I think matters most to a prospective student. I’ve recently taken the time to consider these questions: What are the things I celebrate? What do I knowingly omit? What core principles from the Fresno Pacific Idea do I articulate, and by what means? As I have reflected on my recruitment message, I’ve come to a number of realizations:
- We have a great deal to be proud of, and many visitors agree. College students have many wonderful choices, yet hundreds choose FPU each year.
- I recruit with a distinct sense of urgency for both my programs and the university. Just as reproduction and sustainability are the primary and urgent instincts of every living member of the natural world, every member of an “ecosystem” like FPU must likewise share these instincts to keep our institution thriving.
- Just as species-rich ecosystems tend to be more productive, stable and sustainable, FPU will likewise tend toward these positive characteristics if we are increasingly characterized by academic, cultural and ministerial diversity.
- Every faculty and staff member should experience giving a prospective student a one-hour campus tour. The potential intrinsic and extrinsic values in doing this are many.
I predict that your tour and mine would both highlight and celebrate community, excellence and holistic growth, while also having very unique anecdotes and personal reflections. This rooted diversity is beautiful. It is attractive. It reflects principles and experiences that new members of our ecosystem clearly want to reproduce and promote.
As an example of what might be shared on a tour besides the names of buildings, here are a few specifics I usually choose: Southeast Fresno “tastes better” than any other part of town thanks to its amazing food options (many locally owned), the spot my wife stood when I first set eyes on her, the dorm I moved into as a student in 1994 and the life-changing experiences I had there, the three flags in front of the SEC and what each represents, and the words “every university has big, pretty buildings, but it’s the people inside and the journey we go on together that matters.” I also always walk into the Academic Success Center and Office of Spiritual Formation & Diversity so our guests can be blasted with rays of sunshine by those staffs.
Here are questions to consider:
- What would you say on your tour? How would you tell your FPU story?
- Would your depiction of FPU promote reproducibility and sustainability?
- Do you have a sense of urgency regarding the reproducibility and sustainability of FPU?
- What are the possible effects of every faculty and staff member giving tours and promoting their niche in the FPU ecosystem? What are the possible risks and rewards?
Ultimately, I seek to make a personal connection with my recruits because I know that relationships and connectedness are so strongly craved by all of us. I want PSAs to leave thinking, “Yes, these are my people. I want to be a part of this.” Interestingly, I find that I spend the large majority of my time talking about change—the ways FPU has adapted over the years to allow for reproducibility and sustainability. We have increasingly become a more diverse ecosystem that supports and encourages more kinds of life and growth.
Two student-athletes who decided they wanted to be part of FPU are Gracielita Bastidas, cross country team captain and graduate of Roosevelt High School, Fresno, and Nico Chavez, men’s track team captain and Sanger High School graduate.
“I was given a chance not only academically, but spiritually and it has allowed me to grow and be the better version of myself. As a student-athlete my mentality has gotten stronger. The teammates who turned into my great friends have also had a great impact on me and have taught me the different ways people can be,” Gracielita said.
“My senior year of high school I didn’t quite know where I was going but God did. He led me to FPU through the pole vault community,” Nico said. As his senior year came to a close more and more of Nico’s pole vaulter friends had chosen where to go to college, including future teammates Nikki Crouch, Chris Orange and Kristi Yorke. Then Nico and I met at his Valley championship meet. “I experienced the reality of what they were saying about Fresno Pacific. At this meet (Ray) recorded me vaulting and got excited over my potential and my character. He had made the effort to learn more about me and supported me even though I told him I was looking at Azusa. He pursued me and I saw God in that. He noticed something special in me and I saw God in that…I still see God in this whole process. He is moving, active, seeking out people just like me to come to Fresno Pacific.”
I have had the benefit of being a member of this ecosystem for 25 years, so I celebrate changes such as the many new academic majors offered, buildings that weren’t there “when I was a student here” and the ethnic and denominational diversity of our traditional undergraduate population. These adaptations towards diversity for the sake of stability and sustainability are not simply ecological analogies of survival, but are even more a reflection of God’s Kingdom doing good work—we are a dynamic, spirit-led ecosystem in a dynamic world.
If you ever see me walking with a group of potential Sunbirds, I invite you to stop, introduce yourself and share a little piece of your FPU story. It is worth celebrating!