The State of the University

The State of the University

President Jones presented his State of the University address September 18, 2019. This week’s Connections is based on highlights from that presentation.

Over the last two years we have adopted the branding statement: Possible Happens Here, from Matthew 19:26: “but with God all things are possible,” and this year we launched our 75th Anniversary celebration with commemoration and vision. We are not who we were in 1944, but we have never strayed from our evangelical Anabaptist roots. The FPU Vision is that we become a vibrant Christ-centered university transforming California’s Central Valley and global communities through exemplary service to students of all ethnicities and cultures. We will design innovative programs that encourage academic and professional excellence, peacemaking, social justice, ethical leadership, holistic wellness and spiritual vitality.

Our Strategic Map will guide us in this work over the next three years with five overarching goals: to Grow Strategically, Engage Collectively, Innovate Creatively, Serve Courageously and Transform Purposefully.

External Recognitions

In this last academic year, we were recognized by Money magazine as number 11 in the country and first in Christian higher education on its list of Best Colleges for Transfer Students. In 2020, U.S. News & World Report moved us from 39 to 31 for Best Regional Universities in the West. We also moved from 42 to 35 for Best Value Schools in our category, and the rank fourth under the top performers on Social Mobility.

The Association for Theological Studies granted Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary a full 10-year re-accreditation, while the social work and education programs were awarded accreditation in all categories. We were also approved to launch the traditional BSN program.

Athletics continues to be ranked in NCAA Division II, winning our sixth student engagement award. Nearly two-thirds of our student-athletes finished the year with a 3.0 GPA or better, capturing 187 academic awards and posting a 3.0 average group GPA, the highest in our NCAA era.

Both the Center for Community Transformation and the Center for Peacemaking received local awards/recognition for service to the region. Two of our students won prizes for the best scholarly presentation at the Alpha Chi National Honor Society convention, and three business students won the national GoLiveServe Business Case Competition in New York City. The Syrinx student newspaper won three awards at the California College Media Association.

Faculty Acknowledgements

Our faculty continue to enrich their scholarship as they write, publish and perform. Several participated in prestigious conferences:

  • Pamela Johnston, Ph.D., associate professor of history, the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) seminar on Hellenic Studies at Harvard University’s Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington, DC.
  • Rebecca McMillen, Ph.D., assistant professor of art, design & creative innovation, the CIC seminar on Art and Society in Britain, Hogarth to Turner (1730-1851) at the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, CT.
  • Darren Duerksen, Ph.D., associate professor for intercultural and religious studies, the CIC Teaching Interfaith Understanding seminar at DePaul University in Chicago.
  • Darin Lenz, Ph.D., associate professor of history, presented a paper in a fully funded workshop sponsored by the German Historical Institute in Washington, D.C.
  • Andrew Sensenig, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology, the E. Kika De La Garza Fellowship summer program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
  • James Van Slyke, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology, a project sponsored by Scholarship & Christianity in Oxford (SCIO), the United Kingdom’s subsidiary of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU). Funded by the Templeton Religion Trust and the Blankemeyer Foundation.

Organizational Changes

Valerie Rempel, Ph.D., vice president and dean of the seminary, led the seminary accreditation process and has been gracious in managing the revised direction of the seminary, while assisting the president in restoring the confidence of the Mennonite Brethren denomination and numerous Valley pastors.

Don Griffith, vice president of advancement and executive director of FPU Foundation, has restructured the Advancement Division—establishing a Grants Office, a director of public relations and community engagement and an executive director of donor development—and revised organizational practices to create more synergy and collaboration across the university. We have also restructured institutional communications to more effectively work with the enrollment and advancement areas and created the position of associate vice president for university marketing and communication (Jillian Freeman) who reports both to Don Griffith and Jon Endicott, the vice president of enrollment.

Dale Scully, vice president of student life, in a similar fashion has re-structured his team. He has advanced Lynn Reinhold to assistant dean of student life and has produced a TUG Student Retention Plan under the leadership of Jesse Torres, Ed.D., and Kerry Sue Brown. This division also restructured the Career Services Office for closer collaboration with the Alumni Development Office to create better pathways for internships and job placement. Effective this year, the Athletics Office and the Office of Spiritual Formation & Diversity report directly to Dale, but their leaders remain on the President’s Cabinet.

In academics, Gayle Copeland, Ph.D., our provost/senior vice president of academic affairs, added a new associate dean (Greg Camp, Ph.D.) in the School of Humanities, Religion & Social Sciences, who is responsible primarily for general education. Filling the vacant position of associate provost is Greg Zubacz, J.D., Ph.D., who oversees the now merged Office of Institutional Effectiveness, Office of Institutional Research and the Center for Online Learning.

In the School of Education, Linda Hoff, Ph.D., was appointed associate dean for pathways, pipelines and partnerships. This position strengthens and broadens numerous partnerships and pathways for the university, including a Teacher Quality Partnership with Fresno Unified School District funded at $4.7 million over a five-year period, and the new Central Valley Drive Initiative and College Completion Plus programs.


After three years of record enrollment, this year our total population is down about 100 students from last year’s 4,212 due to decreases in traditional undergraduate programs. The transfer partnerships with the community colleges has buffered some of the decrease. Last year and this year, transfer TUG students increased while traditional four-year students decreased. We still maintain the highest graduation rate in the Central Valley. The average student debt after graduation is on par with the average for the public universities, but we are still carrying the stigma of high cost. We continue to explore strategies to dispel the image of unaffordability and are exploring new majors that could be a pathway for transfer students.

Culture and Arts Center

The next building we construct should be symbolic of our commitment to the Fresno Pacific Idea; a venue that empowers our students and faculty and engages the cultures and serves the cities. The Southeastern community of Fresno is one of the most challenging areas of the city. Our student population is currently coming from the most economically challenging areas of the region that has the highest concentration of poverty in California and the second highest in the nation.

We are a privileged learning community surrounded by nine schools, four retirement communities and a multiplicity of ethnic and cultural groups who hold on to hopes for a better future. This Culture and Arts Center will be a place where we create beauty and inspiration, hope and healing, peace and unity.

We know that arts and cultural engagement improves productivity and nurtures innovation. Research suggests that intentional programming in the arts can improve childhood literacy, acquisition of language and math skills in youth; reduce stress in our students; and encourage self-care in seniors and new Americans.

These facilities are not about adding to our prestige or value. This building represents our service and engagement. It is a gift to our students and the people of this region. It will become a place of whole integration of the heart, mind, body and the soul. Not just for our neighbors, but for the whole FPU community including our alumni, our emeritus faculty, our supporters and our friends.

Fiscal Review

Last year we restored salary cuts with our surplus and added to the university’s strategic reserve fund. We finished the year with an operating surplus of $4.3 million, with tuition $570K above budget and medical benefits coming in $1M less than budgeted (because we are self-funded).

This surplus allowed us to fully pay back the $1.3M we owed the previous performing arts center campaign, add $1M to our cash reserve and still have $2M for investment, capital projects and deferred maintenance. In addition, the President’s Cabinet gave all permanent employees a one-time bonus to acknowledge and express appreciation for your tenacity in staying the course in service to our students. Thank you!

We have already implemented the previously promised third faculty step, and will be giving a 2% Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) in January.

Strategic Priorities 2019-20

We are focusing on several Strategic Priorities this academic year:

  1. Nurture and mature a Christ-centered community.
  2. Improve the collection and veracity of data and effectiveness of data systems that contribute to University decision-making.
  3. Develop a comprehensive transfer experience that will support persistence and student success.
  4. Break ground and begin construction on the Culture and Arts Center.
  5. Outline and begin implementation of a professional development plan for mid-level managers.
  6. Implement retention strategies for TUG and create a retention plan for DC students.
  7. Explore and initiate strategies for new revenue streams.
  8. Establish priority community engagements, partnerships and public relations venues for 2019-20.
  9. Implement new and reimagined curricular and co-curricular programs across the university.
  10. Complete a comprehensive assessment of all areas of IT to determine capacity and future need.
  11. Restructure the administrative, academic and support models at each regional campus to bolster effectiveness.
  12. Organize, identify training and implement initial steps for the Center for Teaching & Learning.

These achievements and our hard work show possible IS happening here. My prayer for you is Romans 15:13: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him; so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”


Joseph Jones, Ph.D.