Engaging the Wave to DRIVE Fresno Forward

Engaging the Wave to DRIVE Fresno Forward

I’m sitting in Clovis listening to the first Surgeon General of California, Nadine Burk Harris, M.D., talk about the destructive health repercussions of childhood trauma. I’m surrounded by 645 people representing local organizations who want that outcome to change for the children of Fresno County.

Ashley Swearengin, president and CEO of the Central Valley Community Foundation, called the present a kairos, the Greek word for a moment of opportunity. She says there is a desperation, a hunger for change. She also sees more capacity for change in Fresno than she has ever seen in her life. The people and institutions in this room have the capacity to create a wave of transformation if we can engage collectively, cooperatively and synergistically. Firing pistons will transmit their power to turn the wheels only if they are synchronized and augmenting each other. Can this happen in Fresno now? Can FPU be one of the pistons throwing its power into a transformative wave that will see the children of disadvantage beginnings become well cared for and able to live healthy, productive lives?

The natural sciences study our world, from stars to atoms, livers to beetles, octopi to antibodies, giant sequoia trees to microbes. As theory dynamically reciprocates with practice, the classroom becomes the world of creation. Engagement with the creation is built into many, many learning exercises, from simply going outside to pick up a leaf, to volunteering to pull invasive weeds from the San Joaquin River. Engagement suggests two or more agents are actively interacting with each other. In a backpacking trip, the sugar pines and warblers—and yes, even the mosquitos—engage the human in a dynamic interchange. We hope that this engagement of the living community becomes a lifelong engagement, and a gateway for knowing the creator more fully.

Students in the Bachelor of Arts Health Care Administration program engage the community by participating in practicums with a variety of agencies in the field. Barbara Maselli, M.A., HCA program director, has over 35 years of connections with health care clinics and hospitals that she uses to draw HCA professionals to teach and connect her students to these practical learning experiences. Students graduate with a knowledge of one health care operation and potential job connections.

Madera Community Hospital (MCH) partners with FPU to provide the Family Nurse Practitioner Partnered Residency Education Program (FNP PREP), an innovative rotation through a wide range of health care specialties directed by our MSN faculty: Stacy Wise, DNP; Rox Sparks, DNP; and Maggie Ruiz, DNP. Our nurse practitioner students engage the challenges of rural health delivery while receiving the mentoring and mission of serving the least of these.

In the software engineering & computer information systems programs students engage community partners to find and develop their capstone projects. Churches, small businesses and nonprofits have all engaged FPU student teams to develop technological solutions to real problems. Under the leadership of Simon Sultana, Ph.D., students gain practical work experience with real clients. The university is engaged—the Valley is served.

The kinesiology and mathematics programs are working to engage community colleges to create accessible, clear pathways to increase the number of two-year students who complete bachelor’s degrees. Our goal is to take the best points of the degree completion accelerated program (access and convenience for the working adult) and combine them with the best points of the traditional programs (extended learning period and face-to-face).

For the first time Gov. Gavin Newsome led the California Economic Summit in Fresno last fall, highlighting the three pillars of health: the economy, equity and the environment. The Fresno DRIVE Initiative was presented to him as one of the most comprehensive, inclusive, collaborative and ambitious plans to raise the health of the Central Valley. DRIVE (Developing the Region’s Inclusive and Vibrant Economy) is a 10-year community investment plan drafted with input from 300 regional leaders and sponsored by the Central Valley Community Foundation (CVCF) with support from the James Irvine Foundation. Many FPU leaders were and are involved with this initiative.

Truly FPU will engage this wave.


Karen Cianci, Ph.d.

Dean of the School of Natural Sciences