How Faculty at FPU Innovate Creatively

How Faculty at FPU Innovate Creatively

“And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Also, he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ (Revelation 21:5)”

It is my honor as chair of the Faculty Senate at Fresno Pacific University to share some of the ways our faculty are acting as creative innovators. I was especially pleased that I was asked to write on our efforts in this part of GEIST—GROW Strategically, ENGAGE Collectively, INNOVATE Creatively, SERVE Courageously and TRANSFORM Purposely—because those of us who have chosen the faculty vocation all in some large degree understand our role as innovation: some disciplines refer to how we disrupt the standard way of understanding our areas, and others how we prepare interventions in existing narratives. And we know that good education takes the learner out of her comfort zone, and we professors are lifetime learners on a journey with our students. It is prophetic in our view that President Jones has emphasized the centrality of innovation in GEIST.

The most significant way we innovate is as scholars speaking to the larger academy, and so we must acknowledge the very valuable studies that have emerged from our faculty in the last months. Even several years of such a list would expand far beyond the space available in Connections. Kevin Enns-Rempel and Hannah Keeney compiled Fresno Pacific University: The First 75 Years. Many faculty also contributed to the 75th Anniversary issue of Pacific Journal, grappling with our historical, religious and even experimental identity.

Our recent book projects include the following: Allen Carden (with Thomas J. Ebert of CSUF) wrote John George Nicolay: The Man in Lincoln’s Shadow. Alice Neikirk and Ray Nickson collaborated on Managing Transitional Justice: Expectations of International Criminal Trials. Darren Duerksen penned Seeking Church: Emerging Witness to the Kingdom. Suzana Dobric Veiss contributed “David’s Response to Goliath’s Challenge” to Leadership Growth through Crisis (ed. by Bruce K. Winston). Ken Martens Friesen wrote Energy, Economics, and Ethics: The Promise and Peril of a Global Energy Transition. Mark Baker edited Mucho Más Que Una Cruz: Imagenes de la Salvatión para Diversos Contextos. Laura Schmidt Roberts, with Paul Martens and Myron A. Penner, edited Recovering From the Anabaptist Vision: New Essays on Anabaptist Identity and Theological Method. Thanks especially to two of our colleagues, we now regularly have book celebrations as new work hits the presses.

Our innovative energies take many other forms, and we are bringing manifold new ideas and approaches to our campuses and the Central Valley. We are learning the ways that we can treat our undergraduate student body as a unified whole, and not balkanize them into populations and modalities. Criminology is seeing all its modalities—traditional undergraduate (TUG), accelerated and online—as part of a unified whole. Likewise, social work’s codirectors work very closely together in the program’s areas. There is also close cooperation between the liberal studies and liberal arts programs. We are seeing the same collaboration in natural science in preparation for the traditional undergraduate nursing program. As psychology prepares to roll out its accelerated version, our gifted faculty are working hard to see it of a piece with the existing TUG program. New minors are allowing students to prepare themselves in areas at the growing edges of our work, whether disability studies, criminology or Latin American studies—and others are in preparation!

Our wilderness program is finding ways to teach well beyond the boundaries of the classroom, and it serves student demographics rarely included elsewhere in such opportunities. The School of Business is leading the way in bringing our exemplary curriculum to Reedley College, because we learned that for many interested students transportation was a real barrier. We have an active collaboration with the Community Media Center for Fresno and Clovis (CMAC) downtown for our production students. We are also deeply committed to bringing the community to us, whether through our signal Janzen Lectureship in Biblical Studies, Christian and interfaith gatherings, planning for a Community Arts School or annual campus events like Social Work Volunteer Day and Fresno County History Day, the latter with the Fresno County Superintendent of Schools.

We faculty innovate by finding ways to give students travel experiences, whether it be a semester in Coast Rica or a summer study in Turkey, Israel, India or Vietnam. We also take deserving students to conferences on writing, music, journalism, reconciliation, inclusion and other subject areas. For many of us this year has been wrenching, as we had to realize the wisdom of postponing or canceling some very valuable opportunities—I should add that in several cases we are finding ways to use technology to provide some part of the conference experience.

Graduate innovation is vibrant at FPU as well: This summer Fresno Pacific will offer one-and-two-week Educator Summer Institutes to give teachers and school leaders the opportunity to check out coursework that leads to certificates, advanced teaching credentials, authorizations and master’s degrees. All institutes will be offered virtually. Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary has blazed an innovative trail in online opportunities for those with interest in pastoral and theological education for whom it might have been very difficult in the past. Our centers—Peacemaking, Community Transformation and Anabaptist Studies—allow us to lean into our strengths. The ways in which all our graduate programs work closely with professional organizations to find out how best to serve their populations reflects the nimbleness of our prophetic calling. We have also engaged in team-teaching at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, giving students an even greater chance to see all the dimensions of their subject.

Given the subject of this piece, I would be remiss not to mention that our art program has now renamed itself, quite appositely, art, design and creative innovation. In short, it is an amazing time to be a part of this faculty, and I believe we can see in the above areas ways we are living into the lively experiment begun by our founders 75 years ago!

“The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)”


W. Marshall Johnston, Ph.D.

Chair, Faculty Senate, Associate Professor and Program Director, History