Working with Others to Engage and Transform

Working with Others to Engage and Transform

Engage and transform. These keywords are two of the essential pillars of Fresno Pacific University’s GEIST paradigm. We seek to engage collectively and transform purposefully. In my role as director of government relations and external affairs these two ideas frame my everyday work. Let me give you a couple of examples.

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the regulatory and relief landscape was changing by the day, if not the hour. I am sure you remember that period too. New advice, new rules and a series of legislative proposals at the state and federal levels to address the economic and health impacts of the virus. FPU very ably activated the Emergency Management Team to work with leadership on the campus response. The EMT, led by members of several of our departments, created and implemented policies and procedures to help our community stay safe—and importantly stay compliant—in the face of ever-changing standards.

While all of that was happening, there was also a series of conversations taking place with lawmakers in both Sacramento and Washington, D.C., to ensure that FPU and institutions like ours were properly considered in rule-making processes and additionally, that our financial needs were adequately addressed in the various COVID relief bills. Engaging with our association partners and sister Christian colleges and universities in California, we were able to transform the initial CARES Act from its original text, which did not include independent non-profit colleges and universities, into a bill that not only included our schools, but that used a funding formula that recognized the unique contribution our sector makes to higher education nationwide. As you’re now aware, those funds have proved to be vital to us here at FPU. I want to be clear; this was not the result of any one individual’s advocacy work—certainly not mine alone—but was the byproduct of collective engagement and collaboration on behalf of our institutions and students from a wide range of colleagues in similar roles at hundreds of private non-profit schools.

More recently, California’s lawmakers in 2021 passed the first increase to the Cal Grant award for students at independent non-profit universities in over two decades and are considering major Cal Grant reforms during this 2022 legislative session that would create a new, much more stable framework for our students and schools. The Cal Grant award is such a foundational financial piece for so many FPU students and their families that this remains our key advocacy priority.

On both last year’s increase and this year’s reform efforts we have been engaging our incredible students to tell their stories of transformation to legislators. These powerful testimonies of personal and educational life-change, made financially possible by the Cal Grant, are the most effective way to communicate to those in Sacramento why it’s essential our Valley students get the support they need to come to FPU. So, through a series of meetings with state legislators, FPU undergrads have been able to do just that. As a result, we are confident the necessary changes to the Cal Grant system will be made.  

These are two examples of our growing legislative advocacy portfolio. We’re currently working on issues that impact student-athletics, student life, financial aid, admissions, advancement and facilities. As our needs grow and evolve it’s highly likely that in the months and years to come, I will be reaching out to your department, your team or perhaps even you personally to engage your expertise and experience in this effort to engage collectively and transform purposefully.  


Donald Norman

Director of Government Relations & External Affairs