I am sitting in a meeting of the FPU Board of Trustees, yesterday afternoon and this Saturday morning, our third for the year and our first with our new President, Dr. Pete Menjares.
The discussion has been at times fairly intense, wonderfully good humored and forward thinking. Right now they are discussing admissions standards for the Seminary. I am content to listen to VP and Dean of the Seminary, Dr. Lynn Jost explain the unique importance of Christian commitment for all seminary students because the mission of the seminary is to prepare pastors, theologians, and counselors as part of the ministry of the Church. With the joining of the seminary with the University its appeal has expanded and we have new and very good question to resolve.
There is wisdom in active and engaged boards, I have learned over the years. On a couple of issues related to facilities and plans, I won’t mention which, they have decided that we should delay. An administration feels the pressures of departments and programs, and some outside constituencies, and the board, wisely, I think, said to hold off, gave protection of sorts to the administration, and helped chart out a slightly different course.
The Board approved sabbaticals, a couple of policies related to faculty appointments, and a new masters degree in teaching. These had all been developed and presented through faculty and administration discussion and formal processing. No surprises here, but good discussion and encouragement that we continue to increase the number of faculty taking sabbaticals for various forms of scholarship.
They also reviewed enrollment goals and direction, the necessity of a sound infrastructure supporting not only the recruitment effort but for supporting student achievement and the quality of housing. These discussions will provide direction for the administration in the coming months.
Now, having finished the Seminary discussion, they are on to relationships between the University and the FPU Foundation. It is all wrapped up in legal and accounting technicalities. The attorneys and accountants seem to be having a good time, other are nodding wisely (not sure whether it’s because they understand or to cover over that they don’t–I confess I lost track somewhere in the middle of the third comment–not bad, I suppose, to make it that far). This is a good illustration of why we have very accomplished members who bring specialized knowledge of law, finance, education, theology, politics, business, and a lot of good common sense and experience.
Now Dr. Larry Dunn, the chair of our Faculty Senate, is speaking about the faculty and their hard work this semester and asked the Board to remember them in their prayers. They have taken on some huge projects in our new or revised assessment program, on our accreditation study and online instruction.
Yesterday the board entered imaginatively into the classroom (and were given an assignment today) to learn about the new WASC standards for accreditation, and the broader changes in the accreditation environment. It is rapidly changing, more rapidly and substantially in the last two years than I have seen in the priory twenty. The board is responsible for holding the administration and faculty accountable for meeting accreditation standards which are focused on the achievement of student learning (or “outcomes” in the professional jargon).
My friend and mentor in all things educational and leadership, President Emeritus, Dr. Richard Kriegbaum, used to say that a university will never be stronger than its board. I didn’t understand it twenty-five years ago when I first heard him say it, but I think I have an inkling about it now. A strong board will insist on a strong administration, a strong faculty, a strong staff, a fully engaged student body, and a “continuously improving” university. They will insist on and help create productive and supportive relationships with alumni, our supporting churches, and communities.
They are about to dismiss us now, and will go into executive session. It looks like my work is done for the day (I have a list of assignments that I will pick up on Monday). But, of course, I get paid for my work, the board volunteers and we own them our gratitude for their service.