As she prepares to embark on a new journey in the fall, Dean Jennifer Walsh looks back on her legacy at APU and offers advice on students entering the workforce.
Jennifer Walsh, Ph.D., dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, has made many efforts to shape curriculums and impact students’ lives since she began her APU career. Walsh came to APU in 2005 as an associate professor teaching history and political science. She will begin a new chapter of her career in Hawaii as an administrator at Hawaii Pacific University later this year.
Before starting at APU, Walsh did her undergraduate studies at the University of California Riverside and completed her masters degree and Ph.D. at Claremont Graduate University. Although she considered herself a sincere Christian during her early years, Walsh said she jumped into schooling without seeking spiritual guidance and her faith did not become real to her until her graduate studies.
“I wasn’t raised in a home where church attendance was a regular thing,” Walsh said. “I rededicated my life to God in the middle of my Ph.D. program.”
As she reflected on the years she spent becoming a political scientist, Walsh said God was gracious to confirm that she was on the right path.
“I know that God’s ways are not always my ways, but they’re always good,” she said.
Although coming to APU did not bring a big change of location, it was her first exposure to Christian higher education.
“I’m a Southern California native. I was really excited to jump into an institution that aligned faith and work and allowed me to harmonize those two pieces,” she said.
Over the course of her APU career, Walsh has taught ten different courses with expertise in American government and public law allowing her to develop upper-division courses and programs that did not exist previously. Her favorite activity was to take students on field trips to immerse them in the professional world and encourage them to get involved no matter where they call home.
“We would do a field trip to the ninth circuit Court of Appeals courthouse in Pasadena. It’s a really good exposure to how oral arguments are constructed at the appeals level,” Walsh said. “You can play audio clips from the Supreme Court which are now available, but we’re not close to Washington at all, so this is the closest experience you’re going to get to the nature of some of the arguments that are presented in that type of proceeding.”
Although she doesn’t have as much time to teach as an administrator, Walsh said she tries to teach at least one course a year. She has worked hard as dean in a plethora of areas, including the recent opening of the Center for Public Affairs that will change the way undergraduate and graduate students can engage in public service.
Walsh has completed several academic publications over her career. Her favorite is the “Three Strikes Laws” book, a collection of research she did in regards to the Three Strikes sentencing laws implemented in 1994.
“While I’m not a criminologist, I really am fascinated by how we the people decide what’s an appropriate punishment for criminal activity,” Walsh said.
Her book is a reflection of her work with district attorneys’ offices in both Los Angeles and San Diego, a state-wide survey that she facilitated and interviews with judges.
“Unlike perhaps what you might think, it’s not an advocacy book,” Walsh said. “I take no position on the law, I’m just simply presenting how it’s been implemented and what the side effects have been.”
As a result of her book’s success, Walsh was called as an expert witness in New Zealand and helped to reshape their legislation when the country was proposing a similar law.
“There were some features of the law that I knew would be problematic based upon what had happened here in California and recommended some corrections that they actually adopted,” Walsh said.
After 15 years at APU, Walsh will leave the university to take over as provost and senior vice president at Hawaii Pacific University. Since both universities are in the same division, Walsh said she looks forward to seeing some cougars from time to time. As provost and senior vice president, she will expand her administrative role including oversight of areas that are not directly aligned with liberal arts and sciences.
“This is my last semester here at APU which is very bittersweet,” Walsh said. “I’ve absolutely loved my time here, and I can’t imagine not being a part of this community.”
As her upcoming move is a prompting of her own spirit, Walsh uses God’s work in her life as a testimony offering advice to students who have career options and tough choices on the horizon.
“Hold things loosely. I think sometimes we miss opportunities that God might have for us because we are tightly wedded to a script for our lives that we’ve thought out in advance,” she said. “That’s not to say that planning isn’t good, but what I found is the greatest joys have come when I’ve said yes to things that are unknown.”
Walsh will finish off the academic year at APU before moving to Hawaii this summer.