Ferguson has big goals for change, including APU’s first strategic plan in a long time
It’s been four months since Azusa Pacific named Paul Ferguson as Jon Wallace’s successor. In that time, Ferguson has worked with departments across campus, getting acquainted with the community and preparing for big changes.
Ferguson visited campus twice a week throughout April and May, before settling in on June 3.
“[During] the eight weeks I’ve been here, we really have had a lot of fun, but I think we’ve also had a lot of success changing the things that needed to be changed quickly,” he said.
The biggest changes are in the way upper management is structured, including the president’s cabinet, the academic cabinet and the administrative council. Ferguson has 12 direct reports, and these leaders, representing the main areas around campus, inform him about various issues and actions departments are taking. According to Ferguson, Wallace had about four, with a more layered structure.
“Enhancing communication, enhancing efficiency and enhancing accountability has brought us pretty far. The fiscal issues are improving. Enrollment is improving,” Ferguson said. “A lot of that is putting in place systems that better address challenges and really being able to observe those results in a faster, better way.”
After meeting with hundreds of administrators, faculty, staff and students, Ferguson said he has noticed one common thing about the APU community.
“Despite the challenges the campus has been through last year, as many people as I’ve engaged with, I have found that they want to do great things,” he said. “You can come out of a challenging time [feeling] discouraged and despondent and be unreactive … but the thing that’s exciting to me is that I’ve seen a real desire to move and to grow and to engage in a new era. For a new president coming in, that’s really neat. I like that. It makes my job a whole lot easier. My job is to help bring a new vision and a way to get there. Everybody really wants to do that.”
Ferguson met with SGA leadership last week, including SGA president Tayo Agbalaya, who will serve on the Strategic Plan Committee. The committee began meeting last week and will continue to meet throughout the year.
“Any time you have new leadership or are at a time in a university where you refresh your view of where you’re going and who you are, a strategic plan can come in as a catalyst … to bring the university community together, which is really necessary after the last year, and then articulate how do we do that well [and] what kind of systems need to be in place,” Ferguson said. “There hasn’t been a formal strategic plan at APU for some time.”
According to Ferguson, the committee, comprised of 28 individuals, agreed on five or six major themes of what the university needs to do. The themes are being finalized and will be released to the community in September.
After they are released, Ferguson said the community will have a chance to provide feedback on what goals they want to go through with and which ones they want to discard.
“The community will have great opportunity, intentionally, to weigh in every step of the way,” he said. “It really is a consensus document … it should be a catalytic document for APU.”
Aside from the strategic plan, Ferguson said he is focused on continuing to meet the community and getting to know the student body. He plans on speaking at chapel, although not as often as Wallace did. He also plans on being transparent with students and having tough conversations with them about issues on campus.
“If there’s something on your heart that you’re really bothered about, you’ve got to tell me,” he said. “Truth is truth. If it’s coupled with love, that’s grace and truth. That’s the balance we have to achieve. That’s what Christ-centered academics is at the end of the day, grace and truth in a wonderful way.”
Ferguson said a successful first year at APU will be defined by one thing.
“I think that if APU, on a number of levels, at the end of this year … [has] a real, tangible sense of hope and confidence that APU is back,” Ferguson said. “APU has a great legacy. It’s not that I’m coming in and creating something that has never been here before … APU has incredible aspects of excellence, and the stumble over the last couple years made everybody frustrated and sad … We need to come back into our own.”
According to Ferguson, change is happening and it’s happening quickly.
“Rhetoric is cheap. Reality is hard,” Ferguson said. “There’s just such a spirit of can do [here] and I think that’s part of the APU DNA.”