Last year, Azusa Pacific was headlining the news, but this year brings a fresh beginning
In 2018, Azusa Pacific’s campus was what some might call … chaotic. The financial crisis, the reversed bans from administration and California wildfires that affected many APU students caused doubts when it came to the future of the school. This discourse surrounding APU brought tension within the community, as well as quite a national media buzz.
But moving forward, what does the 2019-2020 year look like? It looks like an ongoing renewal, encouraging growth through APU programs, offices and a new university president to support this shift. This revival is the restoration of a reputation, learning from past mistakes.
Looking back on last year, it’s easy to identify problems and complain, but having an open mind to change is key in harsh situations. To seek answers and improvement is to reach a new level of community.
The official inauguration of President Paul Ferguson initially stirred up the change within the university. His background is built upon ideologies that fuel APU towards greatness. There have been mistakes in the past, and he acknowledges them, but he encourages the school to move forward.
Ferguson has revived multiple elements of APU in a short time—one being the financial status of APU, and the joke, “our school is in debt,” soon will no longer be relevant. The vast opportunities spearheaded by Ferguson represent all passions on campus that can be pursued by students. There are opportunities surrounding athletics, mission trips, arts and everything in between. Last year, a sense of uneasiness resided on campus. The extreme possibilities floated in our minds: Would APU financially recover? Are all students being included? Should I be looking for education elsewhere? This year, the fate of our education is not in question because of the university’s rebrand tactics.
Chapel offices and the pastoral team have also undergone some changes. The pastoral roles have shifted in Spiritual Life, allowing new voices and opinions to lead alongside one another. Ferguson is also involved in this change.
“We have somebody who’s leading us and providing a direction as a university that’s identified a lot of hard work to recover financially,” said Coba Canales, dean of Spiritual Life.
Integrating spiritual principles throughout the campus is another priority of Ferguson’s. This includes being rooted in Scripture as a student body while walking away from false information.
“Truth should not be fearful of any student at Azusa Pacific University,” said Ferguson during APU’s announcement of its 17th president. A spiritual revival is imminent upon APU.
The revival is being led by the office of Spiritual Life. Canales acknowledges the hardships that APU has faced and continues to help the office strive towards relational ministry.
The office of Spiritual Life has a direct focus. The office wants to provide a space for difference-makers who aren’t afraid to ask questions. They are people who care deeply for the students, and they want to hear any suggestions or ideas.
“There are two kinds of people: those who see a problem and complain, and those who will see a problem and strive to fix it,”said Canales. Last year, the Chapel Office was organized differently and lacked clarity. This year, a logistical shift separates Spiritual Life into pillars, supporting students from different perspectives.
One of the pillars of the office for Spiritual Life is mental wellness. Understanding the importance and sensitivity around those who suffer from mental health is essential in administration.
The school is aware of the rise of mental health issues on campus and because of this, the Counseling Center will integrate a new program called Cougar Care. The program involves voluntary training for all staff and students on campus. The training includes learning common psychological issues and how to manage conversations surrounding mental health. The goal is to help students support themselves and friends in an encouraging, and organic manner. The Counseling Center is reviving what it means to be brothers and sisters in Christ at APU.
The cruel reality is that students will walk by friends and feel ashamed to admit their struggles, because it takes vulnerability to open up about one’s struggle with mental health issues.
Canales encourages students to leave any shameful thoughts behind, while seeking acknowledgement. “You can be a strong follower of Jesus Christ and be wrestling with something,” said Canales.
The Student Government Association (SGA) is greatly aiding this revival as well. This year, SGA is prioritizing relational ministries, while logistical and social changes are in the works to improving student life. They have redefined what it means to be involved on campus and express the importance of personal relationships within the student body.
“Our five values this year are engagement, commitment, grace, trust and integrity,” said Veronica Ward, director of communications for SGA. “As an SGA, we are striving to know and be known by the students that we serve.”
For our part as students, it’s time to be critically aware, but not cynical of these shifts. It’s time to stop the habit of bashing our own place of education. The university is striving for positive changes within multiple areas, and student support is vital in a healthy learning community.
This year is different. This is the year for us to come together, to learn and adjust from the past, and to realize the power and impact that is possible within our community.