Azusa Pacific University has revealed their seven year strategic plan entitled “Renewal”

Thursday morning, President Ferguson announced to the public his seven-year strategic plan to position APU as the “premier Christian university of choice for our culture and times.”

This plan, entitled, “Renewal: Strengthening our Capacity for Cultivating Christ-Centered Scholars and Leaders,” is structured around five grand initiatives that will seek to make Azusa Pacific University a more diverse, successful and far-reaching institution. The plan was disseminated to the public via a live stream and a 53-page document that outlines in more detail what the university hopes to achieve.

Within each of the five initiatives is a three-phase plan:

Refocus (2020-21): Deliver the educational mission with excellence in a COVID-19 environment; address issues of identity, equity, and justice; and create a sustainable financial enterprise through a significant right-sizing and reorganization of the institution’s resources.

Rebuild (2021-22): Reallocate existing and new resources to strategic long-term priorities.

Renew (2022-27): Fuel Azusa Pacific growth into the premier Christian university of choice for our culture and times.

During the video release, President Ferguson explained the leaders involved asked themselves, “How do we celebrate the depth and excellence that APU represents? How do we take advantage of [over 100 years of academic excellence] and prune that appropriately and ensure that going forward, our Christ centered academic excellence truly has application to the world in which we live?” 

Here is how APU plans to approach each initiative according to the plan itself

1. Aspiration for APU to be the Model Christian University in Our Culture and Our Times: Defining Engagement with Virtue as Christian Scholars and Citizens for Our Culture and Times

To become a model university, APU hopes to first establish greater clarity in their direction and focus, as well as more defined expectations for their students and staff.  Furthermore, they are seeking to develop “Christ-centered academic excellence and relevant career preparation for the next generation.” Finally, APU is rededicating itself to developing a more impactful voice in addressing the challenges of today, and expanding their impact and engagement at the local, state and national levels. 

To accomplish these goals, APU plans to “rewrite the mission statement and replace ‘Affirm, Support, and Sustain’ language with a more clear commitment to the Statement of Faith and to uphold the university’s positions while not publicly advocating incompatible positions.”

They are also seeking to create new documents to explore and explain APU’s “identity,” values, statements, commitments” and goals while strengthening their service to underserved student populations. This will include new internal and external strategic communication plans to align the university’s impact. 

Over the course of the next two years, APU plans to continually evaluate, review and enhance academic programs, spiritual formation strategies and “interdisciplicatry approaches to teaching and research.”

In the years of renewal, APU will consider developing core curriculum with focus on equity and justice, increase their research infrastructure, establish at least two new Endowed Faculty Chairs and create a center on interdisciplinary scholarship, which will reflect the “intersection of Christian faith and racial equity, justice, and reconciliation in our culture and times and includes a new Endowed Faculty Chair.”

Finally, APU hopes to continue to fund and support the programs that best aid them in community outreach, such as the Carnegie Foundation Classification for Community Engagement.

2. A Thriving University of Choice: Become a University Destination of Choice for a Diverse Body of Students, Faculty and Staff, Reflecting Inclusive Academic Excellence

The desire to become a thriving university is to be fulfilled by establishing a community that promotes diversity in its pedagogy and practice, providing a rigorous academic experience, becoming known for programs of excellence and creating an environment where both faculty and students belong. With regards to faculty, the university wishes to place a renewed emphasis on promoting recruitment and retention by “providing clear and consistent pathways for salary growth, career advancement, and professional development.” 

To accomplish these goals, the university hopes to create an assessment plan which will include campus climate studies to measure the outcomes of certain endeavors. The university also has plans to design and implement an institution wide training experience to advance diversity and inclusion. They hope to increase the funding for student and faculty/staff ethnic affinity organizations. 

APU has a very direct and specific goal to “increase first-year retention rates for traditional undergraduate students to 85% from 81% and six-year graduation rates to 70% from 68% by 2027 with no significant racial gaps in success rates.” 

To improve the overall safety and maintenance of the school, the plan provides a pathway for the leadership to submit a new Campus Master Plan, demolish the modular buildings to build new student spaces, redesign campus spaces to better service the diverse community extend the energy revolving fund and increase the training, preparation and technology used by campus safety personnel.

3. A Transformational and Collaborative Organization: Build APU’s Leadership Structure to Promote and Sustain a Newly Unified and Collaborative Approach to Transformational University Development and Impact

The transformational and collaborative initiative seeks to revise the university’s current academic structures, leadership structures and methods of resource management. The current climate of a pandemic, along with the resulting economic changes, have resulted in the necessity to reassess administrative procedures. 

Professor Holly Holloway-Friesen remarked that a distinctive feature of APU is to “serve the community that it’s in.” A central demographic of this community is the students who attend the university. In order to serve them more effectively, the administration will be reassessing hybrid models of learning to accommodate students’ needs in the midst of COVID-19. 

In light of decreased enrollment for the 2020-2021 school year, a main goal of this third initiative is to evaluate the effectiveness of marketing strategies. The administration is expected to create a comprehensive marketing plan to meet the operational needs of each department. This venture will be “data driven, market responsive, student-centered, and mission-aligned.” The university hopes to see an increase in student enrollment over the next seven years by means of this initiative.

4. A Recognized Leader in Technology and Data Management: Advance APU as an Academic Leader in Innovative Technology and Data Management Promoting Insightful Decision-Making

$20 million dollars will be invested over the next seven years into technology and data infrastructure. The overall goal of the initiative is to meet the standards of best practices for a higher education institution. 

The first step will be to “develop a comprehensive and institutional technology and data collection strategy” which will be supported by “a collaborative office structure and resource plan.” 

The university will then invest in building “a comprehensive data warehouse, improve our ability to provide data visualizations and reports, and to develop a data analytics team” who will be able to inform the administration as to how to go about making financial decisions in the most fiscally responsible way. 

Beginning in the 2023-2024 school year, students will see more results of this plan by further implementation of technological resources inside the classroom. The university understands the aid which tools such as projectors, monitors, speakers and the like provide, and are seeking to improve these accommodations. Prioritizing merging technology over the next seven years will enable students and faculty to adapt to the changing demands of students in the landscape of higher education.

5. A Sustainable Financial Enterprise: Create Entrepreneurial Funding Strategies and Practices to Resource New Initiatives and Secure Financial Sustainability

APU recognizes that “traditional undergraduate tuition” is currently increasing at rates “2-3 times that of inflation.” The university admitted in its strategic plan that this is currently unsustainable. 

Along with this trial, universities all across the nation have to deal with an incoming class that by and large does not believe an undergraduate degree has much efficacy in our current world. 

The university will be reviewing its traditional pricing model in an effort to provide educational access to all students, along with taking a look at the university endowment, debt management strategy and research funding plan. 

The first two years of this initiative will focus on reorganization of the institution’s resources, both people and finances. This involves opening faculty positions, developing programs, distributing CARES fund resources and restructuring overhead costs. 

The final five years will be funded by outside funding and will seek to further develop “university programs, infrastructure, and technology initiatives.” APU will also launch a major gifts campaign to fund academic priorities and increase the endowment to $142 million.