After 25 storied years of service, Vice President of Student Affairs Shino Simons has left Azusa Pacific University but will remain involved in the community as an alumna.

The first thing I noticed as I walked into Shino Simons’s office a couple weeks ago was the barrenness of the room, tucked in the back corner of the Office of Student Affairs. She seemed to notice too, informing me that she had moved all her personal belongings out the day before, gifted her plants to officemates and replaced her pictures on the walls with the generic ones that came with the office.

All that remained of note was a desk and a bookshelf — both mostly empty — and a couch resting underneath one of the framed photos, which hung slightly askew. As Shino sat on one end of the couch, she folded one leg up to rest her foot on the cushion in a way that made it feel as though we were old friends catching up. She reached up to straighten the crooked frame and told me a story about a portrait of Abraham Lincoln that had hung in that spot previously — a gift from Jon Wallace’s office when he retired from his position as president of APU.

This isn’t the only APU office Shino has occupied, however. Over the course of 25 years working at APU in a variety of roles, she has seen the university grow and change and has become an integral part of APU’s history herself.

Shino’s positions at APU

Shino’s time at APU began as a junior transfer student from the University of Hawaii at Manoa in the fall of 1994. After graduating in 1996 with a degree in psychology, she moved back home to Hawaii for a year with plans to apply to seminary school. She came back to APU in 1997, however, to get her masters in college student affairs.

“During that year, I figured out that I actually like college students and the things that they go through, and so I decided to apply,” said Shino.

As she worked on her masters degree, Shino started working at APU as a resident director. From that point on, she progressed into further leadership positions with students remaining central to her roles.

In the Office of Residence Life, Shino served as a resident director, an assistant director and an associate director, leading Walkabout for five years along the way.

“I loved being with students,” said Shino. “I love the fact that I had the opportunity to do life with them … and just to be present with them.”

In 2003, Shino was appointed director of Communiversity (now called Campus Life). She stayed in that position for seven years before accepting the position of associate dean of students. Throughout her time as associate dean, Shino held several concurrent roles including director of the women’s resource center, Title IX coordinator and interim director of the Student Center for Reconciliation and Diversity.

Then, seven years ago, Shino was appointed Dean of Students. She held that role for one year and, in 2018, became vice president of student affairs — the position she held for the rest of her time at APU.

“I think for me, the favorite part really, is to be with students and to hear and see their lives being transformed,” she said. “I get to see them wrestle through those questions … they are trying to figure out who they are and who God is … and that’s the coolest thing ever to see people’s lives change.”

Why Shino is leaving APU

After half an hour of reminiscing and hearing stories from Shino’s 25 years of working with students, I asked her the question many in the APU community have been wondering since the announcement of her departure: “Why are you leaving?”

“I am leaving because God is inviting me to something else,” Shino answered. “I don’t know what that is. Yeah, I hate the fact that he’s inviting me to something else.”

Her voice trailed off as she got choked up. Face trembling slightly, she composed herself to finish her thought, “but, gotta trust, right?”

Shino expanded on this as she spoke at Monday morning chapel during her last week, sharing her testimony and charging students to respond to what God is calling them to.

“God reminded me that, although I love APU, that this is actually his and that he is the one who invited me and he is the one who called me to this work on our campus,” Shino said. “The same God who called me 25 years ago is calling me once again, but this time around, I have no idea as to where God is calling me or what he wants me to do … Regardless of the outcome, I am supposed to respond to God and do what he is telling me to do.”

What’s next for Shino

As Shino steps out in response to God’s call, she’s unsure of what’s next, but she’s excited for what God will reveal to her and for how this time will unfold.

“I am looking forward to how God’s going to stir something new in me that has not been stirred yet. I am looking forward to experiencing something that I could not have experienced if I stayed so far,” said Shino.

Additionally, Shino said that this next season will involve a lot of self-reflection as well as time with her family. She is excited to have time with her husband and two kids after the hectic past few years where she has had to deal with reducing staffing and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the university.

Although Shino is leaving, she still plans on remaining involved in the APU community as an alumna.

While she’s not sure what future employment might look like or what God will call her to, Shino said, “My hope is that I get to work at a college or a university … but I don’t know which one yet.”

Shino’s vision for APU and advice for students

As an example of leadership, intentionality, wisdom and what it means to live like Christ, members of the APU community have consistently looked to Shino for advice and guidance. So, I asked her to share some final pieces of wisdom with the APU community and share what her vision is for APU.

“I want this place to be a place where students and people are welcomed and where they would experience Jesus because of the way we love and care for people,” she said. “My heart always has been, regardless of where people are at, that they feel seen and cared for and loved.”

Shino also shared her hope for APU to remain strong in its Christ-centered mission. Her vision is that the APU community would be unapologetic as Christ’s followers and that they would extend Jesus to everyone.

Additionally, she advises students to get involved and take all the opportunities APU has to offer.

“What our students bring, what our faculty and our staff brings, that’s what makes us us,” said Shino. “So I would say contribute. Don’t be, don’t watch us, but be a part of it.”

Most of all, however, Shino envisions that the APU community will be kind and brave.

“I want that for all of us — that we would extend Jesus with our words and our actions and our actual act of choosing to do the things that are actually God-honoring. That’s what I want them to do and that’s what I want to do myself — hence, stepping out.”

Farewell, Shino

Now, Shino’s old office, tucked in the back corner of the Office of Student Affairs, is completely empty, and Shino’s time as vice president of student affairs has ended. But, Shino is still a part of APU and her impact is evident on APU’s campus.

In our conversation, Shino, referring to the student body, said, “you are APU, it’s not the buildings.”

APU isn’t Shino’s empty office with its bare bookshelf and slightly askew picture frames. It’s the memories of moments during Walkabout, of concerts put on by Communiversity and of God encountering students on this campus. It’s a story of an Abraham Lincoln portrait that once hung on Wallace’s office wall before it hung on Shino’s wall.

APU is memories of 25 years walking alongside students in fellowship and mentorship.

Thank you, Shino. Farewell.