Pacific Magazine - Volume 18, Number 1

Extending our reach

Community makes academics work at FPU

Once students at the institution that would be Fresno Pacific University all ate together, and anyone who didn’t show could expect friends to swing by the dorm to see what was up.

That’s what they called community—a force that’s a lot more than good feeling at FPU. It’s the heart of our academic, professional and ethical development. Community is the faculty member who guides a student to graduate school.

Community is the career counselor who helps a student land an internship that leads to a job. Community is the campus pastor who helps a student wrestle with a direction in life.

Each version of FPU has had to work community out differently. Pacific Bible Institute began with 28 students and seven staff members in one building. Pacific College moved into an old cotton field on South Chestnut and began building buildings—in some cases, sidewalk first. Fresno Pacific College reached out to more students and faculty from other Christian traditions and created different schools for students just out of high school, for older students with family and work responsibilities and for educators, business people and professionals.

Fresno Pacific University has formally opened regional centers in Bakersfield and Visalia to provide classes and services in one location designed and equipped specifically for educating adult students. Another center in North Fresno is coming, and other locations are possible. (I’m pushing for a Central Coast Center where I can wiggle my toes in the sand while writing my Sidebar columns.)

Multiple schools and multiple locations may seem to stretch community so far from that single table that it’s bound to snap. Not so, but it will have to bend. Again.

While students in degree-completion and graduate programs want closeness as much as do their younger colleagues, they are not at the same point in life. Latenight dorm discussions, sports crowds or daytrips to the beach are less important than the group that stays together to complete a bachelor’s degree or the program that provides professional credentials and graduate degrees.

However it happens, community helps students succeed, and is therefore worth pursuing.

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