APU Partners with Foothill Transit to Benefit Commuters

This article originally appeared on APU.edu.

With a growing graduate student population and many undergraduate students who choose to commute, access to affordable and reliable transportation is vital to their success. To help meet this need, Azusa Pacific University is partnering with Foothill Transit to offer all students a Class Pass starting in fall 2019, allowing students to ride all Foothill Transit busses for free for the 2019-20 school year, then at a heavily discounted rate moving forward.

“A lot of students have inquired about discounts for public transportation,” said Rhianna Pierre, Director of Commuter Life. “This new partnership with Foothill Transit will benefit many students.”

Here is how the Class Pass cost and savings breakdown:

  • Free: the Class Pass will be free for all APU students during the 2019-20 school year. The Silver Streak pass, which runs from downtown Los Angeles to Montclair, is included at no additional charge.

  • After the 2019-20 school year, the Class Pass will be significantly discounted from the normal monthly pass rate. The Silver Streak will still be included for free.

  • Students can save more than $1,000 a year with the Class Pass.

“This is really reasonably priced for students and they should take full advantage of it,” Pierre said. The Class Pass is open to all students, not just commuters. Pierre said it can be especially convenient for freshmen, who usually don’t have cars on campus. Pierre conducted a survey of 134 APU students to gauge interest in the Class Pass. According to the survey, 29 percent of respondents said it would help them get to and from school every day; 83 percent said it would allow them to conveniently access LA and Pasadena for recreational use; 41 percent said it would allow them to get to their job or internship every day.

Pierre aims to make it easier for commuters to succeed at APU. “My goal is to constantly provide resources and opportunities so commuters feel like they’re seen and heard. We want to meet their needs and create an environment where all our students can thrive academically and feel supported.”

Students can sign up for their free Class Pass in the fall in the Cougar Dome. The pass is a sticker that goes on the Student ID. With the pass, students can travel to more than 25 cities around Southern California, including: Azusa, Glendora, Covina, West Covina, San Dimas, Pasadena, Los Angeles, Pomona, Hacienda Heights, Whittier, Claremont and Brea.

Peter Bond takes the reins of APU men's basketball

This article originally appeared on ZU News.

Peter Bond sits alone in an office built for two. Half of the office is vacant; an empty desk and bookshelf just beginning to gather dust. The room is too quiet, the atmosphere too raw.

Bond has just been named Azusa Pacific’s new men’s basketball head coach. This came just one day after previous head coach Justin Leslie announced his resignation.

Leslie served as head coach for 12 years and was a part of the program for a decade prior to that. He announced his resignation on April 23, assuming the head coaching position at Midwestern State in Wichita Falls, Texas later the same day.

Leslie expressed his gratitude for the APU community and athletics department, saying he made lifelong friends and unrivaled mentors in his 22 years here.

“Although I am very excited to begin this next step in my career, I know that the hardest part of this transition is saying goodbye to so many people that I love dearly,” Leslie said. “Azusa Pacific is an incredibly special place that is filled with amazing people.”

Leslie finished his APU coaching tenure with a 266-121 (.687) overall record. He led the Cougars to nine 20-win seasons and three NCAA Division II Tournament appearances, including a trip to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight in the program’s first season of NCAA playoff eligibility.

Leslie’s departure came as a surprise to the APU community, including Bond.

“When I first found out, it was quite shocking. Frankly, I wasn’t expecting it,” Bond said.

“I’m going to miss him much more than just as my boss. I’m going to miss him as a friend. I’ve spent more time with him over the last 15 years than anybody else in my life. It is going to be a missing piece of almost half my life, but I know he’s going to do well and he’s doing what’s best for his family, which is really important.”

Bond met with his players soon after the announcement, doing what he could to be there for them.

“Within a team sport, there is a lot of talk about being selfless and doing what’s best for the team and what not … in this situation everybody’s first reaction is, ‘Oh man, how does this affect me?’ I told them that is totally normal. When guys came to me and were kind of shocked, that’s what I would lead with because I know it would make them let their guard down,” Bond said.

Bond empathized with the players because he has been in this situation before. In his junior year, former APU men’s basketball head coach Bill Odell resigned without warning, leaving Leslie to take over the program. Just over a decade later, history repeated itself, with Bond taking the reins this time around. However, Bond said he wasn’t sure if he would be selected.

“I didn’t know,” Bond said. “I knew that during my time here, I had represented myself well, I had represented the program well and we’ve done good things that I had a role in. But I didn’t want to assume that it was a given, that once he left I would take over.”

After the athletics department announced Bond as the new head coach, he said he received many congratulatory texts and calls. While he appreciated this, Bond said he told people that he still had a lot of work to do.

“I want to make sure that I do every step of that process well,” Bond said. “I was really intentional in that process to prepare, to plan, to still continue to do things well.”

Prior to being named head coach, Bond was the men’s basketball assistant coach and director of athletic development for 11 years. He was also a member of APU’s basketball team while he was a student from 2004-08.

Bond was humbled to be selected for the position.

“I felt honored because of how much APU means to myself and my family … in a way, I kind of grew up with APU being held up on a pedestal,” Bond said.

“To be able to take over a role like this, I just felt a lot of pride and honor in being chosen to do that, mixed with excitement and some nervousness. There was a whole array of feelings.”

Bond met his wife Erin Halma at APU. Halma was a star on the Cougars’ softball team. In addition, his two sons have both grown up as huge APU fans.

Bond is already making plans for how he will lead the Cougars next year. Last season, the Cougars finished third in the PacWest Conference with a 20-11 overall record, falling to Point Loma in the PacWest tournament semifinal. Bond looks to take the team deeper into the postseason behind the strength of six returning seniors.

“I anticipate our upperclassmen having a huge impact,” Bond said. “I think having guys who are not only seniors but have been in the program for a long time, they know they’ve got an opportunity to do some very cool, very unique things in a basketball career. You only get a college basketball experience one time. I feel like guys are really embracing that and know this is their last shot to make something special happen.”

Bond said the top trait that will elevate the squad to the next level is teamwork.

“A really good team cares about one another. They want to perform and hold themselves to a high standard for the guy next to them,” Bond said. “Everybody wants to perform well as an individual because we’re competitive and that’s what we desire, but when there’s a care for one another that runs deep, it takes everybody’s level up because they’re holding each other to a higher standard.”

The team will also bring in three freshmen and one transfer. He is excited about each of them, from their physical traits to how hard they play. His face lit up when he described what each new player brings to the team.

“I have high expectations for the team, but a lot of that comes down to that I know what they’re capable of,” Bond said.

Bond said his squad for next year might have more talent than APU’s 2014-15 team, which went to the Elite Eight. However, he said that team had an extremely high basketball IQ and this team will have to work a lot on that in order to go deep into the postseason.

In order for the team to do that, Bond said the work begins now. While the team will not practice together over the summer, due to NCAA rules, Bond met with each player and discussed their workout plans for the offseason.

“The four month summer gives them a good chance to grow as players, to grow physically,” Bond said. “I want the players to have specific goals and a plan for how they’re going to get there … I was very intentional with them about that.”

Bond said he wants his players to keep each other accountable, to communicate with each other what their plans are and if they’re following through on them. He wants the team to keep each other in line but to mainly support each other’s success.

“I want to really have the guys know what I expect of them, but also what they’re going to expect of me,” Bond said. “I want to coach them, but I want to have them go out on the floor and have full confidence in themselves and know that I have full confidence in them. That’s part of my strength. I’m going to be pretty even keeled. I’m going to put in the work ahead of time. When it comes to game time, I’m going to be there for them, but I’m not going to lose my cool.”

While the players are practicing at home for the summer, Bond will find look for someone to take over his old positions. He said he has received a huge amount of interest from people all over the country.

“Honestly, I’ve been a little taken back by how many people are interested in coming here and coaching in this program. People from all over the place — East Coast, Midwest, local schools — I know we’ve had some tough times at APU, but it’s still very much a popular destination,” Bond said. “There are a lot of people wanting to leave what I view as other very good schools to come here. I think that really speaks highly of what we have going here, not just as a basketball program, but also as a university.”

Bond hopes to name the new assistant coach by June 1, but it might take longer. Until then, the other half of the office will remain empty.

APU Undergrad Wins Prestigious Microbiology Fellowship

This article was originally published on APU.edu.

Hannah Valencia ’20 sits in a lab room in the Segerstrom Science Center hunched over a flow cytometer, searching intently. She is getting paid to do something she loves—research. Valencia, a junior biology and honors humanities double major, was recently awarded a research fellowship from the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), enabling her to continue her research on “Determining the effects of Aspergillus sclerotiorum [a fungal species] on cell cycle progression in Drosophila[fruit fly] cells.” This prestigious fellowship provides Valencia with 10 weeks of funding over the summer. She will present her findings at the ASM Microbe conference next year in Chicago.

Valencia is the first APU student to receive this fellowship. She applied under the guidance of her principal investigator, Sarah Richart, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Biology and Chemistry. “This fellowship is very competitive. It’s a huge opportunity for Hannah. It speaks highly of her and of our department at APU,” Richart said. In addition to presenting at the conference next year, Valencia will attend an academy hosted by the ASM where she will learn about graduate schools and receive career advice from professionals in the industry.

“I was really shocked when I heard I got it,” Valencia said. “It was so unexpected but it made me really happy. It felt like all of my work was starting to pay off.” Valencia began her research on this topic last summer. She chose this subject after Richart discovered a new fungal strain, which infected a group of termites she was testing. Valencia asked Richart if she could use this fungus to determine how it affects cell growth in fruit flies. “The sky's the limit for students in terms of research projects,” Richart said. “I help them get started, but they have freedom in how the experiment is designed and how they’ll test their hypotheses.”

Valencia theorized this fungus would disrupt the cell cycle in insects. She uses a machine called a flow cytometer, which allows her to examine the components of individual cells. She labels nucleotides and measures fluorescence to determine cell growth. While this process might seem bewildering to most, Valencia looks forward to going to the lab each day. “Last summer, I would crank out eight-hour days in the lab. I was often the first in and the last to leave. The work was so captivating,” she said. Although she had a lot of fun, her work was often challenging. She had just completed her sophomore year and lacked lab experience. “I didn’t have a lot of upper division science classes under my belt. I still had much to learn. There was plenty of trial and error,” she said. “The process took longer than it should have, but the end result was gratifying.”

Richart guided Valencia through her research, but left some distance so she could learn on her own. When Valencia had a question, Richart encouraged her to use her resources and seek the answer herself. “That made it hard at first, but I really appreciate it now,” Valencia said. “I’ve integrated that mindset into other classes and it has really helped me improve as a student.”

Richart said the opportunity to do research as an undergraduate student is very rare. Many universities only allow graduate and postdoctoral students to conduct research. “That’s one of our distinct advantages,” she said. “When I did undergrad at a state school, I competed with 500 other students for 10 research spots. Hannah has the luxury to not go through that and get lots of experience in undergrad. That’s huge for her when she applies for grad school and for her career.”

Valencia is not sure what her future holds. For now, she focuses on her present scholarly opportunities. The Glendora High School graduate returns home from the lab each night and enjoys simply relaxing with her family. “Being a commuter, it’s nice to separate work life and home life. I love having home-cooked meals and just talking with my dad about my day,” she said. Valencia didn’t originally plan on attending APU, but she said she is very happy she’s here. “APU has been a really rewarding experience. The environment is enriching and all my professors are supportive. Research here has allowed me to grow in so many ways I never imagined.”

Building Leaders Through LEGO SERIOUS PLAY

This article was originally published on APU.edu.

Wendi Dykes, Ph.D., plays with LEGO bricks every day. Dykes, an assistant professor in Azusa Pacific University’s Department of Leadership and Organizational Psychology, along with her colleagues Edgar Barron, Ed.D.Shawna Lafreniere, Ph.D.Jillian Gilbert, DSL.Susan Barton, M.A., are certified LEGO SERIOUS PLAY(LSP) facilitators who teach graduate students how to use LEGOs for something more than just making fun creations. Their innovative work recently garnered national attention from Fast Company's 2019 World Changing Ideas (WCI) Awards with an honorable mention in the Education category. More than 2,000 companies and organizations representing dozens of fields entered the WCI competition.

“LEGO SERIOUS PLAY is a tested methodology that helps organizations thrive,” Dykes said. “We’re using it to teach students organizational systems, organizational change structures, leadership development, team learning, team identity, and more.”

Prior to teaching at APU, Dykes worked at LEGOLAND California for 11 years as their director of organization development and training, where she received international honors for her programs and strategies. “I used LEGO as part of my workshops and training there, but it wasn’t until four years ago that I became certified as an LSP facilitator,” Dykes said. “I even used LEGO as part of my dissertation. I studied how LSP can increase creative confidence in individuals to help them solve complex challenges.”

This is exactly what Dykes does in her classes. “In the Organizational Systems: Theories of Change class this semester, we start the process of building an organizational system. We choose something the students all have in common. Then they each use LEGO to build a model of their own that represents this,” Dykes said. “We come together and share our creations and, in turn, we learn about each others’ unique perceptions. Next, we create a new, collaborative model. Every single person has to feel represented.”

Dykes said it is exciting to watch these graduate students work with LEGO, as individuals at first, then as a group. After they finish the collaborative model, they map out the bridges and barriers they may come across within the particular challenge. “It’s really eye opening for people,” she said. “The ultimate goal of this class is to understand how vast a system is, with all the subsystems within the larger organization. To visualize that is powerful. It’s fun, but it’s hard work. It’s also rewarding for me as a professor because I get to see students experience a deeper level of learning when they build something external from themselves.”

Initially, some students are uncomfortable with the idea of building with LEGOs because they were never fond of them as kids and don’t think they’re creative. Dykes said this doesn’t matter because LSP is not about being creative; it’s about building the muscle of creative confidence. “The important part is the process and the story that the individual attributes to the brick,” Dykes said. “Whatever you make in the world of LEGO, it’s right.”

In addition to teaching her students LSP, Dykes plans to bring the founder of LSP, Robert Rasmussen, to APU so students can learn from him firsthand and be certified as LSP facilitators. “They can go into organizations and use this tool they learned in class,” Dykes said.

When students graduate from APU’s Organizational Psychology program they will have the competence and confidence to begin consulting for organizations, whether internally in a human resources department, externally for their own company, or as part of a larger consulting firm. “We’re training students to go into organizations using skills and tools to make a major impact.”

APU names Paul Ferguson new president

This article was originally published on ZU News, with help from Micaela Ricaforte.

On Wednesday, Azusa Pacific named Paul Ferguson, Ph.D., as the university’s next president. He will assume the role on June 1.


Ferguson has an impressive background in higher education. This will be his third time serving as president of a university. He previously served as president of Ball State University in Muncie, Ind. from 2014-16 and the University of Maine from 2011-14. He is currently the founding dean of the School of Science, Technology and Health at Biola University.

Ferguson also previously served as the provost and vice chancellor of Academic Affairs at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (2006–11), vice president for Research and Graduate Studies at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (1999–2006) and vice provost and dean of Graduate Studies and Research at the University of Louisiana at Monroe (1993–99).

APU’s presidential search committee believes Ferguson is the perfect man for the job of navigating the university out of the difficult times it has faced over the past year, from the financial deficit to the handbook controversy.

“Dr. Ferguson is an accomplished and admired academic and administrative leader,” said Search Committee Co-chair Elizabeth Maring, JD. “He’s the right person to lead APU with his vast experience, thoughtful leadership and commitment to Christ and biblical principles.”

Ferguson said he is excited to assume the presidential role at APU.

“I’m grateful for this opportunity, and I want to thank the Board of Trustees for the confidence placed in me,” Ferguson said. “I’m devoted to APU’s Christ-centered mission, achieving sustainability, academic advancement and a joy for learning to all our campuses.”

Raised in Hacienda Heights, Ferguson is a Southern California native and currently resides in Yorba Linda. Although he lived in other parts of the country for many years, he still paid attention to what was going on in Southern California and at APU.

“Watching APU from afar, I’m familiar with it and I’ve always had a tremendous amount of respect for what’s gone on at APU,” he said. “I think the institution and its people have done extraordinary things over the last couple decades.”

Ferguson decided to return to Southern California in 2016 to help care for his wife’s parents. He also welcomed the challenge of revamping Biola’s science programs.

Ferguson earned his doctorate at UC Davis, where he focused on toxicology, later going on to become a professor of toxicology and public health. He plans on teaching classes at APU as well, although the details of these classes won’t be ironed out until a later date.


Ferguson said he admires current president Jon Wallace’s commitment to student service.

“I’ve seen how [Jon] interacts with and talks about students,” Ferguson said. “He’s a very good example of a student-centered president … he has truly walked with and fellowshipped with students. I think what [I] can learn from him is tangible love of students.”

Ferguson’s own leadership model places emphasis on creating strategies that unite people towards a shared vision. He developed these leadership skills when he became a dean at the University of Louisiana at Monroe.

“When I became a professor I never thought that I would become a university administrator. That was not the path until the provost of the University of Louisiana pulled me aside and asked me if I had ever considered administrations. He wanted me to infuse administrative position with my love of learning so that the whole university could grow together,” he said. “So I really became a student of leadership, primarily [learning] how [to] inspire, encourage, and chart a course that everybody wants to do. Leadership, strategic planning, vision setting and how to do that in teams and as a community — that’s what a university does.”

Ferguson also said he’s a strong believer in the servant-leadership model.

“He who serves first leads well. It’s not about command and control from the top-down, it’s about encouraging, inspiring and empowering the organization to thrive,” Ferguson said. “That’s where I have been most successful, in getting people to come together and agree on a vision and getting them excited about where they go. That’s where I have developed leadership skills in my career, and learned how to best apply those skills in the community.”


Ferguson recognizes the complexity of APU’s academic structure and community. He plans on getting to know the community “intentionally and strategically.”

“In my past experience as president, I have gone out to every department and met with them. I’m a very relational, engaged person. I want to get to know people, who they are and what they do,” Ferguson said. “I’ll be directly going out into the APU community to seek and to listen. I need to go and see where they think we are and understand where they’re coming from, listening to their hopes and fears.”

In the next few months, Ferguson will meet with constituents from across campus. He said he needs to learn a lot from these constituents in order to form plans for improving the university and bringing it out of the current financial deficit.

“That’s part of my transition, to be doing a deep-dive with the finance office, CFO and cabinet, so I’ll be meeting with leadership over April and May, and have those conversations to be pretty well engaged before I start in June,” Ferguson said. “From now until June 1, we’re just starting to do transition things.”  

Although the current situation APU is in may seem daunting to others, Ferguson said he embraces challenges like this. He described how he created strategic plans in his last two presidential roles to navigate through difficult situations.

“I really think in general, where do I get my most fulfillment, is when we have successfully charted a very challenging course because you don’t always know how it’s going to turn out or where it’s going to take you,” Ferguson said. “You just roll up your sleeves and do the hard work to get there.”

Ferguson said his vision for his first year as president is to listen to community members — students, faculty and staff — to determine what direction APU needs to head in the next three to five years.

“It’s now time to do a new strategic plan that really defines who we are today and the culture we live in and how to be difference makers in the current culture,” Ferguson said. “The ultimate goal, in my opinion, is that APU is the premiere Christian school in the country …  I would hope that in five years APU is the model for what a Christian university should be in the U.S. That means not only in the integration of faith and academics, [but in] practicing Christ-centered academic excellence … not only the graduate but the undergraduate and professional.”

Ferguson said this goal aims to point back to God.

“If we do this right and God really blesses us like I know that he will, then people will say, ‘That’s not easy to do, how did APU do that?’ and [we’ll be able to] point them back to God,” Ferguson said. “When I say let’s be a model, it’s not for pride; it’s to really, truly demonstrate the model of God First at an institution of academic excellence.”

APU Alumnus Connects Community Through Art

This article was originally published on APU’s website.

E. Trent Thompson ’17 glides his brush down the canvas slowly, deliberately. He is painting with love and with a goal. Each stroke tells a story and each painting connects his community in new and profound ways. Thompson, who graduated with a B.A. in cinematic arts and a minor in fine art, runs a creative agency and sells art at a collaborative workspace in Livermore, California. He discovered inspiration for his art on his way to the office, where he often passed by a homeless woman named Sydney who sat outside the building. “I would say hi and move on about my day,” he said. “Occasionally, I brought her lunch.” Over time, Thompson built a friendship with Sydney, which sparked an idea. He asked Sydney if he could take a picture of her to use for a painting. “I wanted to make her feel seen, to know that people care for her and wish they could help.” She said, “Yes,” and, in that moment, Pictures 4 People was born.

“This is a grassroots movement that aims to call attention to the needs of individuals in our community that we walk by everyday,” Thompson said. His Instagram account captures the stories behind his artwork. “Each painting is attributed to a specific cause, highlighted through the person and the art, to raise money for a community organization doing the groundwork to make the world a better place.” These nonprofits include a food kitchen, a homeless shelter, a special needs organization, and a ministry dedicated to helping victims of abuse.

“Painting ties into my faith directly,” he said. “I’m trying to love with actions instead of words, to focus on listening to their stories and planting seeds of hope as opposed to judging.”

Over the course of the last five months, he has met and painted portraits of six people, including four homeless individuals. Thompson uses acrylic and spray paint on canvas, a form he calls “urban contemporary” that lends a unique style to each piece.

He garners positive feedback from his portrait subjects and from the surrounding tri-valley community. Many people who view the paintings on Instagram ask if they can donate money or goods. Recently, Thompson collaborated with several local nonprofits to host an auction. More than 100 people attended. “We packed the house and sold all the paintings,” he said. “We raised nearly $8,000, all of which went to local nonprofits to assist the individuals.”

Three of those he painted attended the auction and connected with the people who bought their portraits. This successful outcome was more than he hoped for when he began the project, let alone when he graduated from APU just two years earlier. “APU helped me build confidence,” he said. “As an artist, I decided to try something unlike I had ever seen before.”

Thompson’s desire is to infuse compassion into the community through his paintings. “By purchasing a painting, we hope to fund community organizations and projects that will better the lives of our brothers and sisters in need,” he said. To view Trent’s art, visit his website.

APU Hosts Global Game Jam to Launch New Degree Program

Azusa Pacific University participated in the 11th Annual Global Game Jam (GGJ), an international gaming challenge which connects gamers from across the world to develop new games over a 48-hour time span. This year more than 47,000 people participated at 860 sites in 113 countries, making more than 9,000 games. APU hosted 19 game “jammers” from the Southern California region, including four APU students. These jammers collaborated for two days straight, fueled by free food and coffee, to create a total of four games which can be downloaded here. All games related to the theme this year, “What does home mean to you?” View a video from APU’s Global Game Jam event.

“The event was very successful,” said Tim Samoff, director of APU’s new Games and Interactive Media program. “Each team was comprised of a programmer, a writer, a designer, and an artist. They first talked about the theme and brainstormed ideas. Then they started writing the story, designing the characters and graphics, picking the style of the game, and choosing a game engine. All teams completed their games, which is a remarkable feat in just 48 hours.”

Samoff invited Chris Skaggs and John Bergquist from Soma Games, a video game company comprised of Christian developers based in Oregon, to present at the GGJ. Skaggs shared his story, including how he became involved in the industry and created his own company. They connected with gaming participants, including APU senior cinematic arts major Amy Lowery.

“It was an amazing networking opportunity and I’m planning on applying to work at Soma after I graduate in May,” she said.

Lowery served as a writer for her team to develop a game called Catalina, which focused on a stray kitten finding a home. Lowery has four years of experience in screenwriting, but this provided her with a unique challenge to enhance her skillset. Other members of her team worked on design, coding, and development. Lowery said her team continues to work on expanding the game.

“I’m surprised by how much we were able to do in only 48 hours,” she said. “I had so much fun. I learned a ton about what it actually takes to make a game, including the differences between writing for games and writing for film, about programming, design and development.”

Samoff said he was impressed by what the teams created in such a short time period. He said most professional games take at least two to three years to create, with a team of dozens or even hundreds.

The GGJ served as the official launch of APU’s new games and interactive media degree, which begins in the fall. The first of its kind among the 140 universities that comprise the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities, APU's program combines story and play, providing core competencies in the cultural, theoretical, artistic, and narrative aspects of game design and interactive media.

The GGJ covered several of these components that APU’s games and interactive media students will learn in depth. Samoff plans on hosting the GGJ annually on campus and is excited to see this event and the new program grow.

Examining APU’s water usage: Where we were, where we are, where we need to be

In honor of International Water Day, ZU News examined APU’s water usage

Azusa Pacific uses 67 million gallons of water a year on average. Yes — you read that correctly — 67 million gallons.

While this number may seem big, it is actually much smaller than it used to be just four years ago when APU used 83 million gallons in one year. This dramatic decrease of about 19 percent is due primarily to one man — Toney Snyder.

Snyder is the assistant director of environmental stewardship at APU, a position he has held since 2007. He is in charge of making sure the university is responsible with its water usage, power, natural gas and other resources.

“Normally during a drought you would use more water, but we achieved a reduction four years in a row. I think this shows APU is being a good steward of our water,” Snyder said.

Snyder got the job after a class at APU discovered the university was not being efficient with its resources. He looked at all areas where APU could cut down on water. The biggest area by far was exterior usage.

"Watering the fields is the largest [category],” Snyder said. “They say that about 60 percent of your water use will go to exterior usage, keeping your lawns green. I'm guessing we're pretty close to that.”

Snyder found several areas where APU could cut their water usage. One of them involved changing the sprinkler system to smart controllers.

"One of the first projects I did was with water sprinkler controllers. We have 37 of them on campus. They're little boxes, and in each box is a timer and all the different areas of campus are connected to those timers,” Snyder said.

These controllers used to be controlled manually, meaning facilities management workers would have to go around to each one on campus to turn it off. This caused a big problem when it rained because the sprinklers would still go off, and it would be a waste of water.

However, Snyder found grants to convert these sprinkler controllers to “smart” controllers, which you can control from a computer or phone through remote access.

“I spent about $100,000 to convert all 37 controllers to a smart controller. For every single one I submitted a rebate, because the water company says 'Thank you for being a good steward with your water. We're going to give you money back,’” Snyder said. “I invested about $100,000, and I got about $100,000 back in rebates.”  

This switch to smart controllers has saved APU countless gallons of water. Now whenever it rains, facilities workers can simply shut the sprinklers off from wherever they are.

“Typically this time of the year, we shut off our sprinklers for months,” Snyder said. “It's all based on the amount of rainfall we get. When we start getting hot weather again, we just turn the sprinklers back on.”

Snyder also got a grant to replace the sprinkler nozzles on about 18,000 sprinklers on campus. The new nozzles rotate, which allows the water time to sink into a patch of ground before that patch is sprayed again. The old style would just continuously spray an area, which would overwater it and lead to runoff, wasted water.

In addition, APU changed a large portion of their landscaping from grass to xeriscaping, a drought friendly landscape. This is more suited to the location APU is in, a desert.

This process took years, according to Snyder. In the meantime, he looked at other ways the university could use less water.

He put in 15 water bottle filling stations across campus, which allow students to fill their bottles quickly and easily, cutting down on bottled water consumption. The next place he turned was the bathroom.

“We also converted our urinals in the men's restrooms to a pint urinal, which uses a pint of water to flush instead of a gallon. The old style urinals would sometimes use up to two gallons of water,” Snyder said. “We also switched a lot of sinks to automatic faucets.”

While both of these measures save APU thousands of gallons of water a year, they pale in comparison to showers.

“APU is equipped with low-flow shower heads. We did this in 2006, I believe. We put over 1,000 of them in across the dormitories, Bowles, UP and UV,” Snyder said. “The shower head is shaped like a cone with a little lever on the side. If you push the lever, it decreases the amount of water.”

Snyder said these shower heads use two gallons per minute compared to the four gallons a minute from older shower heads. The lever on the side reduces that further to one gallon a minute.

According to Snyder, showers are by far the biggest category of water usage by students. He said the average college student takes 1.6 showers per day, and many of them have no idea how long they’re in there for.

“I bet if all students were aware and made an effort to reduce water, we could save a lot [more],” Snyder said.

Snyder is not alone in thinking showers are an issue. APU senior chemistry major Rachel Roller agreed people need to be more mindful of their shower time.

"The first step is just to be conscious of it. If you remember that water is a precious resource, especially here in California where we're recovering from a drought, maybe you don't need to take a 45 minute shower. Maybe you can take a five minute shower,” Roller said. “I have some friends who just like to play a song while they shower. They'll find one that's about five minutes long and they have to be done by the time the song is finished."

Roller currently serves as a research assistant for Louise Huang, director of APU’s Center for Research in Science (CRIS). Roller is helping Huang on a project on environmental stewardship and sustainability in higher education.

“I ended up researching reasons primarily why evangelical Christians aren't as concerned about the environment,” Roller said. “I started caring about environmental issues a lot more. I realized that as Christ followers we have a responsibility to care about the environment.”

Roller found two primary reasons for Christians not caring about the environment.

“Within the Christian community, there can be a distrust of science, which stems from a few things—the biggest being the evolution debate. Some people think that scientists are out to get Christians, so if they don't believe the theory of evolution, they might also not believe stuff about the environment,” Roller said. “Another big factor we've found is politics, honestly. Evangelical Christians tend to be more conservative, and the environment has historically been more of a liberal concern. I read one study that even if Christians read the Bible and think that they need to steward God's earth, they are hesitant to do anything about it because that would make them seem like a liberal hippy tree hugger. That's a big one.”

Sarah Richart, a professor in the Department of Biology and Chemistry, shared some of Roller’s views. Richart said she has been interested in sustainability from a young age, “way before it was cool.” She was one of the founding members of her environmental club in high school.

Richart spoke about an experience where she visited the Urbana Conference, a mission focused conference that occurs every three years, in 1993. She said she was shocked to find that out of the more than 300 mission groups there, only one was focused on environmental issues.

“We focus so much on salvation, that Jesus is going to come back, so [people think] it doesn’t matter what happens to the rest of the world,” Richart said.

Richart said she admires the steps APU has taken, especially xeriscaping, but thinks there is still room for improvement from the university.

“Because I’m a professor, I think where we’re losing is an educational opportunity,” Richart said. “We could have some kind of event at orientation, a session on sustainability, creation care and stewardship. We could invite students to think about the way they could cut down on thinks like water, power and other resources. It would be great if we could have an environmental studies major and offer more classes on that for people who are interested in that as a career.”

Richart is focused on educating students to be better stewards of the environment. She thinks many students take their resources, including water, for granted.

“We definitely take for granted that we have water delivered to our homes, that it’s clean,” Richart said. “We also take for granted that when we flush the toilet, that’s treated and goes back out safely into the environment.”

As a microbiologist, Richart is an expert on microorganisms, many of which are found in water. She spoke about this aspect in making drinking water safe.

“Water is important from a microbiological perspective, especially clean water,” Richart said. “Separating out drinking water from sewage was a big technological milestone in human health. We started seeing people dying from fewer infectious diseases when we started making clean water accessible, at least in this country.”

Although most of the U.S. has access to clean water, Richart pointed out an event just four years ago that has already faded to the back of the mind for many.

“People who live in Flint, Michigan do not take water for granted. They’re still drinking bottled water. That water has lead poisoning in it,” Richart said. “Depending on where you live in this country, that calls into question whether our water is always safe and whether the people who control the water are always working in our best interest.”

Richart also talked about how a large portion of the world doesn’t have access to clean water. Estimates vary, but approximately somewhere between 788 million and 1.1 billion people don’t have access to clean drinking water across the world.

One group at APU is committed to raising awareness and fighting the global water crisis. Ride for Water is a team of APU students that ride across the U.S. to raise money to donate to charity:water, an organization that works to bring clean drinking water to people across the world.

While Richart admires the Ride for Water team’s work, she also thinks there is a lot of room for improvement on the home front. She suggested students be more mindful of everyday decisions that waste water, including drinking water from plastic water bottles, and their dietary decisions.

“Eating meat requires a lot more water than just eating plants,” Richart said. “Also, certain plant items require a lot of water. In California we have a lot of almond and pistachio farms. Those two nuts are notorious for taking a lot of water. I think a single pistachio nut requires about a gallon of water.”

To some, these everyday decisions may seem like small ones without consequences, but this is simply not true. Richart said many people are uneducated or miseducated about these things. She said just recently China announced that they would no longer accept recyclables from the U.S. This means that all the plastic that people think is getting recycled is actually just getting incinerated or put into a landfill, according to Richart.

Richart, Roller and Snyder are all focused on one thing: educating people on these issues. While they can make a small difference in their personal lives, others will have to start thinking about these issues too and implementing changes to make a noticable difference, like the 16 million gallons of water APU has saved on average across the past four years.

“There do tend to be barriers between Christians and caring for the environment, but I don't think any of those barriers are insurmountable,” Roller said. “Some of the things we can do are listen to each other, seek out evidence, be willing to partner with people we disagree with and the biggest one is to put God at the center of everything we do.”

APU updates student handbook, removes code on same-sex relationships, again

This article was originally published on ZU News.

On Thursday, Azusa Pacific Provost Mark Stanton emailed the APU community that the undergraduate student handbook had undergone a complete revision. This came after the school first lifted, then reinstated the code on same-sex relationships last fall. This update reflected months of feedback from students, faculty, staff, administration and board members.

University Executive Vice President David Bixby was charged by the Board of Trustees to assemble a team and begin changing the handbook. The team included members from Student Life, Campus Pastors, Diversity, University Relations, Faculty Senate and Staff Council.

“The whole thing needed to be changed. What prompted that was the issue back in September, but it was long overdue for an overhaul and a complete change,” Bixby said. “I knew we were going to deconstruct the entire document and start from scratch.”

Entitled “Undergraduate Student Handbook: A Faith and Living Community,” the new handbook is divided into three sections: undergraduate community living values, standards and policies and resources. Each section has several subsections and is completely different than its predecessor.

The changes to the handbook were made by a team of more than 20 people, led by Bixby, examining what areas of the handbook needed to updated. One of the biggest areas regarded LGBTQ+ students and romanticized same-sex relationships on campus.

In September 2018, APU removed the code on same-sex relationships on campus, then reinstated the code later in the same month. In the new handbook, the code has once more been lifted. In its place, the handbook has a section entitled “Sexual Stewardship.”

This section reads, “We affirm a biblical foundation for sexual relationships in full accord with the APU’s Human Sexuality statement. We believe God designed the covenant of marriage and that individuals remain celibate outside of that marriage covenant.”

While the language of the code has been removed, the university still holds the same core values.

“We hold that the full behavioral expression of sexuality is to take place within the context of a marriage covenant between a man and a woman and that individuals, both gay and heterosexual, remain celibate outside of the bond of marriage,” Bixby said. “For us, the challenge is how do we come alongside our LGBTQ+ students … and love them with the love Christ talks about –– love God, love people.”

Bixby said both heterosexual and LGBTQ+ students would face the same punitive action if caught engaged in sexual activity on campus. This idea of equal treatment was central to the entire handbook update, according to Stanton.

“We want to make sure we apply our standards in a uniform fashion to all students, so there’s a sense of it being applied in a non-discriminatory manner. It doesn’t apply to one group and not others. It applies to all students in that way,” Stanton said. “That is fundamental to what we’ve tried to do.”

Both Stanton and Bixby met with the Student Government Association (SGA) several times during the past six months. They wanted to hear feedback from students regarding the events of the fall. Three board members even sat in on an SGA meeting in the fall to listen to students’ opinions, according to SGA president Tabitha Parker.

Parker said she was glad to get the email announcing the revisions after unclear communication in the fall. She said students want clarity above all else on the situation.

“Some people were surprised that it happened this year, some were expecting it to be even more delayed,” Parker said.

However, the handbook touched on much more than just sexual stewardship. Also outlined in the community values section are discipleship, service, corporate worship, diversity, community care and integrity. Bixby focused on a few of these areas.

“This is who we are. To lead with discipleship is part of the framework of Azusa Pacific, our intentional desire to disciple and to point students to Christ,” Bixby said. “And anyone who lives at APU knows service is a huge part of who we are … These are critical components of how we do life at APU with students.”

Another component of the handbook talks about corporate worship, also known as chapel. Bixby said he is proud of the way APU handles chapel, saying that although he has not been to every Christian school, he doesn’t think any other university has a chapel with quite as “electric of an atmosphere.”

Perhaps one of the more overlooked parts of the handbook focuses on diversity. This section reads, “We support a diverse university across lines of race, ethnicity, culture, gender, socioeconomic status, class, age, and ability. In submitting to the Lordship of Christ, we seek to eliminate attitudes of superiority and to fulfill Christ’s charge to reach all peoples.”

Stanton said this change to the handbook represented APU’s student body.

“Christian schools in California are different than in many other parts of the country, especially in terms of diversity. The majority of our students are students of color,” Stanton said. “That’s simply not the case in many institutions nationally.”

While revising the handbook, Bixby and Stanton examined other Christian schools’ handbooks, especially universities in California. According to Bixby, many Christian universities share similar language in their handbooks; however, they may have different goals. Stanton reaffirmed that APU has one primary goal that has not changed, despite the other changes in the handbook.

“Our motto is ‘God First’ … That faith commitment was central to what we’re trying to do. I say that because it’s important for everyone to know that it remains central to who we are,” Stanton said.

Despite the events of the fall, Stanton said he hopes students will see what the university is trying to do with the new handbook.

“If you talk about what’s coming from my heart, it’s that students will understand that we’re genuinely trying to relate and interact well with every student on our campus,” Stanton said. “We don’t want any student to feel marginalized or outcast.”

Animation Students Guest Host Annie Awards

When Tony Bancroft, director of APU’s Animation and Visual Effects program, went on stage with his team to accept the Best Animated Special Production Award for Mary Poppins Returns at the 46th Annual Annie Awards, 23 of his animation students cheered him on.

“It was extremely special to have my students in the audience with me. When my name was called, they were super excited, leaping to their feet and applauding,” he said. “Getting recognized by my peers in the animation industry is an honor, but being recognized by my students is exceptional. They represent the next generation of great animators.”

Bancroft was hired by former colleague Ken Duncan as part of a 12-member team of animators for Mary Poppins Returns. Reminiscent of the 1964 film, they created a 20-minute animated sequence of animals dancing with stars Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda.

These animals were created the old-fashioned way — hand drawn and two-dimensional. Bancroft said they relished the work because it brought them back to the days when they collaborated on various classics in the 90s, including Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, and Mulan.

Bancroft, who won an Annie Award for Outstanding Achievement in Directing in 1998 for Mulan, along with his co-director Barry Cook, described the Annies as the Oscars of the animation world.

“The Annies are the highest level award you can receive in animation. They’re sponsored by all the major studios,” he said. “Everybody gets dressed up; it’s a black tie event. It’s one of the only times us geeky animation people look like movie stars.”

Bancroft said the black tie element was the biggest challenge for his students. Some students called their parents the week before and asked them to send their old prom dresses so they would have something to wear to the ceremonies.

“They all had a ball,” Bancroft said. “For the first time, APU was the only school with guest hosts at the Annies. All of my students were invited to attend and every single one showed up.”

The students hosted animation celebrities ranging from voice actors like Holly Hunter (Elastigirl, The Incredibles), to directors like Pete Docter (Up, Monsters Inc., Inside Out) and Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Ratatouille). Students were assigned to a presenter and helped escort them down the red carpet, through the press area, and to the VIP after party.

Senior animation major Sandra Elhachem said she thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity.

“Attending the Annies was a fun and memorable experience. I met people in animation who were my childhood heroes and I learned more about the industry,” she said.

Volunteering served not only as a chance for students to meet their animation icons, but to network as well.

“I hope, more than anything, my students see that to make it in the animation industry, to shine for Christ in Hollywood, they need to be excellent at what they do,” Bancroft said.

He hopes all future APU animation students will meet their heroes and experience the Annies as a volunteer before one day taking the stage to accept an award of their own.