APU Summer Sports Camps Build Community

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Azusa Pacific University’s campus is quiet over the summer—for all of three weeks. Then, at the beginning of each June, hundreds of excited kids and talented high school athletes flood campus to participate in six summer sports camps—baseball, basketball, football, softball, soccer, and volleyball.

APU football head coach Victor Santa Cruz leads an annual camp where more than 375 high school athletes attend each sold out session. “We draw athletes from all around California, Colorado, Texas, and even Hawaii. Parents will put their kids on a plane to travel here because they don’t want to miss our camp,” he said. “We limit the camp size to ensure the best experience possible. We provide personal attention to each student athlete.”

Santa Cruz said he recruits many of these high-caliber players. “Camp gives us a good opportunity to find students with strong character, academic skills, and athleticism. We’re looking for visionary young people who want to do something bigger with their lives,” he said. “We share who we are spiritually and academically. These athletes are really hungry for that. We often hear, ‘You guys are different. How can I be a part of this place?’”

APU’s other sports camps focus on a younger crowd (grades K-8). Cougar baseball head coach Paul Svagdis has led a summer camp for 10 years. The program has grown from about 25 kids in 2009 to 100 children per session today. An average day at camp is jam packed, beginning at 8 a.m. with warm ups, throwing, and stretching. Campers then split into two groups to practice offense on the Cougar Baseball Field with stations, including base-running and hitting, and defensive fundamentals at the Dillon Recreational Complex. After an hour, the groups switch, then they take a lunch break before afternoon games. “We play games on different parts of the field. They always want to play in center field because they can hit home runs there,” Svagdis said. “While home runs are great, we reward kids for demonstrating good character and sportsmanship. That’s where the big bucket of candy comes in.”

A Glendora resident, Svagdis said he often sees kids across town wearing their Cougar baseball gear from summer camp. “I’ll be in a grocery store and a little guy will come up to me and say, ‘Hi Coach Paul, do you remember me?’ They’ll tell me how excited they are for camp next year and how they asked for a week of baseball camp for Christmas,” he said. “Their parents will even tell me how they did extra chores all year so they could attend a second week of camp.”

Svagdis said APU’s camp is truly special because of the student athlete volunteers. “APU students are first class,” he said. “Just a couple weeks ago, I had four players travel to a little league game to support one of the kids who came through our camp. That’s not uncommon with our players. We build relationships within the community and it opens up opportunities for people to connect with the university.”

APU women’s soccer head coach Brooke Lincoln seconded this. “It’s pretty special to see these kids interacting with my college players. It gives our players an opportunity to give back. It wasn’t that long ago that they were one of those little campers. Now, it’s come full circle for them,” she said. “Some of them want to coach in the future, so this is an opportunity for them to get their feet wet. For other players, it gives them a different perspective on the game, not just as a player, but as a teacher. They can be a bright light, an encouragement, an inspiration, and a role model for these children.”

Lincoln said the best part of summer camp came months after camp ended last year. “We had a lot of these kids come to our games,” she said. “We invest in them for a week or two, help them develop their skills, and they come out to support us at our home games. They’ll never know how much that means to us.”

To learn more about APU summer sports camps, click here.

APU Alumnus Jorge Alvarez Named Bezos Scholar

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Azusa Pacific University alumnus Jorge Alvarez ’03, M.A.Ed. ’08, M.A. ’12, was recently named a Bezos Scholar. Alvarez, an assistant principal at Colton High School (CHS) in Colton, Calif., was honored alongside CHS junior Ernest Cisneros for their work with the school’s TED Ed. club, including arranging the school’s first TEDx Conference on the topic of mental health earlier this year. As part of the Bezos scholar program, the pair will travel to Colorado later this month to attend the Aspen Ideas Festival, where they will learn more about how they can create change in their community.

“I was in disbelief when I found out,” Alvarez said. “They only pick 12 students and 12 educators from around the nation. We’re not from a big school or a big city, so I didn’t really think we had a chance. I think it will start to feel real when we get to Aspen.”

In Aspen, the two will hear from some of the world’s top creative minds, comprised of a diverse group of educators, innovators, and leaders. “I’m excited to see what ideas we can bring back to our community,” Alvarez said.

As part of the Bezos Scholars Program, Alvarez and Cisneros will create a Local Ideas Festival in the form of a wellness fair to be held next March. The fair will feature regional agencies that provide medical and mental health resources, parent and student workshops, entertainment, and food. CHS plans to host students from across the county as well as local government officials.

As the faculty advisor to the TED Ed. club, Alvarez organized the school’s first TEDx conference earlier this year featuring nine speakers. A strong advocate for mental health, Alvarez was selected as 1 of 33 TED Ed Innovative Educators from around the world in 2017. “Students are affected by mental health issues at a growing rate, yet communities in our area lack resources. Several students in the region committed suicide in the past year,” he said. “A stigma still exists around getting help for mental health issues and we want to combat that. It’s okay to get help.”

Alvarez said he wants students to have the space to decompress and the resources to support their mental well-being. To meet this need, CHS plans to open a wellness center in August. “This facility will give our students a place to deal with anxiety, depression, or other challenges they may face, and in turn, this will give them the best chance to succeed in the classroom.”

The Bezos Scholars Program was founded in 2005 by Jackie and Mike Bezos, parents of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, as part of the Bezos Family Foundation. Scholars are selected based on demonstrated leadership abilities, willingness to embrace challenges, and the desire to create positive change in their communities.

APU Expands Physical Therapy Program, Opens New Facility

As spring semester at Azusa Pacific University came to a close and most students and faculty headed home for the summer, the Department of Physical Therapy geared up to move into their new 26,000-square-foot facility. Located in the back of Duke Hall, the space is more than four times the size of the former location in Mary Hill. “It was a busy time. Our summer classes started just a couple days after we moved in,” said Derrick Sueki, DPT, Ph.D., Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program director. “Everyone is energized by the new space. It still has that new car smell!”

The facility was made possible by a $3 million donation from alumni Steve and Susie Perry through their Sacred Harvest Foundation. The expansion allows the DPT program to grow their annual cohort size by more than 50 percent, increasing enrollment from 48 to 74 students. “We have three cohorts at a time, so this represents a big increase in students,” said Susan Shore, Ph.D., chair and professor in the Department of Physical Therapy. “Our program is extremely competitive. We average more than 900 applicants each year. People come from all over the country to study with us.”

Annette Karim, DPT, Ph.D., Postprofessional Studies program director, said the design and planning was purposeful. “We’ve planned for growth. We could have easily filled more spaces from the beginning, but we didn’t have the space for the quality of education we wanted to provide. Now we do,” she said. “Maintaining the 1 to 15 faculty to student ratio is also very important to us.”

The facility features spacious lecture rooms and labs, providing a host of technological upgrades that enhance classroom instruction. “We educate through a different model than most departments. We have to visualize how people walk, squat, bend, and perform other movements,” Sueki said. “The new classrooms are equipped with cameras in the ceiling. The cameras are interconnected with our desktop, allowing us to take pictures and videos of people moving. We can project these videos on screens and draw on them with smart boards.” Students work on two-sided flip tables that consist of a soft padded side for physical therapy and a hard side for note taking.“The tables offer convenience and functionality for our students,” said Karim.

APU is one of only two Council for Christian Colleges & Universities schools on the West Coast with a DPT program, and Shore said APU’s program is one of the best in the country. “The thing that separates us from other universities beyond the curriculum is the quality of the teaching, which I think is unequaled by any other school,” she said. Karim said the faculty truly connect with their students. “The DPT program requires three full years to complete. That’s quite a bit of time to live life, to go through the ups and downs,” she said. “People often choose APU for the quality of the faculty. You choose your mentors. I think God uses us in that way.”

Sueki said the connection between students and faculty played a role in the design of the building. “One of the primary components in the facility design was to provide spaces for students to interact with each other and with faculty, to go beyond just education, to be a part of each other’s lives,” he said.

Contributing to the DPT’s program expansion and new facility is the exponential growth of the field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment rate for physical therapists is expected to increase by 36 percent through the year 2022. “We’re an aging population. They say 60 is the new 30. Because of this, we need more physical therapists to take care of people as they get older,” Karim said. In California, the annual mean wage for a physical therapist is approximately $96,000. Currently, APU’s DPT students experience a 97 percent graduation rate, and its DPT graduates benefit from a 100 percent overall pass rate on the National Physical Therapy Exam and 100 percent employment in their field.

“This facility allows us to expand our mission, our visions for our field, and the students we serve,” Sueki said.

APU Graduates First Cohort of Engineering Students

This article originally appeared on APU’s site.

When Samuel Vander Dussen walked across Azusa Pacific University’s commencement stage to receive his diploma on May 4, he was one of seven students to graduate in APU’s first engineering cohort. Vander Dussen landed a job before graduating, joining two other classmates at Raytheon, a major U.S. defense contractor. “My engineering professors prepared me for my job by teaching me how to learn on my own. They gave me the tools to find solutions to problems and to succeed,” he said.

“Our students getting jobs at Raytheon and other prominent companies right out of college speaks very highly of our program,” said George Thomas, Ph.D., chair and professor in the Department of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS). “As word gets out about the caliber of our curriculum and the professional credentials of our faculty, interest in the program grows.” Thomas said in a few years the engineering program would likely increase in size to match its computer science counterpart.

Students can earn a bachelor’s degree in engineering with a concentration in either systems or computer engineering. The program will add more concentrations in the near future. “Many students have asked for mechatronics, a marriage between mechanical and electrical/computer engineering. Engineering as a field has changed a lot recently. You can no longer stick in one corner. Students need to be strong in one area, but well rounded in other fields as well.” Currently, APU's engineering program is pursuing accreditation through the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology (ABET) and establishing industry partners to serve in an advisory capacity.

James Yeh, Ph.D., assistant professor, has been instrumental in helping grow the engineering program and instructing students at a high level. Yeh taught a senior-level design class for students in the first cohort. In this class, the students worked with Mission Aviation Fellowship, an organization that distributes medical supplies and shares the Gospel with remote regions across the globe. “We worked on two projects, including one where we helped design a power monitoring system for an isolated airstrip in the jungles of Indonesia,” Yeh said. “God really blessed that project and the students did very well on it. It shows how we can use our engineering knowledge to love and help our neighbors as Jesus commanded us to.”

In addition to this project, students have the opportunity to perform research during their summers. Assistant professor Rick Sturdivant, Ph.D., said this is key to students landing internships and top notch jobs when they graduate. “Our students have had the opportunity to perform research on solar powered phone charging stations, drone detection radar systems, pico hydro electric power for a village in the Nepalese Himalayas, satellite communications, and Internet of Things devices,” he said. “Their work has been published and presented at international conferences. This level of research sets our graduates apart and demonstrates their technical skills with real world applications.”

Sturdivant said internships are a huge component in students getting jobs so quickly after graduation. “We help schedule our students to participate in job fairs at prospective employers such as Raytheon. This is a chance for students to meet face to face with employers who are seeking engineering graduates with their skills,” he said. “We also organize visits to employers such as Northrop Grumman and the Jet Propulsion Labs (JPL). This give students the chance to network with employers and to see the work they perform first hand.”

Yeh said many students choose engineering because the job market is good. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects heavy employment growth for the field, with nearly 140,000 new jobs expected for engineers over the next decade. In 2016, engineers had a median annual wage of $91,010—more than twice the median wage for all workers. The strong job market has led to vast growth among engineering departments at universities across the country. Unfortunately, many engineering programs are impacted by this growth, especially at state schools, where students often can’t get the classes they need, leading to delayed graduation. “A major benefit of APU’s engineering major is small class sizes,” Yeh said. “Our students are working closely with faculty and one another, doing projects that focus on the kingdom, graduating on time, and getting excellent jobs.”

Athletic Training Saves Lives

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The final day of Azusa Pacific University’s annual Bryan Clay Invitational was nearing an end when a moment changed everything. As the runners crossed the finish line, most stood hunched over out of breath, but one athlete suddenly collapsed. Immediately, APU graduate intern athletic trainer Bryce Gordon radioed to the medical tent for assistance and sprinted over to assess the situation. He found the athlete not breathing and without a pulse. Associate athletic trainer Jesse Cops arrived to assist while assistant athletic trainer Garrett Brooks called 911 and the crew began taking life saving measures. They initiated CPR and placed the automated external defibrillator (AED) pads on the athlete’s chest. Minutes later, the athlete began breathing again. By the time the paramedics arrived, the athlete was alert, but still in critical condition, and was transported to a local hospital where the patient was stabilized, made a full recovery, and returned home.

Head athletic trainer Benjamin Fuller received the call and arrived on scene at the same time the paramedics were taking over. “We hope these kinds of things never happen,” he said. “But we train for these situations, which enabled our staff to go in and do what was needed. The rehearsals paid off and saved a life.”

Multiple clinical experiences provide athletic training students with comprehensive practical experience. “Most of the injuries we prepare for aren’t life threatening like that one,” Fuller said. “We practice for concussions, sprained ankles, ACL/MCL tears, broken and fractured bones, lacerations, and internal organ wounds, among other injuries.” Much of this learning happens in the classroom, but athletic training students also work with APU athletes in the clinical setting to treat them when something happens during practice or a game. “This training is vital. You never know when these scenarios will occur, but you need to be prepared to treat them. If you’ve never practiced, little things can trip you up and cause delays.”

Treating injuries in the moment is just one part of an athletic trainer’s responsibilities. Much of what they do comes before or after, in preventative training and rehabilitation. “Many athletic trainers primarily help people recover from injuries,” Fuller said. “It’s similar to physical therapy, but athletic trainers are in settings where they can work with athletes on a regular basis and are ready to act when an injury occurs.”

The profession of athletic training began with treating athletes primarily at the professional and college level, but now the field has expanded to include high school sports, performing arts, military, and corporate business. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the athletic training profession is projected to grow 23 percent in the next decade. This growth is much faster than normal, particularly in the booming fields of health care, fitness, and youth sports.

Fuller, who has served as an athletic trainer at APU for 11 years, has witnessed the profession and APU’s program go through many changes. Five years ago, APU transitioned from offering a bachelor’s degree in athletic training to solely a master’s program to better meet the requirements of the evolving profession. “Students who come through our program get jobs and succeed professionally both locally and throughout the country. Our program is well recognized as a leader within the profession,” he said. “At APU, our focus is more than the job at hand. Our intent is to be involved in these athletes’ lives. We get to mentor them and help them draw closer to Christ.”

APU Partners with Foothill Transit to Benefit Commuters

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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.

APU Undergrad Wins Prestigious Microbiology Fellowship

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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

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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 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.