APU Summer Sports Camps Build Community

This article was originally published on APU.edu.

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

This article was originally published on APU.edu.

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 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

This article originally appeared on APU.edu.

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.”

Cougars crush UCSD in first game of West Super Regional

This article originally appeared on ZU News.

On Thursday, Azusa Pacific routed UC San Diego 13-2 in the first game of a best-of-three West Super Regional series at home. Five cougars clobbered six home runs to back pitcher A.J. Woodall’s knockout performance.

APU got on the board early with a solo homer from third-baseman Osvaldo Tovalin in the bottom of the first. The Cougars added three more runs in the second inning off of back-to-back home runs from center-fielder Casey Dykstra and right-fielder Cole Kleszcz. With the homer today, Kleszcz increased his NCAA leading home run total to 26 on the season.

UCSD struck back with a two-run homer from shortstop Shay Whitcomb in the top of the third, cutting the Cougars lead to 4-2. However, these were the only runs UCSD would score during the game after APU ace Woodall regained his control.

Woodall tossed eight innings, allowing two earned runs on five hits and two walks, while striking out six. He probably would have gone the distance for a complete game if it had not been for two UCSD hitters who chewed up 21 pitches in the top of the eighth inning. Woodall ended the day with a workhorse 114 pitches, lowering his ERA to 3.30 on the season.

Although Woodall pitched dominantly, it proved to be unnecessary as APU poured on the offense. The Cougars failed to score in the third and fourth innings, but scored four more in the bottom of the fifth inning off a double from Tovalin, an RBI single from left-fielder Griffen Herrera, a two-run homer from catcher Justin Gomez and a solo bomb from designated-hitter Joseph Kim.

The Cougars continued their offensive dominance in the bottom of the sixth, scoring four more runs and going through the entire lineup. Dykstra was hit by a pitch to open the inning, then he stole second and scored off an RBI single from Kleszcz. Herrera walked, setting up a three-run homer from Gomez, his second long ball of the day. Four more Cougars reached base in the inning, but APU left the bases loaded with a two-out strikeout.

APU scored one more run in the bottom of the seventh off a double from Tovalin, who was knocked in off an RBI groundout from second-baseman Joe Quire Jr. This would be the final run of the game. Reliever Hayden Jorgenson closed out the game for the Cougars, fanning the final two batters he faced.

The Cougars claimed the first game in the best-of-three West Super Regional by a score of 13-2, improving to 40-13 on the season. APU notched 14 hits on the day, paced by Tovalin with three knocks and Gomez with five RBIs and two home runs. UCSD ended the game with five hits and one error.

APU will face UCSD again tomorrow at 12 p.m. at home and again at 3:30 p.m. if game three is necessary. If APU claims victory again tomorrow, they will head to the NCAA World Series in Cary, North Carolina from June 1-8.

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.

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 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.”