When I was a high school junior at Saint John’s, an all-boys private high school in New England, I took an economics class with Mr. Reidy. He introduced me and my classmates to Milton Friedman of the University of Chicago, and his classic text, Free to Choose.

It was an approach to economics that underscored free markets, competition and a capitalistic view of commerce. I was convinced.

Since then, I’ve believed that of all the economic systems, capitalism and free market competition is the best. Not perfect, but as far as I’m concerned it beats the others. I guess it’s a bit of a circular point that among all of the economic systems, the one that champions free and fair competition has the competitive advantage!

In the national landscape of higher education, students are free to choose — to co-opt Friedman’s line. Options are plentiful, but I want students to come to Biola for no other reason than we are that good and worth the investment.

In a competitive college market, I want us to stand out because our value proposition stands out, and students want what we have that is so different, so distinct. Certainly, graduating students who learn Scripture, love Scripture and live Scripture has been in our bloodstream since the beginning. In this and other ways, Biola is distinct from other colleges.

But I also look at other colleges and see where we can be better. Competition breeds excellence. And we need to be fiercely competitive in the best sense of the word to attract and retain students.

I am a competitive person, and I want Biola more than ever to be seen as outstanding in our faculty, in our academic programs, in our spiritual and character formation, in getting students into leading graduate schools and key entry positions in their vocations. I want this to be a university where the best ideas are wrestled through vigorously, yet civilly.

We are a citadel of serious Christian thought where future filmmakers and homemakers, entrepreneurs and educators, policy wonks and research nerds, health professionals and pastors are being formed in mind and character. And we do this “forming of students” so that when they graduate, they stand out in their ethical decisions, in their moral choices and in their professional aptitudes. They are known for their godly discernment, how they engage with differing viewpoints, and above all in their conviction that to live for Christ is worth it.

And they want to tell others about how worth it he is! When they are kind in their spirit, clear in their convictions and really good at what they do, they will stand out as a generation serious about following Jesus where he leads them and doing what he bids them to do.

As we release these students — with bachelor’s or master’s or doctoral degrees — we believe we have done our part in stewarding them in the mission of Biola’s biblically centered education. And how will they be known? They will be known as a Biola graduate, excelling in all the right ways:

  • They carry friendships that are lifelong.
  • They see the world as a place of great hope that they can make better.
  • They have a rock-solid understanding of the Bible and its Christ-centered storyline
  • They see themselves belonging to something far bigger than they are in the continuum of the historic Christian faith.
  • They can challenge fashionable ideologies with a gracious spirit but also a discerning mind.
  • Their disposition is one of profound gratitude for being saved by grace, and that grace is evident in how they love those God places in their path.
  • They are known as a generation who desires to abide in Christ, drawing their purpose, power and guidance from the Holy Spirit through faithful devotion to God’s Word and prayer.
  • And they are just good at what they do, and their excellence of vocation stands out not just as a testimony to Biola and a gift to society, but it also speaks to their understanding that Christ is Lord over all.

I’m competitive, and I want us to keep getting better and better as a university. I believe we are. And we do this because we at Biola know what’s in our heart and soul. We are abundantly unambiguous in our mission, and we are taking concrete steps to imagine more boldly how Biola can live flourishingly into the future.

Barry H. Corey is the eighth president of Biola University. Visit his office online at biola.edu/president. Follow him on Facebook at facebook.com/presidentcorey, on Instagram @presidentbarrycorey and on Twitter @presidentcorey.