Dear Biola Community,
I just finished five years at Biola University and I have so much to reflect on as I enter this new school year. When I entered Biola, I was given the gift of time to understand where we were, where we are and where we are going as a university. I’ve learned much during these past 62 months. In my address to the faculty during their fall conference, I shared eight reflections that stand out to me now about where Biola stands strong and the direction I believe Biola must take to continue its leading role in Christian higher education.
1. Biola will be well served with a plan to guide us, but not to control us. The University Plan has been a priority project for the past five years and in August was officially rolled out to staff and faculty after much input, discussion and community feedback. The University Plan sets the stage of how we will walk together into the next decade and includes seven aspirations, four dimensions and multi-year goals. Each of these is specific, measurable, attainable and relevant and act as guideposts to where Biola needs to be as a university in ten years and how we will get there. One of the first dimensions has already been given a great boost with the launch of Open Biola -- what a way for Biola to extend its reach to the world.
2. Biola needs to continue to prove and improve what we do. That means that when students graduate, we’ll have prepared them well for graduate schools and careers. We need to keep assessing the quality of a Biola education -- in mind and character -- to make sure we’re fulfilling what we say and also to rise to new heights of excellence.
3. We have a physical campus that is reaching its capacity. As a result, we are already working on ways to slow growth of students in the next ten years while also working with the City of La Mirada to finalize a master plan for the campus. This plan includes significant near-term, campus-wide capital investments we will need to make, including a new Center for Science and Health, residence halls, off-campus real estate and more between now and 2022.
4. We are a university with a classical, residential tradition of educating students, but we don’t have the endowment to sustain this as the only model. We need to take this year to look even more intently at identifying the information technology solutions needed to maximize both the classroom and non-classroom educational experience of our student body. Already, the massive amount of open-courses available from leading institutions of higher learning are fundamentally changing the game. But what is not available everywhere is biblical integration, intellectual and character formation, community-based learning and spiritual development. If we want to be a relevant university in the next decades, we must adapt to changing technologies when they come. We’re not going to let technology drive our educational mission. It will only serve to enhance, not to replace, what we do best at Biola.
5. I believe we have a strong team in place to help ensure that our students attain the best of a Biola education without the worst of a shackling debt. The cost of traditional higher education in America is reaching a crisis point. I don’t want Biola to become a place merely for upper middle class families and above to send their students. David Nystrom, Provost and Senior Vice President, and Mike Pierce, Vice President for Business and Financial Affairs, are working together to review program efficiencies and costs per student. Together with the school deans, they will look at opportunities for new programmatic revenue streams while making sure existing degree programs operate with excellence and efficiency.
6. We have concluded another year with a balanced budget and are on a healthy financial footing. Biola University’s supporters made history last year by giving more than $26 million to the university — Biola’s highest-ever fundraising total in a single fiscal year.
7. Cultural trends and political pressures are weighing on some of our most dearly held values. Two areas where this is most pronounced is in our approach to the issue of sexual identity and our response to federal mandates that undermine our fundamental religious freedoms. We will spend time this year on core commitments regarding community discussions and see our response to the HHS federal mandate.
8. The heart of Biola must never lose sight of the heart of the Gospel. Only through the atoning work of Christ can sinners be redeemed.This year, our university theme, “From this Place: Proclaiming Good News in a Changing World,” focuses on proclaiming the gospel out of our conviction that God has called us to be redemptive voices. Gospel proclamation was and will be at the heart of Biola, in word and in deed. By the time the year is over, I hope to have a good pulse on the climate of evangelism – the Good News at work in our community. We’ll be having conversations in the coming months to assess how well evangelism remains at the heart of Biola.
Much remains the same today in Biola’s convictions as it did when those two neon “Jesus Saves” sign were hoisted atop the original building 75 years ago. I hope this year to secure the original or create a replica of those neon signs, reminding us of our deepest convictions. I will keep you informed along the way on the progress we make towards this historic effort.
I am praying this year that we will experience a deep spiritual renewal on campus, especially among our 6,250 students. At convocation chapel, I exhorted our new and returning students to be a generation that proclaims Good News. I’m asking our community, friends and supporters to join me inpraying for the needs of our university as we set bold and audacious goals for Kingdom impact. Let us go from this place to radiate light to a world in need. May we desire in and from this community a commitment to evangelism, worship, missions, service, courageous faith and Kingdom advancement unlike anything we’ve ever witnessed, all for the glory of God.The mission of Biola University is more important today than it’s ever been.I’m looking forward to seeing this community in action throughout this year and beyond.
I couldn’t imagine a better job than to be a part of this community.
Barry H. Corey
August 31, 2012