Engaging the Culture, Changing the World

Plan for the 21st Century Calls SPU to Action

By Philip Eaton, President

On September 26, new students rallied in Martin Square before spending a day volunteering in 50 of the city's service agencies. Here President Eaton (center) greets Harvey and Andrea Drake of Emerald City Outreach Ministries, special speakers for the seventh annual event.

In the summer and fall of 1997, we launched a major strategic planning effort on the Seattle Pacific University campus. I felt that we stood at a moment in time, building on the strong foundations of our 107-year history, where we needed a clear, compelling and envisioned future. We are now beginning to unfold the blueprints for a new century Seattle Pacific. We call it a Comprehensive Plan for the 21st Century.

I asked the SPU community to put all questions about our future on the table: Who are we and what do we want to become? How big should we become and what facilities are needed? I asked the academic and educational leaders to bring forward all of their dreams and aspirations for what would characterize a premier Christian university. How much endowment do we need to serve such a university? What kind of marketing and positioning efforts do we need to ensure success of our plan?

I was convinced as we began this work that all of our planning had to be guided and anchored by a compelling vision. I called it the "Big Idea" then. What is the driving and clarifying idea that informs all of our planning? Vision must give shape to the detailed substance of the plan.

So what is the Big Idea? Let me share with you the vision that is taking shape. We begin first with a clear foundation: We will ground everything we do on the transforming gospel of Jesus Christ. Our desire for change and influence in the world around us all flows from this deeply shared belief: Even here-now, in this fallen and troubled world, Jesus Christ transforms all of life. We present to the world a way of hope, a way that is full of light, a path to goodness.

In all of our reflections on this vision, we conclude that a profound crisis of meaning grips our culture. If that is so, we must make the commitment as a university -- working from a clear foundation, and using the great and diverse gifts of our people -- to engage the culture in which we live and work. Engagement is the key. Rather than cloister ourselves,we must choose the risks of active engagement in order to bring about positive change.

We propose three core outcomes as a way to accomplish our vision for engagement. First, we seek to graduate people of both competence and character. We will always invest in academic excellence, training our graduates for productive and successful careers. But we also commit ourselves to link the achievement of competence with the formation of character.

Second, we seek to become people of wisdom. We affirm the life of the mind. We insist that good and informed thinking is vital to the health of our community, the church and the world. We support cutting-edge scholarship that is profoundly relevant and helpful to the needs of our world -- what we have come to call "the scholarship of wisdom."

And, third, we will model grace-filled community in all that we do. We affirm that we may best fulfill our vision and guiding purpose, and be a model for others around us, in genuine community.

We will soon begin the process of seeking new resources and new investments to accomplish this vision. Much will be required. We are now designing a major fund-raising campaign to support the vision. We will also seek new sources of revenue and aggressively align our budget to make sure we are investing in the priorities of the vision.

But I want to make this promise now: We will invest our resources always to promote and empower SPU's active engagement in the culture. We have a light to shine, a light that is desperately needed in the world around us. Count on us to shine that light with new effectiveness and great distinction in a new century at Seattle Pacific.

Please read our disclaimer. Send any questions, comments or correspondence about Response to jgilnett@spu.edu
or call 206-281-2051.
Copyright © 1999 University Communications,Seattle Pacific University.

Seattle Pacific University
Office of University Communications
3307 Third Avenue West
Seattle, Washington 98119-1997
United States of America