"The Focus is Outward, Always"

University's Vision for Engagement Receives Board Endorsement

By Philip Eaton, President

At its autumn meeting, the SPU Board of Trustees affirmed the "Comprehensive Plan for the 21st Century" spearheaded by President Eaton. See the "Into the World" feature for a summary of the plan.

It's official. We now have a vision and a plan to guide Seattle Pacific University into the 21st Century! "Engaging the Culture/Changing the World" -- this is the title we have given to the newly completed Comprehensive Plan for the 21st Century.

Presumptuous? You bet. Bold and risky? Why would we want it any other way? We have been blessed at Seattle Pacific with a new and compelling focus, an outstanding faculty, fabulous students, a dedicated staff, and a world-class city in which to do our work. We should indeed expect great things.

Over the past eighteen months we have asked two key questions: who are we and what do we want to become? What does our culture, our community, and the church need from a premier Christian university?

As we asked these critical questions, a sense of our calling began to resonate at a very deep level. The transforming gospel of Jesus Christ calls Seattle Pacific to engagement. There is no other way. Separation will not do. To preach only to the choir is not enough. We are called, as a Christian university, to shine the light of the gospel, effectively and winsomely, into our community and our world. The focus is outward, always.

We are called to participate in transformation by the renewing of our minds, to speak with the hard-earned wisdom of good scholarship -- and then to make a difference. We are called to prepare graduates of both competence and character -- and then to change the world through those graduates. This is what we mean by engagement.

In each issue of Response, we want to tell the story of engagement at SPU. The big story is, of course, composed of many, many smaller stories. The story of engagement is told when Professors Cindy Fitch and Rick Steele reflect on "Science and Suffering: Genetics and the Problem of Evil"; or when Professor Susan VanZanten Gallagher engages the tortured history and culture of South Africa in her book on Confession in South African Literature; or when Professors Kenman Wong and Alec Hill speak through their highly regarded books on ethics and business. Over and over, our scholars tell the story of engagement as they shine the light of the gospel on the issues of the day.

And we see engagement played out through distinguished graduates like Eugene Peterson, author of 28 books, including the Message; Doris Brougham, radio and television educator in Asia; David Wong, prominent neuroscientist at Eli Lilly; Denny Rydberg, president of Young Life; or Bob and Joan Wallace, community leaders in Seattle and Bellevue. On and on, our graduates tell the story of competence and character, truly engaging the culture and changing the world.

We tell the story of engagement when our students enter the community, daily and in thousands of ways, through internships, mentoring relationships and service projects (21,000 hours of volunteer service each year). Our students are engaged as they participate in one of the finest leadership development programs in the country; or when 700 hundred gather for worship at GROUP on Wednesday nights.

We tell the story of engagement through scholarship; in the classroom; in the residence halls; on the streets of Seattle; in relief work in Nicaragua (this year, our SPRINT program will send more students to serve abroad than ever before); or when our faculty and graduate students do consulting in China, Russia or Poland.

The critical thing to remember is that all of these stories are part of a compelling, coherent vision: Jesus Christ transforms all of life. Let us be presumptuous and bold about our purpose. We prepare competent graduates so that they can be change-agents for good. We encourage and support competent scholarship because people are hungry for God's life-changing wisdom. We are devoted to grace-filled community because our world needs models of respect and civility.

I believe with all my heart that this purpose is good and worthy and necessary. And I believe that if we invest our resources -- our budgets, our time, our gifts -- in this great purpose, we can expect to be surprised. We can expect transformation. We can expect to make a real difference. And so my challenge is this: Let us see what God may do among us, knowing that his power can "accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine."

As we unfold the Comprehensive Plan for the 21st Century, this is the way I hope we can look at the future of Seattle Pacific University.

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or call 206-281-2051.
Copyright © 1999 University Communications, Seattle Pacific University.

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