Meet Fresno Pacific’s new president

Dr. André Stephens, the 13th president of Fresno Pacific University, began the job on July 1, 2022.

Four months into the job, Dr. André Stephens is ‘listening, learning as he settles into his role as FPU’s 13th president.

By Saraleim Mozqueda Saldana

Editor in Chief

Dr. André Stephens, who worked for three decades at Biola University in southern California, is the newest president of Fresno Pacific University. Stephens was named to the position by the university’s board of trustees in May and started his new job in July.

Stephens, the son of immigrants from Panama, becomes the 13th person to hold the university’s top leadership post in its 78-year history, and only the third person of color to fill the role.

“Beth and I were drawn to Fresno Pacific because of its clarity of mission, partnership with the church and commitment to students,” Stephens said in a statement issued when his hiring was announced. “We are thrilled to join the FPU family and look forward to contributing to the ongoing success of the institution.” Stephens and his wife Beth, both alumni of Biola University, have three children.

The FPU presidency is the latest step in a long career progression for Stephens, whose ambition was fueled by seeing his parents’ hard work after they came to the United States. He’s not exactly a first-generation student, but he said he can relate to many of the experiences and challenges faced by Fresno Pacific’s first-gen students.

Stephens has already gotten involved in Fresno and the FPU community. In just a few short months he has attended many Fresno Pacific events and is looking forward to more. One of his favorite experiences so far was attending a women’s volleyball game against Biola. He said he loves supporting students at events like the upcoming Pie and Praise as well as the new theater production. 

While it might be expected for a new president to have plans or goals to carry out, Stephens said he is first focused on observing what’s already in place.

Stephens said he believes the role is one that offers the opportunity to make some changes. But, he added, he doesn’t want to “come in with a prescribed, like, ‘This is what we’re going to do,’ without really spending time with the community, listening, learning.”

He has a bachelor’s degree in communications from Biola University, earned his master’s degree in speech communications from California State University, Fullerton, and received his Ph.D. in education from Claremont Graduate University.

Stephens began his career in higher education as an enrollment counselor at Biola University in 1991. Stephens was gradually promoted through various positions of responsibility at his alma mater, culminating with his appointment as the vice president of student development for the past six years.

His career journey took a turn northward when he learned that Fresno Pacific was searching for a new president to succeed Dr. Joseph Jones, who held the position for five years. Stephens started by browsing the FPU website, where he noticed a photograph of student leaders in front of a fountain. He said he was struck by seeing the university’s focus in the students’ faces and realized that he would be a fit candidate for the job.

Stephens said that once he met FPU students in person, he realized he made the right choice. His first student interactions were with the track team. Their school colors caught his attention, but he said their height made him question if they were students. When he spotted the coach, however, he realized they were indeed students. Stephens said his conversation with the team confirmed his faith in his decision.

One thing Stephens said he realizes is that overseeing student life at Biola and serving as president at FPU are two very different things. His role as Biola’s vice president was focused on a very specific aspect of the university. At Fresno Pacific, however, the job is more wide-ranging. As a result, he is focusing on multiple tasks at a time and said he is still growing into the position.

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