An interview with the President: Moving from rhetoric to reality

The President’s thoughts after a year in office

Engagement with the community, training leaders, learning while Fresno Pacific University. The school can rally around these words as a way of understanding who we are and what we are about. With this in mind, President Joseph Jones wants to push FPU forward and focus on the application of these ideals rather than bask in our own idealistic language.

Jones says there is nothing new about the motto “engaging the cultures, serving the cities” when discussing the ideals, goals, and visions of FPU. “We don’t have to change who we are… it’s very clear, now let’s talk about how to apply… I want to move from rhetoric to reality.

When it comes to how to actually do that, Jones highlights that context matters – specifically, the location of Fresno Pacific and the needs of the valley. “What environment has God put us in? This valley. As a Christian institution, how do we actualize Christ? We need to look at the needs all around us.”

Thoughts on Fresno Pacific after one year

“What is extraordinary [about Fresno Pacific] is our students, on all our campuses. That’s why faculty and staff come here. They’re excited about folks who want to learn, who want to grow, who want to dream, and who want to have an impact,” Jones said.

He was also quick to point out the mutual relationship, something that is not always recognized or even perceived, between students and faculty. “We can learn from our students as our students learn from us.”

Jones reflected on what the San Joaquin valley offers. “The valley is unique in its demographics. It’s probably a whole lot more reflective of America, in terms of wealth and diversity … The beauty of it is we’re right in the center of it.” Jones referenced the significant Hmong, Latino, and African American communities that are within a few blocks of FPU.

In terms of what that means for Fresno Pacific, Jones pointed out that it is an opportunity to live, learn, and grow in a place that isn’t closed off in a bubble of uniformity.

“So many other Christian colleges are in small, comfortable, safe places, and that’s not the world we live in. It’s very easy to sit in those classrooms and talk about those issues, but it’s something else to live in an environment that says this is the way the world is – the positive and the negative.”

Jones is also aware of how the valley is labeled in comparison to northern and southern California and, in response, said he is sure that God “takes the meek things to show his glory”.

Arts and Culture Center

In early August, Jones published a report addressing one of the priorities of FPU, which is to “re-envision the arts center to become an Arts and Cultural Center for the university and the community”. Expanding on this specific vision, Jones pointed back to application, always asking how this project can be useful in practical and actual service of the community.

“When we put up something like this, we can invite other organizations in [to perform]… we can be a center in the south part of the city to serve the community – children, elderly, students, and those around us.” Ideas for who could specifically be invited to the ACC include local Asian, African-American and Latino performing groups. Jones said that he and others responsible for the development of the center are in the process of identifying the right model that will fit the needs and goals of the building.

On Balance

During his twenty years of working with colleges and universities, Jones has learned how to balance personal and professional energy in order to ensure he stays motivated, engaged, and mindful. This goes double with administrative duties; he says that it is very easy to get caught up in visions and goals, forgetting the reasons why he does this work in the first place. To avoid that risk, Jones says “I make an effort, minimum once a day, to get out of the office and walk around to see students… it reminds me of why I’m here.

Lastly, Jones shines a light on someone who both balances him personally and stays engaged with Fresno Pacific: his wife, Yvette. “She loves students. She’s been a mom to students ever since we’ve been in higher education.” They came to FPU as a team and work well together because of the supportive dynamic they have established. “We realized our combination and how we compliment each other keep us balanced both on campus and off campus.”

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