Students push eco-friendly ideas for new arts building

Ideas include intentional painting, natural lighting and roof design

The Culture and Arts Center (CAC) has for several years been rumored to be the next “big step” that FPU will take in innovating its campus. President Kriegbaum had design plans during his second term as president but they took a turn when President Jones succeeded him  in the fall of 2017. With over a year in office, Jones has crafted a new vision for what this building can become; it is now not only for FPU, but also for the surrounding community. Plans for implementing the design are currently moving along.

Three seniors, though, would like to start getting involved with this process.

“… it’s better for the university and better for the environment. It’s a win-win.”


Seniors Katie Isaac, Sara Gurulé and Erika Enomoto want to make sure that the CAC is built with environmental sustainability in mind. The developments that they want taken into consideration focus on smaller details of the building: a roof that can easily receive solar installation, taking optimal natural lighting and even using intentional paint color and carpeting to aid in this endeavor.

“It’s not a radical idea to build a building like this… if the rest of the world has to catch up to what we’ve done to it in terms of energy use, then FPU does too. We should be looking at [environmental sustainability] in our own faith as a Christian university,” Isaac, an environmental science major and political science minor, said.

Robert Lippert, the vice president of finance, thinks that their ideas make “complete sense” for the university. “For the ideas we can afford, it’s better for the university and better for the environment. It’s a win-win,” he said. Lippert also thinks some of the practical, low-cost ideas they suggested could be implemented in current buildings on campus as well. The three students met with Lippert, who leads the sustainable financial health task force, to explain their ideas and discuss whether or not they could become a reality. Lippert plans to bring up the ideas to the architect of the CAC during their next meeting, and promised that the ideas will be “definitely explored”.

The three students investigated possibilities for the CAC in their capstone paper “Energy, Economics and Ethics”, written last semester. In this collaborative work, Isaac reflected on how current Fresno Pacific buildings and this new building could potentially reflect the value of stewardship in the context of southeast Fresno. Gurulé, a biblical studies major with a minor in environmental studies, examined how the university’s statement of faith correlates with environmental sustainability. Enomoto, an environmental studies and business management double major, investigated the economic costs of constructing a new building with sustainability in mind. All three emphasized the new building’s place in the community, and connected it to FPU’s motto of “engaging the cultures, serving the cities”.

After writing the paper, the students didn’t want to leave their ideas merely on the printed page, but instead tried to take it to an administrative level. They discussed their concept with Dr. Ron Herms, dean of HRSS (whom they had previously interviewed in the course of their research), Dr. Karen Cianci, dean of natural sciences and Dr. Ken Friesen, the professor of the course, on how to get the attention of an administrator connected to the designing of the building. Herms, Cianci and Friesen helped the students write a letter to Dr. Gayle Copeland, provost and vice president of academic affairs, and President Jones to request a meeting with them. The letter was referred to Lippert due to his leadership of the sustainable financial health task force.

“I think students have a lot more power than they realize.”


Gurulé doesn’t see their ideas for the building as FPU’s ultimate solution for addressing environmental issues, but still emphasizes the importance in the university designing it intentionally. “This is about looking long term, instead of short term… this building isn’t going to solve all these [environmental] problems, but it’s one step in the direction where we are showing our values,” she said.

Cianci thinks that the best way students can make a lasting impact at Fresno Pacific is to think beyond themselves and, according to her, this is exactly what these seniors have done. She also said that, as people age, life gets harder and more complex, but “despite all the complexity and greyness of life, there always needs to be that prophetic voice [saying] ‘this is the right thing to do’, and I think that’s what these three scholars are doing.”

Herms is glad the seniors advocated their idea, and hopes that other students also understand that FPU wants them to be strong, confident self-advocates. “Students are why we’re here. When students get together and say “this is what we want to see at our university”, that’s when university decision-making structures listen attentively. When there are student issues, or hopes or dreams or plans or suggestions, those matter a great deal,” he said. Cianci voiced a similar sentiment, stating that “I think students have a lot more power than they realize.”

Although student voices have definitely been recognized by the administration before (such as when ethnic sashes for graduation were brought back due to student petitioning), Gurulé understands that sometimes students feel overwhelmed when trying to express what’s important to them. “I definitely felt like this issue we want to accomplish is way too big, and I think that stops people from doing things, regardless of what they are or what causes they might be… This process has not always been easy, but it’s been  really interesting and good to follow through with, not only writing a paper, but also having these meetings and speaking to adults as adults, even though we’re students talking about an issue that’s important to us,” she said

The trio remains hopeful about the outcome, but still have reservations. “We’ll have to continue to pursue this actively with them, because I don’t think one meeting is enough. If we can get further assistance, then I think each of us would be willing to invest more time in this project. It’s important to us,” Isaac said.

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