In the middle of 2018, a local school district held their yearend leadership meetings at our campus. When given the opportunity to greet the 120 guests who were there—principals, assistant principals, school counselors, and psychologists—I asked how many of them had completed their degree with Azusa Pacific in Murrieta.
When thirty or more leaders raised their hands, I was blown away! I knew that our university has had an impact in the region during our 30 plus years here, but I had never imagined that our reach extended so far and our programs had so deeply influenced leadership in the community’s K-12 education system.
This is one of my favorite things about working in higher education at Azusa Pacific University: we touch countless lives through what we do. We have hundreds of students studying at our Murrieta campus in any given week. Both students and their families are touched. And when our students graduate, they continue into their profession and make a difference in the community. When that happens hundreds of times a year over multiple decades, you have the opportunity to affect an entire region.
As I talk to regional leaders, I am very aware of the way our area is growing and changing. Our valley population is expected to increase significantly over the next five to ten years. At the same time, technological, economic, and societal change will result in the transformation of existing job fields and the growth of new fields in the season ahead.
This, too, will touch countless lives in the region. So, we at Azusa Pacific are always talking about what programs our region needs and what we as university can do to serve those needs. What will K-12 education in the valley look like in the years to come? What about behavioral health? Or business? Or criminal justice? Because we are here to serve the community, these are questions we must ask.
It is reassuring to know that community leaders are putting their minds to this issue. Our partners and peers in education are asking questions about training and workforce development. Local political and business leaders are considering the kinds of jobs the region will offer in the future and what it will take to prepare.
The relationship between jobs and educational preparedness warrants further consideration; it will deeply influence the region’s economic development and quality of life. For that reason, I am enthusiastic about the Economic Development Coalition’s (EDC) plans to bring educational, business, and municipal leaders together to address these issues. Indeed, as the year begins, we can all hope that good will come to our community as the EDC helps us commence what promises to be a valuable conversation in 2019 and beyond.