University Strategic Plan Update

The 2014-15 academic year got off to a strong start on September 29, as classes began for the 2,510 students who have enrolled this year at La Sierra University. This is our fifth straight year of growth, resulting in another record enrollment.
This year, U.S. News & World Report ranked La Sierra among the best regional universities in the western United States. The category includes universities from Texas to Alaska. La Sierra was also ranked as a top school nationally for Hispanic students by In 2013, about 45.7% of our first-year incoming freshmen were the first in their families to attend college. The positive impact that a La Sierra education is making on their lives, their families, their communities and their churches will become evident in future years. We are proud to help all of our students, regardless of background, reach their God-given dreams.
The growth we have seen—not only in the number of students, but in our retention and graduation rates—are no doubt a result of the blessing of God and the focused effort of the campus community. Since 2011, these efforts have been guided by the university’s Strategic Plan. In the pages that follow, you will see major elements of the plan and actions that have been taken to fulfill its goals, with special emphasis on the 2013-14 academic year. On page 19 you will find information about the university’s financial position. And, on pages 20-27, you will find the annual Honor Roll of Donors.
It is no accident that the report of the university’s progress is followed by the lists of those who have generously supported La Sierra, for the two are directly linked. We thank you for recommending this university to prospective students, for keeping our students, faculty, and staff in your prayers, and for the ways you generously support its mission.

Strategic Goal 1.


In the past two years, 28 highly qualified new faculty members have come to La Sierra, including 16 in 2013-14. Many are young scholars who bring with them a fresh perspective on their discipline and leading-edge research. Others bring a wealth of experience in the classroom and their professional field to share with a new generation of students.
Their love of teaching and learning is palpable. Eric Vega, for example, is an assistant professor of sociology and was the first in his family to earn a college degree. When asked about his favorite teaching memory, he replied, “When students link concepts they learned with lived experiences and realize that they are not passive in creating the future.”
Christophe Le Dantec, a neuroscientist and assistant professor of psychology, says he has always been interested in the brain. “As early as I can remember,” he says, “I was eager to discover and understand the functions of the numerous neural structures. Undertaking to pierce the brain’s secret is a long journey and the ultimate scientific challenge.” His research lab is a boon to the students in our new neuroscience major.
To help the faculty obtain funding for their research, the university established an Office of Sponsored Research Administration in 2013. We also continued to make progress in the faculty salary initiative to ensure that remuneration more closely aligns with regional norms. And we implemented a new faculty orientation program that introduces new professors to La Sierra’s heritage and values and helps them understand the privilege of being spiritual mentors as well as academic guides to their students.
La Sierra students benefit from a University Studies program that helps them explore important issues from a Christian and multidisciplinary perspective. They develop the ability to critically analyze data and collaborate with others—essential skills in today’s job market. April Summitt came to La Sierra in the fall of 2013 as the first dean of the Division of General Education. Her impression of La Sierra thus far: “I’ve never met a more dedicated group of Christian scholars.”
During the past two years, La Sierra has received reaccreditation from both the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and the Adventist Accrediting Association. The H.M.S. Richards Divinity School, after years of rigorous preparation, in 2013 became only the second Adventist theological school in North America to be fully accredited by the Association of Theological Schools.

Strategic Goal 2.


Each year since the strategic plan was developed, we have seen record enrollment at La Sierra. In the fall of 2010, 2,096 students enrolled in our undergraduate and graduate programs. By this fall, that number had grown to 2,510, an increase of 20 percent. Of these, 2,119 are undergraduates and 391 are graduate students. Since 2009, our growth has been even more dramatic, showing an increase of 35 percent. We are well on our way toward the goal of 3,500 students by our centennial year, 2022.
Recognizing that growth requires new programs of study, the strategic plan includes a goal of starting at least one new academic program each year. Recent new undergraduate programs include bachelor of science degrees in criminal justice, environmental science, neuroscience, and physics. A bachelor of arts degree has been launched in archaeology and a new mass media emphasis in communication. A bachelor of fine arts degree is now offered in film and television production.
At the master’s level, the Zapara School of Business now offers a master of science degree in accountancy, designed for students wanting to meet the new requirements for taking the certified public accountant exam. A new master of arts degree in student life and development is being launched, and courses leading to the Board Certified Behavior Analyst designation are now offered in the School of Education. The H.M.S. Richards Divinity School now offers a master of theological studies degree, and a graduate certificate in ministry is available.
The criminal justice program, launched in 2010, has been enormously successful and is now one of La Sierra’s largest programs. In addition to the Corona campus, a new campus opened in Ontario in 2013.
Also enrolling a large number of majors are biology, psychology, exercise science, social work, and biochemistry. Taken as a group, the largest number of La Sierra students are pursuing a program that will lead to a healthcare profession. La Sierra continues to send more students to Loma Linda University than any other Adventist college or university.
To help students in elementary and high school become familiar with and connected to La Sierra, on-campus summer camp programs are now held annually in music, science, and criminal justice. The music department has also launched the Academy of Visual and Performing Arts (AVPA) for the community. People of all ages can take music lessons, join ensembles, learn painting, ceramics, photography, and much more. Additionally, the AVPA provides La Sierra students with a means of earning extra income and honing their teaching skills for future careers.
In mid-October of this year we launched a brand new university web site. It is much more useful and attractive for prospective students and other visitors to the site, and it is mobile-friendly for smart phones and tablets. The site was completely created by the staff of our Office of Communication and Integrated Marketing, at a huge cost saving over outsourced web development.

Strategic Goal 3.


La Sierra University is becoming attractive as an academic home to an increasing number of college-bound students from many faiths, as well as graduates of Adventist academies. We take our mission seriously to introduce all of our students, whether from an Adventist background or not, to the beauty of our faith. This effort is guided by our Spiritual Master Plan, completed in 2011.
Before graduating, all students at La Sierra will now have taken at least one required course introducing them to Seventh-day Adventist beliefs and heritage. For students a knowledge of Christianity, a prerequisite religion course will introduce them first to the tenets of the Christian faith.
The Office of Spiritual Life has been expanded to include four chaplains—Sam Leonor, Martin Corona, Donovan Childs, and Linda Biswas. The International Students Office also hired an intern student chaplain (now a resident hall assistant) for the purpose of creating spiritual nurture opportunities for these students coming to La Sierra from abroad. Chaplains lead campus chapels, Connections small groups, First Service on Friday evenings, and an array of dorm worships. They also give individuals spiritual counsel and Bible studies that lead to student baptisms on campus each year.
Golden Eagles athletic program leaders have taken a special interest in student life away from the field or gym. Before the beginning of each new academic year, all student athletes meet with the chaplains and leaders from Student Life, who help them understand what it means to be a Christian athlete representing La Sierra University. The university is recognized by the NAIA—the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics—as a Five-Star Champions of Character institution, the highest honor offered for character development endeavors.
In an effort to expand participation in missions, the Office of Spiritual Life creates opportunities for students to “Give a day. Give a week. Give a summer. Give a year.” The “Give a day” local volunteer service activities on Sabbath afternoons drew more than 600 students into action during the 2013-14 academic year. Students could “Give a week” on two spring break mission trips in 2014. One group traveled to Page, Arizona, where they worked on the Adventist church whose members minister to the Navajo people as well as local residents. A second group went to La Trinidad, Nicaragua. They ran a Vacation Bible School for 140 children, worked on construction, and helped with evening health lectures.
This year, eight student missionaries are answering the call to “Give a year.” They are building human trafficking awareness in Cambodia, serving as student nurses in Nicaragua, working at an orphanage in Bolivia, and much more.
One area that has received special attention over the past several years is the way we as a faith-based university approach the teaching of biology. The faculty has worked hard on creating a curriculum that grounds students both in faith and science, and we have done two rounds of assessment to determine the impact this approach has had on student learning. Here is what the regional accrediting association, WASC, had to say about La Sierra in its 2013 report:
“The visiting team was most impressed with how the LSU faculty, together with the provost and president, have been able to clarify how the commitment to presenting understandings of evolution and creationism can be presented in ways that both affirm the teaching of science in a responsible way consistent with the standards of the discipline as well as remaining clear about the Seventh-day Adventist views and beliefs on creationism.”
Likewise, the Adventist Accrediting Association wrote in its most recent report:
“[T]he team finds that the administration and faculty have prepared religious programming and an academic curriculum that is committed to helping students become disciples of Jesus Christ and faithful members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. This intentional focus on Christian and Seventh-day Adventist discipleship is seen in the high commitment of the faculty and staff to providing the best Adventist education and in the involvement of many students in the spiritual and social life of the campus.
“…the team concludes that the university has successfully implemented helpful changes in both the biology curriculum and the religion requirements of the University Studies program.
“…The team commends the faculty and staff for their intentionality and efforts to create an environment where many types of students feel both challenged and supported in their personal spiritual growth, including the biology faculty for their considerable efforts to respond to students’ personal faith commitment in the study of science.”

Strategic Goal 1.


Service-learning has long been a part of La Sierra’s DNA. In 2013, La Sierra was recognized in the President’s Honor Roll as one of the top five universities in the nation for community engagement. La Sierra is the only Adventist college or university ever to have been so designated.

Each student who graduates from La Sierra meets a requirement for service-learning classes that incorporate community engagement into the curriculum. For example, in Andrew Howe’s “The Vietnam War and Its Aftermath” course, students interacted with Vietnam veterans. The service component in other courses ranged from a drama presentation for children to work at a local women’s shelter. In 2013-14, La Sierra offered 51 servicelearning courses. The 1,012 students enrolled gave 14,707 hours of service to the community.
La Sierra students demonstrate a concern for others outside of class requirements. Each year the student-run REVO fashion show raises funds for a cause. Last year it benefited Project Syria, an endeavor organized by two La Sierra students, in cooperation with ADRA, to help Syrian refugees living in Jordan.
Kate Case, a 2013 graduate, began her fight against human trafficking while she was an undergraduate. She is now Regional Advocacy Coordinator, West, at the International Justice Mission.
Students in the Zapara School of Business also find ways to benefit others. MBA student—now graduate— Dan Harvey Lee, a dentist, developed and brought to market a new type of dental floss device for people with braces to help prevent tooth decay. Sterling Spence and fellow students formed a band called “The Coyote Bandits.” He wrote a business plan in the “Principles of Entrepreneurship” class for a multi-state summer concert tour with proceeds to benefit Canvasback Missions, providing free medical and dental services for the people of Micronesia. The concert tour raised $63,000.

Strategic Goal 5.


Over the past few years, our campus has been transformed in significant ways. The most dramatic addition is the new Zapara School of Business building, officially opened in September 2013. It was recognized for Outstanding Design in the 2013 American School and University Architectural Portfolio. With its 385-seat Troesh Conference Center and its large sunlit center atrium, it has already become the premiere site for oncampus events.
One of La Sierra’s oldest buildings, former dormitory Gladwyn Hall, was completely transformed into the academic home of the Communication and Social Work departments with stateof- the-art classroom facilities, spacious faculty offices, and inviting lobbies where students can meet and study. A similar transformation converted the former School of Business building into Humanities Hall, home to the English and History, Politics, and Society departments.
The move of two departments to Humanities Hall has allowed the Divinity School to expand in La Sierra Hall. In addition, the building’s mezzanine area is now an enlarged space for the Spiritual Life offices.
The Eagle’s Nest café, at the request of students, is now open from 7 a.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday and is open on Saturday and Sunday nights until 10 p.m. Hamilton Terrace, named in memory of beloved music professor and study-abroad founder John T. Hamilton, was completed in the summer of 2013. It is located between Hole Memorial Auditorium and the library. New benches, landscaping, lighting, and sound systems make it a beautiful outdoor performance space.
Lights! Camera! Action! Palmer Hall, home to the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, has added the Film and Television department as a new tenant. Filming studios, editing booths, classrooms, and offices have been created for this rapidly growing new program.
In addition to new buildings, we have put major effort into improving our safety and customer service systems. Many campus buildings now have card access for increased security. The information technology department has completed the portal system which makes registration and other transactions easier and more convenient. We have added software for facility/ classroom management and to help students plan and track their progress to graduation. In Student Financial Services, added personnel and increased hours are reducing wait times and ensuring that students get all the help they need in finding ways to pay for college.
Students seeking internships during their programs and job opportunities after graduation can now benefit from the resources and assistance available through the new Career Services Center.

Author: La Sierra

La Sierra University, an institution nationally acclaimed for its diverse campus and its service to others, offers a transformational experience that lasts a lifetime.

Share This Post On