Celebrating its first commencement ceremony, Azusa Pacific Online University (APOU) will confer Associate of Arts and Science degrees on 10 students on December 15, 2012. This inaugural graduating class marks an important milestone for the new institution that opened its doors June 27, 2011.
Although a separate institution, APOU stands as a member of the Azusa Pacific system of universities and learning institutions, and shares the same Christian values and mission, while offering its programs through an alternative delivery system. Focused on affordability and student access, the online university meets the needs of a rapidly growing segment of the higher education market, including those whose lives do not support residential college life due to cost, geography, stage of life, or previous academic record.
“I’ve spent half of my life on the road, since age 18, so sitting in a classroom is not an option for me,” said Stephen Mason, A.A. student and guitarist for popular Christian rock band Jars of Clay. “Earning my degree at APOU means I can study through the eyes of faith in a way that broadens my thinking and engages me in a larger conversation. The band has always been intentional about asking difficult questions and seeking truth—a lifelong pursuit not limited to time or vocation—and that’s what I’m doing at APOU. The experience forces me to be a better listener, qualify my words, and become accountable for my beliefs and actions. And when the whole process begins to feel overwhelming, my life coach reminds me that I’m here for a reason, and that I have what it takes to succeed. I’ve gained a compelling vision for perseverance.”
The APOU life coaches, in tandem with a comprehensive orientation course, individualize the education experience and set students up for success. These mentors come alongside students, providing guidance and encouragement, learning techniques, academic advising, and spiritual development. “Students at APOU engage in their educational journey paired with a life coach for the duration of their program,” said Deana Porterfield, APOU executive vice president. “This partnership allows students the opportunity to gain the most from the virtual learning environment and their college experience.”
The innovative approach has produced notable growth. Starting with just 40 students and two academic programs a year ago, enrollment has increased to approximately 400 students participating in seven academic programs. Adding to its original offerings of an Associate of Arts and a Bachelor of Arts in Management, APOU now offers a Bachelor of Arts in Applied Psychology, Associate of Science in Health Sciences, Associate of Science in Management, and a Pre-Nursing Health Science Certificate. Each bachelor’s degree offers a variety of emphasis areas for specialization in the student’s field of interest. As part of APOU’s path to separate accreditation, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) visited in September 2012 and will make the decision for accreditation approval in early 2013.