Cultivating Transformation in the Honors College

by Megan Wilhelm

If you spend some time talking with Curtis Isozaki ’14, MA ’18, CF-LSP, his passion for Azusa Pacific University, the Honors College, and leadership shines through in his mannerisms, words, and facial expressions. Serving as both the director of strategic initiatives and enrollment in the Honors College and as an adjunct professor in the Department of Leadership and Organizational Psychology, Isozaki’s days are full of doing what he loves: sharing his knowledge, mentoring students, and meeting new people.

Although Isozaki thrives in his various roles at APU, working at a university was not always something he envisioned for himself. Growing up, he wrestled with two potential paths: “I had a choice when I was in high school of what I wanted to do. It was either make a bunch of money and go the business route or make a difference and become a teacher,” he said. Feeling called to sow seeds of faith through teaching math — a subject often disliked by students — Isozaki chose to pursue education. Through the advice of his uncle, he discovered a small, Christian liberal arts college amidst the many UC and Cal State schools he was familiar with: Azusa Pacific.

At the end of his time at APU, the trajectory of Isozaki’s future changed after a class assignment. “I wrote an exegetical commentary on the rich, young ruler (Matthew 19:16-30) and was convicted by the fact that Jesus asked him to go, sell everything, give to the poor, and follow him,” he said. “I realized that although I wanted to make a difference and see people reach their potential — something that had transformed my own journey to make disciples and see people experience the kingdom of heaven — I never asked God what He actually wanted me to do.” Instead of becoming a math teacher, Isozaki headed to Mongolia where he stayed for six months church planting, teaching English, and working with an anti-human trafficking ministry.

After coming home, Isozaki felt a strong conviction to continue engaging unreached people groups. Instead of going abroad again, Isozaki sensed God was calling him to serve the nations on his home turf. After three years of serving as an admissions counselor at APU, Isozaki transitioned to his role with the Honors College. He is proud of the program’s missional clarity, excited about the opportunity to champion leaders, and grateful to serve in the most diverse classical Christian education in the nation.

“I love that students enter into the Honors College as students, but graduate as scholars,” he said. “They begin as believers, but graduate as disciples, begin as followers, but graduate as leaders.”

Isozaki’s passion and hardwork in the Honors College has not gone unnoticed. During APU’s baccalaureate celebration for the class of 2023, Isozaki received the Student Government Association’s Staff Member of the Year Award. To receive an award voted on by students — specifically the class of 2023 — was special for Isozaki. He journeyed through the admissions process with this class and transitioned into his role at the Honors College with them as well. “To walk from the very back of the Felix Event Center to the front and to see the smiling and celebrating faces who all have stories that I have been blessed to be a part of meant the world to me,” he said. Overall, the award is meaningful to Isozaki because it represents hundreds of stories and testimonies. “That award will always be a cairn — a symbol of God’s faithfulness — of the most challenging and significant years of my time at Azusa Pacific.”

As he continues his work at APU, Isozaki hopes to keep building relationships with students, encouraging them on their journeys, and living out the virtues taught in the Honors College. One of the ways he does this is through simply greeting those around him. Whether taking a break from work, grabbing a coffee, or walking across campus, Isozaki has made it his mission to greet others. “I say hi. I say hi again, and I stay connected through conversations. That’s it, and if I have the privilege to champion them, I’ll do that,” he said.

Through Isozaki’s work comes also his ministry. “I love the last chapter of John that talks about the fact that there are not enough libraries that can fill the number of books about all the God stories in our lives,” he said. Isozaki hopes to continue contributing to the innumerable accounts of God’s faithfulness in the lives of believers, one cairn stone at a time.

Megan Wilhelm '23 is a freelance writer living in Dallas, TX.