Faculty Feature: Dave Dunaetz Branches into Multiple Fields of Study While Sharing Christ’s Love

by Saundri Luippold

Dave Dunaetz, PhD, has had a thirst for knowledge his whole life. While he has acquired six graduate degrees, published many academic articles, and earned awards for his dedication in a variety of fields, Dunaetz’s desire to share the Gospel is the core motivation behind all his work.

Originally from Manhattan Beach, Calif. Dunaetz grew up in a non-Christian household. His grandparents experienced a radical conversion, and took Dunaetz and his brother to Sunday School once, where they were taught ideas about life and God that neither had been exposed to before. This experience planted the seed for a lifetime’s worth of growth awaiting Dunaetz. However, his faith transformation was gradual, and Dunaetz did not fully commit his life to Christ until high school, after a pivotal break up.

“I was invited to a church concert the same week she broke up with me. I truly understood the gospel for the first time and gave my life to Christ. It was a conversion far more life-changing than I foresaw. For the first time, I became acutely concerned about other people and their needs,” he said.

While Dunaetz hoped to attend a Christian college, his family encouraged him to go to Harvey Mudd where he majored in engineering, with the intention of becoming a tent-making missionary. During a six-week mission trip in New York City, he met his wife, Karen Dunaetz, MFT, to whom he has been married for 39 years, and who shared the same interest in pursuing missionary work. At the time, Dunaetz’s father made a deal with him, agreeing to pay for seminary if Dunaetz would pursue a masters in engineering as well, which he earned from the University of Southern California. “I thought getting my masters would be a lost year, since I was more concerned with ministry than engineering, but I gained teaching experience at 22 that has stuck with me ever since,” he said.

After Dunaetz and his wife each completed their MDiv at Denver Seminary, they decided to move to France, where they spent the next 17 years doing church planting and evangelism. They planted two churches that are still running today. Karen Dunaetz had studied French as an undergraduate, and even though Dave Dunaetz struggled with learning the language before, he ended up earning a Masters in Teaching French as a Second Language.

Dunaetz looks back at his time in France with fondness because of the transformation he witnessed in people’s lives. He especially enjoyed working with youth groups to instill leadership skills that many members are implementing in the same churches today. Dunaetz faced various challenges while helping these churches move beyond missionary dependence. When he and his wife returned to the U.S., Dunaetz began working toward his PhD in Social Psychology at Claremont Graduate University, conducting research in conflict in Christian organizations.

Dunaetz began teaching at Azusa Pacific University as an adjunct professor in 2007 in the psychology department. In 2015, the Organizational Psychology program opened, where he now teaches statistics and research methods, and serves as Chair of the Department of Leadership and Organizational Psychology. Dunaetz equips students with the tools to approach data with the intent to discover trends that allow people and organizations to function better. “Statistics is all about finding truth, and the same applies to loving people. If I want to love others well, I have to assess and understand their needs instead of projecting my own onto them,” he said.

Students in Dunaetz’s classes are always enrolled alongside a cute classmate— Beep Beep the teddy bear. “When Beep Beep gives the wrong answer to a question, everyone wants to help him understand and chimes in when we’re solving a problem,” Dunaetz said. Beep Beep always attends the hooding ceremony for the MS in Organizational Psychology graduates to congratulate them on their accomplishment.

Dunaetz strives to equip students who graduate with their masters in organizational psychology so that they can continue to learn and stay up to date with research.

“APU students have so many strengths and so much potential to make a difference wherever they go,” he said. “I hope they use their abilities for a force of good in the world.”

All his life, Dunaetz has yearned to expand his knowledge, spread the Gospel, and love others through his care and intentionality in various fields. The seed that was planted in his heart during his youth has continued to grow. While he’s branched into a variety of studies, all are rooted in the commitment to share Christ’s love.

Saundri Luippold ’25 is a public relations intern in the Division of Strategic Communication and Engagement. Saundri is double majoring in Honors Humanities and English with a minor in Spanish. She serves as head copy editor of APU's literary journal, The West Wind, and writes on her personal blog, New Romanticism.