Written by The Business Journal Staff
Fresno Pacific University will offer a new master’s degree program in Community Leadership & Transformation beginning in the fall of 2016.
The program, part of Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary, is geared toward young adults who work for or want to work for community-benefit organizations or engaged churches.
“Ours is a regionally focused degree. We’re trying to recruit Valley leaders,” said Program Director Randy White, D.Min., associate professor of community transformation and executive director of the seminary’s Center for Community Transformation.
Noting that Fresno is “second in the nation in areas of concentrated poverty—neighborhoods where 40 percent or more of residents live below the federal poverty line,” White said students enrolled in the new program “will learn by experience. All the core courses I teach are in the city, not on campus,” he said.
White said much of the learning will take place by observing community transformation agencies in practice and talking with directors. “Practitioners become professors and students go beyond merely exploring ideas to activating them,” White said. “Our classroom is the city, its neighborhoods and districts.”
According to White, many of those experiences will connect with the Valley’s growing social enterprise movement, where churches and other entities start and support businesses that serve communities and offer jobs and training to those who may have trouble gaining employment.
The academic program, White said, will “plug into the real-life work” of the Center for Community Transformation (CCT).
CCT promotes activities that go beyond traditional charity to empower traditionally powerless people and help them take control of their lives and communities. One of the most successful has been the Spark Tank, which over the past three years has provided more than $50,000 to start-ups and small businesses pursuing both a social and financial bottom line.
“We integrate CCT and community resources into the way education is delivered,” White said.
In addition to requiring fewer units — 48, making it the seminary’s most accessible, and least expensive, degree — coursework includes public policy, advocacy, the theology of transformation and focused connections with marriage and family therapy faculty.
Even though the new program’s first students are still a couple of years away from graduating, White has endorsements from 15 community leaders in a variety of agencies that have shown interest in hiring them.
“Community leadership and transformation — it can work in a lot of worlds,” White said.
Fresno Pacific University offers undergraduate and graduate programs serving nearly 3,600 traditional and adult students, who attend classes on the main campus in southeast Fresno or regional campuses in North Fresno, Visalia, Bakersfield and Merced as well as online. The university also reaches about 10,000 students through professional development studies.