Written by The Business Journal Staff
Pete C. Menjares, Ph. D
Fresno Pacific University
What we do: Fresno Pacific University is the Central Valley’s only accredited, comprehensive Christian university granting master’s degrees.
Education: Ph. D. in education: language, literacy and learning from the University of Southern California. Master of Arts in education: teaching and curriculum from California State University, Dominguez Hills. Bachelor of Arts in religion and pastoral ministries from Vanguard University.
Family: Wife Virginia, daughter Nicole, son-in-law Jonathon and three grandchildren
How did you come to your position at Fresno Pacific University, Pete?
I was appointed by the FPU Board of Trustees on the recommendation of the university search committee. On one hand it was the end result of a year-long process that included a national search. In a very real sense, however, my career trajectory has prepared me for the presidency. Several years ago I made a list of schools I would consider moving to if an opportunity opened up, and FPU was on it. Being asked to consider the position was a pleasant surprise. When it comes to the presidency you don’t apply, you’re asked to apply. I feel called to this assignment.
What goals would you like to achieve while at FPU, Pete?
I certainly want to do more than a good job for the university — I want to do a great job. I come to a university that is in a position of strength. I want to build on that excellence. That means navigating this tough economic climate as well as exploring the growth of programs. I would like to see FPU become a premier West Coast Christian university, with a national reputation and a global reach. I have great respect for the faculty, administration, staff and students who have built this school. I’m grateful to them.
What made you first want to become a teacher, Pete?
I was challenged by a friend who was a public school teacher who had a feeling I would enjoy the classroom. Up until then I’d only thought of myself as being a pastor. I realized I loved teaching. My first experience was as a substitute teacher and it was one of the most challenging experiences of my life. But what I realized is that there are great needs facing our society and youth. Teaching allowed me to inspire students to aspire and achieve. It was a career that started as a challenge, that fueled a passion and then became a calling — and I’ve never looked back.
You worked at Biola University from 1995-2012. What are you most proud of looking back on your time there, Pete?
I am grateful for the opportunities Biola gave me to teach and to lead. But looking back over my time there, I am perhaps most proud of my faithfulness to serve in whatever capacity I was needed. Over the course of my time there I served as a member of the faculty, I was a department chair, an interim department chair, an associate provost and a vice provost. I took each of these assignments seriously and I always sought to do my best for the university and to meet my own high standards for a job well done.
You’ve been involved in a lot of work targeting Latino youth for educational opportunities. What makes this an important issue for you, Pete?
I see myself in these youth. I am of Mexican heritage and I come from a proud and hard-working family, yet I grew up fatherless. I didn’t do well in school. I didn’t grow up with a lot of role models. Hispanics lag behind in education, but are the fastest-growing and youngest population in the United States. If I can help inspire these youth to a life of achievement, that’s a wonderful thing to do.
What do you like about the Fresno community and what opportunities do you see here for the next generation of graduates, Pete?
My wife and I have been wonderfully received by the community. We love that there is history and culture being celebrated here. We love that there are arts and recreation. As far as opportunities, agriculture is huge and we want to see that thrive, but jobs will become more technical and complex. Schools like FPU will need to provide students with the skills needed to meet those demands, as well as meet new opportunities we have yet to realize.
What are some of the most popular degrees at Fresno Pacific University and why, Pete?
Business is our largest area, from traditional undergraduate to adult degree-completion and graduate. These programs combine strong academics and flexibility to help graduates contribute in their first job and thrive throughout their career, as well as prepare them for graduate study. Education may be the area for which we are best known, and our students are sought after by Valley school districts. In all our programs, employers tell us they are very impressed with the preparedness, seriousness and maturity of FPU graduates.
Enrollment at private educational institutions like FPU seems to be increasing faster than its public counterparts. What might be some reasons for this, Pete?
The economic impact on the state budget has capped enrollment for students at CSU campuses and other public colleges and universities. More than that, however, I believe students are drawn to our mission, smaller class size and the chance to learn from exemplary faculty. Students comment that they learn about not just subjects from their professors, but about life. We prepare the whole person—academically, with character and positive relationships — that’s the value added. In addition, we make a four-year graduation guarantee; that is an example of our confidence that students will graduate.
FPU raised its tuition just 1.8 percent this year, far lower than most public universities and other independent schools. Can you talk about ways FPU is working to make college more affordable, Pete?
FPU puts up $12 million of its own financial aid, which is very impressive. Our tuition is also lower than average for schools of our kind. We know our costs have to remain competitive and affordable, and our staff in financial aid works very carefully with students to make their education doable.
What do you do in your spare time, Pete?
I love to read; I play guitar and fish — fresh and salt water. Virginia and I love to garden. I recently began to work on a number of writing projects and I’m taking up photography. I’m always trying to grow.