By Leah Dopp
During his first year as PUC’s president, Dr. Cushman has jumped into extensive plans to create a bright future for the school. Excited by the work he is doing and hopeful for all that is to come, Dr. Cushman has proven interested in and accessible to students, eager to hear their input on the future of PUC. Sitting down with him in the administrative offices, I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions about the Strategic Plan and the direction of PUC.
What are the strategic and masterplans? “The strategic plan looks at academics, how we interact with our alumni, how we interact with our perspective students, how we would like to improve life for our faculty and staff, and campus culture. The strategic plan tends to deal with what we do here. That framework for the strategic plan was just approved by the board. The campus masterplan is a physical masterplan of the facilities on campus. The campus physical masterplan will integrate and support the strategic plan.”
How has the strategic plan been set in motion? “It’s a five-year strategic plan that was started in the fall of 2017. It started with conversations with faculty and staff about what they would like to see PUC be moving forward. Then Academic Dean Nancy Lecourt and I met with faculty, staff and students last fall—the fall of 2017. There have been three presidents in the past year, so we are still trying to sort the strategic initiatives in a way that makes sense moving forward.”
What does the strategic plan hope to achieve? “There are four central themes of our framework: our students, our people and place (our faculty and staff and campus), our story (what is the PUC experience?), and our relationships (both with each other, with our Howell Mountain community, with Napa Valley and with the Pacific Union Conference constituents). It’s fairly comprehensive. Our ultimate goal is to achieve these four things: a transformative learning experience for our students, an empowered and engaged campus community of faculty, staff and students, to build on the pas but create a heritage or a legacy for tomorrow, and we want to use the resources that we have here in Angwin and on our campus to position the college for a successful future.”
Where will the money for all this come from? “The first thing I was supposed to do when I came in July was to sign a contract to sell off PUC’s 100 acres of land on August 1. Eric Anderson and I along with cornered community members were able to work together to postpone signing the contract until our fall board meeting, and we were able to persuade the board to reverse their vote and not sell the land. I think previous administrators (not Eric Anderson) saw the land as a marketable asset, and they intended to rebuild the campus with the income from selling the land. What we need to do is find ways to generate income using our land so that we’re not just dependent of tuition for income. One emphasis is the first year of strategic planning is to focus on those initiative that will generate revenue. These initiatives pertain to alumni and advancement and Howell Mountain Enterprises (which includes the gas station, the college market, and the post office’s building and the other professional offices that are across the street from campus). We also own the airport, which could be an income stream for us. We have agricultural land, which could provide an income stream. Tuition is our primary income stream, but it cannot be our only income stream. We need these auxiliary income streams to really create a healthy financial model for PUC.”
What are a few strategic initiatives that are in the works? “There are some initiatives relating to the dining commons, we’re actually working on that now. We also just approved the budget to update PUC’s website. We don’t know what it will look like yet, but we are going to start a farm. That will provide opportunities for students who want to learn agricultural skills to get involved with that. We’ve hired a forest manager to help us manage the forest. Our forests has not been managed, you many notice we have more underbrush than Las Posadas. Thinning out some of the underbrush will make it a healthier forest and less susceptible to fire. We’re planning to put a firebreak in there along the ridge, all the way up to Howell Mountain road. That will protect us from a fire coming up from Pope Valley, and that will benefit the community—we think there are some community partners, including some of the local vineyards, who would have an interest in that to preserve their property as well. We have the easternmost coastal redwoods in the country, so we’d actually like to start a nursey and put in redwood seedlings so that we can expand the redwood forest. We’d also like to partner with community mountain biking groups that use our forest to improve the trail system appropriately. The forest manager is working on all of that.”
Is there anything else you would like the student body to know? “I hope they’re excited. We’re looking for PUC to be a place which they are proud to have as their alma mater. I hope they know that administration is excited and energized by this, and we’re optimistic for what PUC can be in the future. I don’t want, however, our excitement about the future to suggest that there’s something wrong now. I think students are getting a quality education, but I think we can take it to another level. That’s really what this is about. We are working to create a sustainable future for PUC.”
In anticipation of the upcoming inauguration ceremony, I also inquired about a few things pertaining to his presidency in general.
What do you enjoy about being PUC’s president? “I enjoy the opportunity to think and plan strategically for the long term future of Pacific Union College. I love interacting with our campus family, alumni, and community members. I am energized by my conversations with PUC students and inspired by their creativity and commitment.”
What are your main goals in your new role? “To create a campus culture where people enjoy coming to work and collaborating with each other and with other departments to the benefit our students and our college. To create a sustainable financial model to propel PUC into future. To create innovative new programs and curriculum that will continue to prepare our students to be competitive in the rapidly changing landscape of the 21st century job market.”
What challenges have you faced? “I think the biggest challenge is patience. As a senior leadership team, we would like to create change quickly and accomplish our goals immediately. We are always looking for short term wins. However, all of these changes we are currently working on are taking more time than we would like. Fundamental change simply takes time to do it right.”