From the President, Autumn 2019: So much more

People often question the value of a college degree — especially a degree from a liberal arts university like Seattle Pacific University.

President Dan Martin
Illustration by Joel Kimmel

However, economists from the New York Federal Reserve Bank recently found that the average rate of return on a college investment remains high at around 14%.* Most of us would be ecstatic if our retirement portfolios performed at that rate and with such consistency.

Beyond the economic benefit of a college degree, higher education offers value for our students’ future and for the world. An SPU education is defined by unique elements that make us at once timeless, timely, and prepared for a future time.

First, our Christian mission is timeless. At SPU, our Christian identity is foundational and formative, and the life of the mind and a life of faith are mutually informative instead of mutually exclusive.

Our identity in Christ is ongoing, rooted in our orthodox, Wesleyan heritage and dedicated to an ecumenical faith practice.

Through our curricular and co-curricular experiences with students, we pursue our mission with the highest standard of excellence and deepest intellectual engagement, while also nurturing and shaping our students’ faith.

Our educational philosophy stems from a liberal arts approach that seeks to integrate and develop the whole person — intellectually, spiritually, socially, emotionally, professionally, and physically.

Our Christian identity and focus on whole-person education is not only timeless, it is timely.

The most sought-after values by employers in 2018, identified by the Association of American Colleges & Universities’ 2018 Employer Research Survey, included a set of intangible skills best learned in a liberal arts environment, rather than a skills-focused degree program.

These include the ability to write and speak effectively; to work in teams with diverse groups; to think critically, analytically, creatively, and independently; to practice ethical decision-making; and to apply knowledge in real-world settings. These outcomes are central to the liberal arts mission of SPU.

“We teach students not to simply acquire knowledge for self-serving ends, but rather to acquire knowledge to serve and edify others.”

However, we are not merely preparing students to live the good life by equipping them with skills to succeed in the workplace. Rather, we encourage them to live a good life. We teach students not to simply acquire knowledge for self-serving ends, but rather to acquire knowledge to serve and edify others.

Even as SPU is adapting to the technological trends that are shifting how, when, and where students are accessing higher education, our graduates have the ability to respond with resilience and creativity to change. We are preparing our students for jobs of the future — jobs that don’t yet exist, and that will require knowledge that is not yet taught in a classroom.

Seattle Pacific offers a future-focused transformational educational experience that is grounded in the liberal arts; prepares our students through a robust engagement across the disciplines as they enter an increasingly complicated and complex world; teaches them how to think, write, speak — and, perhaps more necessary than ever — to listen.

As we prepare SPU students for the future, we aim for the University to be known as a premier Christian university that is orthodox, Wesleyan, and ecumenical; a university that attracts and trains leaders from every kind of background. Those watching us should see these values reflected most transparently through the lives of our alumni, who embody the University’s vision and commitment to global and cultural engagement, reconciliation, and human flourishing.


*Abel, Jaison R. and Richard Deitz. “Despite Rising Costs, College is Still a Good Investment.” Liberty Street Economics. Federal Reserve Bank of New York. June 5, 2019. libertystreeteconomics.newyorkfed.org/2019/06/despite-rising-costs-college-is-still-a-good-investment.html

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