The added edge of higher education in an environment of faith and open-inquiry
Op Ed
David M. Barnes, Ed D

America is a land of endless choice – and options for education, specifically higher education, are no exception. From local community colleges and in-state/private universities to out-of-state and Ivy League schools, today’s students face a plethora of possibilities as they select a path of education with long-term personal and professional implications. And in today’s increasingly challenging and complex world, higher learning in a faith environment is more essential than ever.
At Ottawa University Arizona (OUAZ), students can now choose an educational approach that develops the whole person, while simultaneously developing work ready skills. Educational choice has now been taken to a higher level with students no longer needing to be limited by a choice between career ready and a deeply meaningful, multidimensional educational experience.  
OUAZ is committed to helping students develop those dimensions – intellectual, spiritual, physical, artistic, financial, familial, vocational – that make them unique individuals who want to lead a life of significance. As a steadfastly Christian university, proudly affiliated with the American Baptist Churches USA, and positively open and inclusive, OUAZ empowers local, national and international students from every background to become whole individuals who develop a life of stronger personal faith, balance and joy, not to mention valuable, marketable professional skills for leadership in a global economy. Ottawa University graduates stand out because of their ability to live, learn and lead in the 21st century and beyond.
Founded in 1865 in Ottawa, Kansas, Ottawa University continues to adhere to its mission of building on its foundation as a Christ-inspired community of grace and open inquiry to educate students for lifetimes of personal significance, vocational fulfillment, and service to God and humanity. The not-for-profit University operates eight locations in Arizona, Kansas, Wisconsin, and Indiana and also offers a robust online program.
This fall, after more than 40 years of community presence in Arizona, OUAZ will continue to differentiate itself in higher education when its campus in Surprise becomes the University’s second campus (after Ottawa, Kansas) to offer all of the diversity and richness of a high-quality, residential experience.
OUAZ enjoys a unique public-private partnership with the citizens and leaders of the 130,000-resident City of Surprise, the fastest growing city in Arizona. The University chose to expand its new residential campus there to take advantage of existing athletic and other amenities. This partnership enhances affordability by giving OUAZ students access to facilities and services few other colleges in the country can offer, while also positioning OUAZ as the West Valley’s private, not-for-profit University.
OUAZ students will have the opportunity to join an educational community where they are encouraged to tap into their individuality and spirituality to grow and thrive in an environment informed and inspired by a tradition of Christian values, combined with a modern-day approach to academics, career search and work readiness.
While Ottawa University is one of the oldest, continuously accredited educational institutions in America, its approach is distinctly contemporary as a culturally diverse Christian place of higher learning with a breadth of academic opportunities.
Traditional-age local, national and international students usually attend on a full-time basis and complete their degrees in traditional or accelerated time frames. This is an age group primed for establishing a well-defined path to a life of significance. Parents of these students also place a great deal of emphasis on the importance of a faith-based, educational environment.
Along with traditional-age students, other adult learners, including corporate students, choose OUAZ because of a strong combination of academics, competitive tuition rates, convenient payment options, financial aid, a growing athletics program and individualized guidance. Students who enroll at OUAZ are each assigned a personal life coach/advisor from the Adawe Lifeplan Center who works with them on their college and life goals – all the way through graduation. Coaches are among many at the University who guide students on their journey preparing for a life of significance.
As part of OUAZ’s commitment that its students develop work-ready skills, Wednesdays are set aside as Personal Growth Days. On Wednesday morning’s students pursue advising, tutoring, and private study. The campus community then gathers for chapel, which is followed by a meal called “The Gathering.” In the afternoon, students attend workshops virtually identical to those offered in professional development training programs by corporations and non-profit organizations. These workshops help students develop competencies in areas such as public speaking, project management, leadership, writing for business, negotiations, personal finance, how to persuade, personal selling, research, conflict management, listening, group facilitation, and more. Such skills are prized by employers of all types and set an OUAZ graduate apart from their counterparts who are also entering the job market.
OUAZ’s unique FlexTerm academic calendar offers a 21st-century approach, enabling students to learn how and when they want. Courses are offered in 4- and 8-week formats, along with more traditional semester-length timeframes. The FlexTerm calendar encourages students to tailor their educational experience – and investment – to focus on supplementing classroom learning with internships, service learning, and international and cross-cultural study programs on the path to career readiness.
The new, residential campus in Surprise is a modern testament to Ottawa University remaining steadfast in its 152-year-old pledge to offer innovative educational models and exceptional value, preparing diverse student populations for lifetimes of faith, service, leadership – and personal significance.

About David M. Barnes, Ed.D.
David is the Executive Director of University Advancement of Ottawa University Arizona, with emphases in external relations, resourcing, new markets, and spiritual life. David also is Professor of Education. David has more than 32 years of experience in higher education, business, and ministry leadership, including 24 years in not-for-profit organizations. Prior to coming home to Ottawa University, David served as Senior Vice President for Partnership Relations for Johnson-Huffman Fundraising Strategists, President of Grace University, Executive Vice President and Founding Dean of the School of Adult Learning at Arizona Christian University, and Associate Vice President for Adult Programs at Spalding University. Prior roles at Ottawa University included service as Dean of the School of Education, VP of Enrollment Management, VP of Adult & Professional Studies, and Provost.