Nystrom and Pierce added to Biola’s staff

Meet the new faces in Biola Administration.

Kathryn Watson and Harmony Wheeler

Biola welcomes more than 15 new faculty members this fall including the new provost, David Nystrom, and the new vice president for business and financial affairs, Michael Pierce.

Pierce is assuming the role left vacant in February by Carl Schreiber, who served in Biola’s finance department for 22 years. Nystrom takes the place of interim provost Patricia Pike, who returned to her original vice provost role last month.

“Hanging out” with Nystrom**

“Students will like [Nystrom] a lot,” Pike said. “He’s very student oriented. He enjoys teaching and wants to continue teaching in the classroom.”

“My goal is for students to not even think twice about coming up to see me,” Nystrom said. “[I want to be] a normal, natural part of the campus environment. I’ll be spending a lot of time in the cafeteria, places where students hang out. I’ve been a youth pastor. I’m used to having students over for dinner.”

Pierce pays tuition**

Pierce also relates to students and their families. For Pierce, tuition dollars aren’t just numbers on a spreadsheet; rather, they’re what he just signed away in a check to Biola University to pay for his sophomore son’s fall semester.

Pierce said paying tuition was a reminder of the plight of many families. As the new head of finances, he determines how to manage revenue from student tuition and fees, which amounted to $110,523,139 in the 2008-2009 fiscal year alone, according to the university’s most recent tax documents.

“You have entrusted Biola with those finances, with that tuition,” he said, adding that it is his responsibility to manage that money effectively and responsibly.

Goals for the Future**

Pierce said a conservative approach to the university’s budget is the appropriate one, given the current economy. He emphasized that affordability will continue to be a priority-one discussion. But affordability isn’t the only issue Pierce and his finance team are up against.

“Straight out of the gate, maintaining quality education amid booming enrollment numbers will be a challenge for the finance team,” said Dave Koontz, who temporarily filled the position left by Schreiber. “There will be some finance aspects to that as we hire professors to cover various sections.”

Nystrom expressed his own goals for his time at Biola.

“I don’t hope to change Biola into some preconceived image,” Nystrom said. “I hope to help Biola grow into what is its natural next step.”

Nystrom said he plans to trust and support faculty and students and to help them raise the bar for their expectations of others and of himself. As provost, he said he also wants to demonstrate fidelity to Scripture and awareness of what Scripture says about the human condition.

“The Gospel says there’s no true peace between human beings because we are captive to our desire to have what we want,” Nystrom said. “[But] we can be reconciled to God and to each other.”

Nystrom said such reconciliation includes the union of people of different nationalities. After living in one of the most diverse neighborhoods of Chicago, he brings new insights to the ongoing diversity discussion at Biola.

“I’m as white as they come when you look at me, but have been involved in a number of experiences that have to do with understanding the Kingdom of God in all its diversity,” Nystrom said. “We’re all part of the same body.”

Previous Experience**

Nystrom comes to Biola from his role as the vice president for academic affairs at William Jessup Univeristy in Rocklin, Calif. He received his B.A. and Ph.D. from the University of California at Davis, and his M.Div. from Fuller Theological Seminar–returning later to teach at both schools. He also spent 12 years at North Park University and Theological Seminary in Chicago, as professor, chair of biblical and theological studies, and director of the Institute for Christian Studies.

Pierce, on the other hand, has little experience in higher education. After earning his MBA in finance from California State University, Fullerton, and a bachelor of science in accounting from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, Pierce spent his career in the business world. Before coming to Biola, Pierce worked in top financial positions at Johnson & Johnson and the Center for Innovation and Strategic Collaboration in Irvine, a research and development company of St. Jude Medical, Inc.

Finishing the Transition**

But many of the principles in the for-profit and the not-for-profit world are the same. Koontz said Pierce’s lack of exposure to the world of higher education might actually prove a help rather than a hindrance, as “the current model of higher education is being challenged in some respects,” Koontz said.

“Mike is a sharp guy,” Koontz said. “He’s asking the right questions.”

While the last week has been a “massive orientation,” as Pierce put it, the transition could have been tougher.

“We’ve had a chance to come up to the bookstore and buy the required T-shirts and sweatshirts and mugs,” he joked. “… It made the assimilation to Biola a little bit easier.”

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