Don't sit back, bump up your future, Mueller advises new GCU students

GCU President Brian Mueller (right) fist bumps Associated Students of GCU president Jagaar Halverson and vice president Amaya De La Cruz as he is introduced during Monday's Welcome Session at GCU Arena.

Photos by Ralph Freso

After reflecting on Grand Canyon University’s 15-year transformation and painting a prosperous future in Arizona, President Brian Mueller delivered a powerful message to new students at Monday’s Welcome Session at GCU Arena on the first day of Welcome Week.

“Don’t take it easy the first day, the first week, the first semester,” he said. “Get off to a really quick start. Organize your time. Get to class. Sit in the front. Take an interest. Get to know your professors.

“The opportunities (are there) to get internships as sophomores and juniors, the opportunity to graduate as a junior after only three years and step into a job, either here or somewhere else.

“It is a great time to get very serious about what we are doing here on campus academically. Start to think about opportunities that are going to exist today.”

Mueller’s message, which lasted slightly more than 11 minutes, resonated with Mike McNearney, who put his arm around incoming freshman son Jack before they split into separate orientation groups following the Welcome Session.

“The Five-Point Plan was neat to see,” McNearney said of GCU’s mission devised in 2015 to enhance the West Phoenix community through multiple public-private partnerships and initiatives that include creating jobs in the community, making the neighborhood safer, improving homes (through groups such as Habitat for Humanity), supporting K-12 education and helping families in need (through CityServe).

“It makes kids understand that there’s a sense of community, and a lot of people are feeling the same way they’re feeling about us, which is really nice.”

With a daughter already at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, McNearney let his wife, Lisa, perform the honor of placing a GCU pin on their son’s T-shirt to represent the moment of his bond with the GCU community.

Junior transfer student Madeline Murray is pinned by father Tim Murray at Monday's Welcome Session.

“I made sure my wife was able to do it because it’s special,” said McNearney, who resides with his family in Kansas City, Missouri.

Meanwhile, Mueller conveyed a prosperous future for incoming GCU students, provided they follow the University’s tenets and possess relentless passion.

Mueller declared that GCU student body president Jagaar Halverson would be “the next president of the United States” in 20 years, and that vice president Amaya De La Cruz was “the straw” of the GCU women’s rugby team.

He shared with students how, 15 years ago, GCU was struggling. About 900 students were part of the ground campus, and the University was about $20 million in debt before transforming into a thriving institute of higher education with an on-campus enrollment of nearly 26,000, nine colleges and more than 300 academic programs, certificates and emphases.

“No way you could predict this,” Mueller said.

New students applaud as guest speakers are introduced during the Welcome Session at GCU Arena.

Furthermore, Mueller predicted Arizona would “blow up” in the next 10 years, with companies needing a strong labor force already moving here from states such as California, Illinois and New York.

“This is a great time to be an 18-year-old and be in Arizona planning for the future,” said Mueller, who rattled off a long list of career opportunities made possible by GCU’s current curriculum.

Once first-year students show their assertiveness immediately, “this is going to be a fun place to be,” he said, and he stressed the numerous opportunities for students to become involved because of a plethora of clubs. “You can try out for theatre or some music groups if you’re not a music major."

Mueller, a former high school and college basketball coach, marveled about the seemingly endless opportunities to play on club teams and continue the passion they have for a specific sport.

Mueller addresses new students and family members during the Welcome Session in GCU Arena.

“Our club sports program is the biggest in the country,” he said, citing the modern facilities and array of club sports available.

He also reminded new students and parents about the need to enhance GCU’s efforts in the community.

GCU had the opportunity to move to Scottsdale or the East Valley, but he said, “It became clear to us that God blessed us in an unusual way and expected us to do something in this place."

Mueller marveled over the growth of the University, with goals to expand to 55,000 ground students.

“Christianity migrates to places where people are hurting, and this place is a place that can be transformed.”

Mueller concluded his message by suggesting a friendly game of NCAA Division I basketball with Arizona State University.

“Think about the opportunity. We have Grand Canyon University, a Christian university in West Phoenix. We have the Arizona State Sun Devils in Tempe. We could schedule a game downtown, where the Phoenix Suns play (at Footprint Center). We could advertise it for 40 days and 40 nights as the Christians against the Devils.”

That was met with applause.

“How many of you would buy a ticket for that game?”

The applause turned to roars.

Vice President of Student Affairs, Dean of Students and University Pastor Dr. Tim Griffin encouraged first-year students to be engaged, serve others “as part of the DNA at GCU,” and for parents to allow their children to make decisions.

And Provost Dr. Randy Gibb reiterated Mueller’s advice of taking the opportunities and academic help GCU will afford them: “Dream big,” he said.

GCU Senior Writer Mark Gonzales can be reached at [email protected]

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