Students ask Fresno Pacific University to make the future green

By Doug Hoagland

Sara Gurulé (BA ’19) asks a probing question about the soon-to-be-built Culture and Arts Center: “Fifty years from now, what is this building going to say about our values at Fresno Pacific University?”

Gurulé and others want the center to feature environment-friendly design elements that include solar panels, xeriscaping, LED lighting and more. In January 2019, Gurulé, Katie Isaac (BS ’19) and senior Erika Enomoto took their ideas to Robert Lippert, vice president of finance and business affairs.

Lippert says he appreciates their commitment and their ideas. “They raised a lot of issues and perspectives that had not been on the front burner for us,” he says. “They definitely had a lot of passion and had done a lot of work.”

As a member of the FPU President’s Cabinet, Lippert is among those facilitating the center, with construction scheduled to begin early next year. Current plans call for a 500-seat auditorium for music, movies and theatrical performances; a 99-seat black box theatre; a gallery for art exhibits; and a foyer for events. The center will be part of the main FPU campus at 1717 S. Chestnut Ave., Fresno, and serve the community as well as the university.

Isaac and Gurulé served as officers of the Shalom Club in 2018-19, and Enomoto is active in the club, which promotes a deeper connection between people, God and the environment. Their ideas for the Culture and Arts Center grew out of a project in Energy, Economics and Ethics, a course taught by Ken Martens Friesen, Ph.D., associate professor of history and international studies.

“They applied ideas from the class to a very real-world situation in literally their neighborhood,” Martens Friesen says. “It was a great example of what a few determined people can do to make a positive change.”

Renewable energy sources such as solar are both financial and educational investments, Isaac says: “Many students already believe renewables are going to be the future.”

Lippert says the students presented their eco-friendly ideas as he started working on the center’s design elements. “I put it on the table with the architect and contractor that we want to include these kind of things,” Lippert says. However, he adds, FPU probably can’t afford to initially install solar panels on the roof. But the building will be designed to accommodate solar in the future, and it will satisfy requirements of the U.S. Green Building Council to ensure electricity savings costs, lower carbon emissions and healthier environments, Lippert says.

The students have broadened Lippert’s vision of what’s possible at FPU. “They’ve made me start thinking about other parts of campus and other opportunities we have for retrofitting that might make economic and environmental sense,” he says. “This is a good thing.”




Wayne Steffen
Associate Director of Publications and Media Relations