Founded in 1960 as Southwestern Conservative Baptist Bible College, Arizona Christian University is a regionally accredited, private, non-profit Christian liberal arts university in Phoenix, Arizona.
ACU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, a commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. During the HLC's 2012 accreditation visit, ACU received its best report in the institution's history, including reaccreditation for the maximum ten years as well as approval to offer three new majors.
The university traces its roots to Ida Clouse, a Christian missionary and registered nurse who left the Midwest in 1917 and moved to Arizona under the Homestead Act where she opened the Clouse Ranch, which soon became a popular Christian retreat center. Upon her death in 1959, Clouse left 35 acres of her ranch to the Arizona Baptist Convention for the creation of a Christian college.
Since its founding in 1960, the university has undergone a number of name changes, including Southwestern College, until its name was finally changed to Arizona Christian University in January 2011 in recognition of its growth from a small Bible college to a Christian liberal arts university. Previously, the university was affiliated with the Conservative Baptist Convention until the university made the decision in 2009 to transition to a non-denominational Christian liberal arts university.
The university was founded to prepare students for careers in vocational ministry and missions, offering degrees in Biblical Studies and Christian Ministries. In 1975 the university received approval to offer degrees in Education, and subsequently added degrees in Business Administration, Behavioral Health and Music. Most recently, in 2012, under the leadership of new President Len Munsil, the university received approval from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) to offer degrees in Biology, Communication and Political Science. Additional undergraduate degree programs are being planned each of the next few years, along with an expansion into graduate degrees and growth for its accelerated Degree Completion Program for working adults.
In 2010, Len Munsil assumed the presidency of Arizona Christian University. Munsil is a constitutional attorney and has a background in Christian non-profit and public policy work, and was the 2006 Republican nominee for governor of Arizona. Munsil’s agenda has included increasing school visibility, expanding the number of majors offered, engaging in campus renovations and attracting and inspiring students who are called to provide Christian leadership in every arena of influence in society. The decision in January 2011 to embrace the name “Arizona Christian University” was the final, formal step in preparing ACU for its future as Arizona’s only private, accredited, non-profit Christian liberal arts university.
In the first two years of Munsil’s leadership, the school purchased the former headquarters of the Southwest Conservative Baptist Association and turned it into a Welcome Center, built a baseball field on an unused portion of campus, renovated old apartment buildings into well-equipped music classrooms and state-of-the-art communication facilities, opened the Phoenix Shop, negotiated for the use of classes and a 300-seat chapel for chorale and performing arts productions at an adjacent church, and raised more than $7 million in cash and in-kind donations, including the largest single gift in ACU history – KGCB, a 100,000 watt Christian radio station valued at more than $3 million. In 2013, the radio station was named the 2013 Station of the Year, small market category, by Christian Music Broadcasters. 2014 the radio station was rebranded as Arizona Shine. KGCB was sold to Educational Media Foundation on October 16, 2015 for $1 million.
During Munsil’s first two years, ACU enrollment grew 47 percent from 464 to 683 total students. By October 2015, the school announced that enrollment had reached 781 students.
In 2011, the university undertook an initiative offering iPad 2's to all incoming freshman. In an effort to integrate technology and learning, this imitative was expanded to offer all students iPad 2's beginning in the fall 2012 semester.
In 2012, it graduated its largest class of more than 100 students at a commencement ceremony broadcast nationally on C-SPAN and featuring United States Senator Jon Kyl.
Notable graduates of Arizona Christian University include Dr. Mark Bailey, President of Dallas Theological Seminary, who also began his teaching and academic administration career at then-Southwestern College. Former NBA All-Star and NBA Coach Paul Westphal began his coaching career at then-Southwestern College, leading the school to a Christian college championship.
During the 2010-2011 academic year, the University celebrated its 50th anniversary and instituted the Daniel Award for Courageous Public Faith. The honor is given annually to an individual who has courageously stood for his or her Christian faith and biblical truth in the public square.
The award is named for Daniel, the Old Testament prophet, whose examples of public faith included giving praise and honor to God before kings, and continuing to pray publicly, even on penalty of death.
The first Daniel Award for Courageous Public Faith was presented to President George W. Bush on March 16, 2011 at a dinner celebrating ACU’s 50th anniversary celebration at the Phoenix Convention Center, with 1,260 in attendance and raising $1.5 million in scholarships for ACU students. On February 9, 2012, the second award was presented to the Rev. Franklin Graham, president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association as well as the international aid organization Samaritan’s Purse. The third annual Daniel Award was presented to Christian recording artist and three-time Grammy Award winner Michael W. Smith, who performed for ACU students, faculty and supporters in a concert at the Phoenix Convention Center on April 5, 2013.
ACU offers the following Bachelor of Arts degrees with plans to offer additional degrees in the next few years:Behavioral Health
In addition to offering multiple focus areas within each major. All students at ACU graduate with a minor in Biblical Studies, regardless of major. Chapel attendance twice per week is required, and students also participate in student-initiated worship, prayer and service projects. Students also participate in an annual “Day of Outreach,” during which academic classes are canceled and students go into the community to serve at homeless shelters, soup kitchens, crisis pregnancy centers and other local ministries.
ACU’s growing Degree Completion Program for working adults who seek to finish their bachelor's degree in business administration offers six to eight week courses meeting one evening per week providing a chance for accelerated degree completion.
Arizona Christian teams, nicknamed athletically as the Firestorm, are part of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), primarily competing in the Golden State Athletic Conference (GSAC). The Firestorm also compete as a member of the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA). Men's sports include baseball, basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, tennis, track & field and football; while women's sports include basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, softball, tennis, track & field and volleyball.
Following the hiring of baseball coach Doyle Wilson – a top assistant at the University of Southern California who has recruited and coached dozens of former or current Major Leaguers – in 2012 the university completed construction of a new baseball field on campus. That same season, the baseball team won the Association of Independent Institutions Conference Championship, Coach Wilson was named A.I.I. Coach of the Year, five team members received All-A.I.I. Honors, and two players were drafted in the Major League Baseball draft.
In 2013, ACU announced the hiring of former Major League Baseball right-handed pitcher Bill Swift. Since its inception in 2012, Firestorm Baseball has seen six students drafted to the major leagues.
In 2012 Firestorm Baseball won the Association of Independent Institutions Conference Championship and former baseball coach Doyle Wilson was named A.I.I. Coach of the Year, and five team members received All-A.I.I. Honors.
In 2013, ACU announced that it would be adding football in fall 2014, becoming one of four four-year universities in Arizona offering the sport. During the 2014 season, Firestorm Football will have five games televised on Cox7.
ACU is a non-denominational, evangelical Christian institution where applicants are required to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and agree to take part in ACU’s spiritual formation activities, which include attending chapel services and taking courses in Bible. Upon application, students also acknowledge that ACU is guided by and will teach from the following set of evangelical principles, adapted from the National Association of Evangelical's Statement of Faith:
1. We believe that the Bible alone (the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments) is the inspired, inerrant in the original writings, infallible, and authoritative Word of God.
2. We believe that there is one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
3. We believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, his virgin birth, his sinless life, and his miracles. He graciously paid the penalty for our sins through his substitutionary death and shed blood on the cross. Moreover, we believe in his bodily resurrection, his ascension to the right hand of the Father, and his personal return in power and glory.
4. We believe all human beings are by nature sinful and lost and that salvation is through faith alone in Christ alone.
5. We believe in the present ministry of the Holy Spirit who provides regeneration (i.e. spiritual rebirth) and by whose indwelling the Christian is enabled to live a godly life.
6. We believe in the bodily resurrection of the just and the unjust – the everlasting blessedness of the saved and the everlasting conscious punishment of the lost.
7. We believe in the spiritual unity of all believers in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Additional extra-curricular activities include student-led worship nights, missions trips and service opportunities such as the student-initiated 032 Project, an outreach activity that assists those in the surrounding 85032 zip code with everything from yard work to painting.