Spring Arbor University

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Spring Arbor University
Spring Arbor University seal.svg
MottoFides, Vivens, Discens (Latin)
Motto in English
Faith, Living, Learning
TypePrivate university
Established1873; 148 years ago (1873)
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
Religious affiliation
Free Methodist Church
Endowment$19.2 million (2019)[1]
PresidentBrent Ellis
Location, ,
United States
AthleticsNAIA, NCCAACrossroads League
Spring Arbor University

Spring Arbor University (SAU) is a private Free Methodist university in Spring Arbor, Michigan. Developing from an earlier academy and junior college, in 1963 it began offering bachelor's degrees. Attaining university status in 1994, it is the second-largest evangelical Christian university in Michigan. The university is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.


Spring Arbor University has developed in the late 20th century from a seminary founded in 1873 by leaders of the Free Methodist Church, particularly Edward Payson Hart. First Spring Arbor Seminary was established as a private academy for elementary and secondary grades. Located near the site of a former Potawatomi Indian village, the academy was built on property that formerly belonged to Central Michigan College (later renamed as Hillsdale College after moving to that city).

In 1923, the board of trustees voted to add a junior college to the academy. In 1929, the school was renamed as Spring Arbor Seminary and Junior College. Primary and intermediate classes were discontinued in 1930.

In 1960, the school gained accreditation by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, and the trustees changed the name of the institution to Spring Arbor College. The high school program was dropped, and Spring Arbor launched its four-year program in 1963.

In 1981, Spring Arbor began offering the first of its degree completion programs for adult learners in nearby Jackson. The college later developed degrees in health-related fields and opened sites in Lansing and Flint, Michigan. Graduate education classes were begun at Spring Arbor in 1994. In 2001, the school changed its name to Spring Arbor University.[3]


SAU offers over 70 majors and programs[4] at the undergraduate level at its main campus in Spring Arbor, Michigan. Teacher certification at the elementary level is offered in a 2+2 format at North Central Michigan College in Petoskey, Michigan, Great Lakes Christian College in Lansing, Michigan and Jackson Community College.

The School of Graduate and Professional Studies operates offers degree options including Associate of Arts and Associate of Science in Business, Bachelor of Science in Business, Bachelor of Science in Organizational Management, Bachelor of Arts in Family Life Education, Bachelor of Arts in Christian Ministry Leadership, Bachelor of Social Work, and Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

In regards to graduate programs, SAU offers the Master of Business Administration, Master of Arts in Family Studies, Master of Arts in Education, Master of Science in Management and Master of Arts in Counseling degrees through some of its regional off-site campuses.[5] SAUonline also offers the Master of Business Administration, Master of Arts in Communication, Master of Arts in Education, Master of Science in Management, Master of Arts in Reading, Master of Arts in Spiritual Formation and Leadership, and Master of Science in Nursing.[6]

The university is a member of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities and is affiliated with the Free Methodist Church. The university is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. SAU also holds accreditation from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.[7]

In the late 1980s, Michael A. O'Donnell, Ph.D. and Nick Stinnett, Ph.D. (professor with the University of Alabama) co-founded The International Family Life Institute, Inc., Montgomery, Alabama,[8][9] which was hired by SAU to help them pioneer the first B.S. degree completion program in Family Life Education on the campus of Spring Arbor University leading to certification for professionals as Certified Family Life Educators (CFLE)[10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17]

In 2020, the university terminated the contracts of 11 faculty, including several tenured faculty. In response, the faculty passed a vote of no confidence in the VPAA.[18]

Student life[edit]

As of Fall 2018, total enrollment included 3,436 students. Of this, 1,145 are on campus, 662 are enrolled in professional studies, and 1,629 are graduate students.[19] There are roughly 42 denominations represented on the campus. About 84 percent of students are from Michigan, 15 percent are from 22 other states, and 1 percent are international.[20]

Spring Arbor University has two radio stations: 106.9 HOME.fm and 89.3 The Message. 89.3 The Message has been previously known as 89.3 The Vibe. Publications include The Pulse,[21] a bi-weekly student-run news magazine. An annual student film festival, Lumenocular, is held every April.

With a strong emphasis on spiritual life, Spring Arbor University requires that all students attend a chapel service on Mondays and Wednesdays at 10:05 am. This service includes student-led worship and speakers are pastors, entrepreneurs, professors and missionaries, handpicked by the Chaplain to bring their message to the SAU community.[22] Aside from Chapel, there are campus groups and events designed to grow the spiritual life of students including Spiritual Life Retreat, small groups, and the Community of Learners program. SAU also hosts a one-day event annually called The Focus Series. During this day, classes are canceled and various workshops and seminars are held on campus. Speakers have included emergent church spokesperson and author Brian McLaren.

Discrimination against LGBTQ people[edit]

Spring Arbor University has faced numerous accusations of discrimination against LGBTQ students and faculty members. One such instance took place in 2007, when a faculty member was terminated after coming out as transgender.[23] That same year, administrator Kim Hayworth was accused of opening an out gay student's mail, a federal crime.[24]

In the fall of 2017, a speaker at SAU's twice-weekly chapel service was met with applause after placing LGBTQ people in the same category as drug addicts and murderers.[25] His sermon stated: "I don't have time to tell you the stories of lesbians that come to our church and repent of their sins and now are living straight lives. I don't have time to tell you about murderers who walk in and they get changed by the power of God, I can't tell you the drug dealers who actually hand me drugs and say, 'I don't want to do this anymore.' And it's not by my might, it's not by my power, it is by the spirit of the Lord.[25]"

In 2018, Dr. Everett Piper (an alumni, former SAU administrator, and current president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University) posted what the New York Times referred to as "a long, vitriolic response to stories in The Pulse, a student news source at his alma mater, Spring Arbor University in Michigan, in which gay students were seeking affirmation and conversation.[26]" In this statement, Piper compared LGBTQ students to white supremacists, saying “How about ‘a conversation about how to bring feelings of white supremacy and faith into the light’ at the local Christian college?” he wrote. Why, he asked, “do we ‘normalize’ one sinful habit and predisposition but yet still condemn another?[26]

The SAU student handbook currently prohibits "same-sex dating behaviors," and states that those who violate this community standard will be offered "counsel and support to encourage students towards living lives consistent with the biblical teaching on sexuality," and may also be subject to suspension or dismissal.[27] It also states that students' clothing must be "gender-appropriate" and that the university "will not support persistent or conspicuous expressions or actions that are deliberately discordant with birth gender.[28]"

SAU was granted a Title IX exemption in 2014, allowing the university to discriminate on religious grounds, which it still holds today.[29]


Spring Arbor teams are known as the Cougars. The university is a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Division I (Division II for basketball), primarily competing in the Crossroads League, formerly known as the Mid-Central College Conference (MCCC). The Cougars also compete as a member of the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA). Prior to joining the Crossroads League in the 2004–05 season, they were a member of the Wolverine–Hoosier Athletic Conference (WHAC). Men's sports include baseball, basketball, bowling, cross country, golf, soccer, tennis, and track & field; while women's sports include basketball, bowling, cross country, golf, soccer, softball, tennis, track & field, and volleyball. In the 2019–2020 season, Spring Arbor's competitive cheer and dance teams participated in their first competitions, introducing co-ed sports to the school.[30] The Women's soccer team won the 2015 & 2017 NAIA National Championship. After a 42-game unbeaten streak, the women were the 2016 NAIA National Champion runners-up. The 2019 Men's basketball team was the NAIA Division II National Champions.[31]

Campus extensions[edit]

In addition to the main campus in Spring Arbor, there are extension sites[5] throughout Michigan in Battle Creek, Flint, Gaylord, Grand Rapids, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Lansing, Metro Detroit (Southfield), Metro Toledo (Temperance, MI), Petoskey, Traverse City. SAU also has one site in Ohio: Toledo (Owens Community College).



  1. ^ As of June 30, 2019. "U.S. and Canadian 2019 NTSE Participating Institutions Listed by Fiscal Year 2019 Endowment Market Value, and Percentage Change in Market Value from FY18 to FY19 (Revised)". National Association of College and University Business Officers and TIAA. Retrieved September 20, 2020.
  2. ^ (PDF) http://2yskz12ufu7l2va2ns2tirdn75i-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Athletic-Program-Participation-and-Program-Support-2018.pdf. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. ^ "History of Spring Arbor University - Spring Arbor University". Retrieved October 6, 2017.
  4. ^ "Traditional Undergraduate Majors and Programs - Spring Arbor University". Retrieved October 6, 2017.
  5. ^ a b "Learning Sites - Spring Arbor University". Retrieved October 6, 2017.
  6. ^ "Education with a higher standard - Spring Arbor University Online". Spring Arbor University Online. Retrieved October 6, 2017.
  7. ^ "Accreditations and memberships - Spring Arbor University". Retrieved October 6, 2017.
  8. ^ Raising Teens (published by Better Homes and Gardens), "Seven Secrets to Raising Great Kids," December 1999.
  9. ^ The International Family Life Institute, Inc. was responsible for funding the Center for Fathering for $10,000 on the campus of Abilene Christian University and funding the National Adolescent Wellness Research project with the University of Alabama for an additional $15,000.
  10. ^ "Spring Arbor University - NCFR". Retrieved September 25, 2014.
  11. ^ O’Donnell, M.A. (1991) Human Life Cycle I: Instructor’s Manual. Spring Arbor, MI: Spring Arbor University.
  12. ^ O’Donnell, M.A. (1991) Human Life Cycle II: Instructor’s Manual. Spring Arbor, MI: Spring Arbor University.
  13. ^ O’Donnell, M.A. (1991) The Professional Family Life Educator: Instructor’s Manual. Spring Arbor, MI: Spring Arbor University.
  14. ^ O’Donnell, M.A. (1990) Grief Management I: Instructor’s Manual. Spring Arbor, MI: Spring Arbor University.
  15. ^ O’Donnell, M.A. (1990) Grief Management II: Instructor’s Manual. Spring Arbor, MI: Spring Arbor University.
  16. ^ O’Donnell, M.A., editor. (1989) Parenting and Family Skills: Instructor’s Manual. Spring Arbor, MI: Spring Arbor University.
  17. ^ O’Donnell, M.A., editor. (1989) Family Theory: Instructor’s Manual. Spring Arbor, MI: Spring Arbor University.
  18. ^ "Spring Arbor University alumni seek accountability after 11 faculty members cut before fall 2021". Retrieved December 4, 2020.
  19. ^ "Office of Assessment and Institutional Research". Spring Arbor University. Retrieved August 7, 2020.
  20. ^ "About SAU: Fast Facts". Archived from the original on July 15, 2012. Retrieved October 6, 2017.
  21. ^ "Sau Pulse". www.saupulse.com. Retrieved October 6, 2017.
  22. ^ "Spiritual Life". Spring Arbor University. Retrieved August 7, 2020.
  23. ^ services, Items compiled from Tribune news. "Christian college fires transgender teacher". chicagotribune.com. Retrieved January 28, 2020.
  24. ^ Heywood, Todd. "Opening student mail, federal crime?". Pride Source. Retrieved January 28, 2020.
  25. ^ a b www.mlive.com https://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/page/refusing_to_choose_lgbtq_stude.html. Retrieved January 28, 2020. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  26. ^ a b Pappano, Laura (June 5, 2018). "At Christian Colleges, a Collision of Gay Rights and Traditional Values". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 28, 2020.
  27. ^ "Spring Arbor University Student Handbook (19-20)" (PDF). Spring Arbor University. January 28, 2020. Retrieved January 28, 2020.
  28. ^ "Spring Arbor University Student Handbook" (PDF). Spring Arbor University. Retrieved January 28, 2020.
  29. ^ "Religious University President: We Want Permission To Discriminate But We Won't Use It". Retrieved January 28, 2020.
  30. ^ "Cheer & Dance teams compete for first time". Spring Arbor University. Retrieved August 7, 2020.
  31. ^ "Spring Arbor University". www.saucougars.com. Retrieved October 6, 2017.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 42°12′21″N 84°33′17″W / 42.20583°N 84.55472°W / 42.20583; -84.55472