Calling the school a place that “prepares you to make a life,” newly inaugurated Oklahoma Christian University President John deSteiguer said he expects to see the university's enrollment grow under his leadership.
The university held an inauguration ceremony Monday to install deSteiguer as its seventh president.
One of the challenges facing the university is the broad array of options available to students after high school, deSteiguer said. Traditionally, the university competed for students against public and private colleges and universities. Now, students have other options, such as for-profit colleges, that weren't available decades ago.
Oklahoma Christian, which is affiliated with the Churches of Christ, will need to differentiate itself as a place that offers a more holistic approach to education to remain competitive, integrating Christian principles into its educational model, deSteiguer said.
Officials announced deSteiguer as the university's new president in April. He succeeds Mike O'Neal, who retired in June.
At the ceremony, deSteiguer told students the university should prepare them for success in their careers, and to see the world and its problems from a Christian standpoint. Along with that comes the expectation that students serve their communities during and after college, he said.
“Here at OC, we serve students for good, and they serve others for good,” he said.
In the years to come, deSteiguer said, he expects to see the university establish itself in athletics within the NCAA Division II Heartland Conference. The university left the NAIA's Sooner Conference to join the Heartland Conference this year.
Glen Johnson, chancellor of the Oklahoma Higher Education System, said leading a university is a great responsibility. A president must “blend the truths which are timeless with the realities that we know today,” Johnson said.
At a time when officials look for ways to produce more credentialed workers, colleges and universities play an increasingly important role in the state's welfare, he said.
Johnson has called for an additional 20,400 degrees and certificates to be awarded in Oklahoma over the next 12 years, and said the state's private colleges and universities are key partners in that effort.
Monday was Oklahoma Christian's first day of classes. Although the day marked a transition for the university, deSteiguer noted that the installation ceremony was grounded in tradition. The ceremony included elements of the chapel service that has marked the beginning of the new academic year since the university was founded in 1950.
“Tradition is a powerful thing,” he said.