Vanguard University Student Teams Make an Impact in China

Liberal Studies major Anna Hernandez said it, almost as a joke: “I want to go to China.” But the more she said it out loud, the more the thought seemed to stick with her.

She had wanted to teach English in China since her freshman year at Vanguard University, but the idea had been placed on the backburner as she studied, worked, and spent her summers at home. During her junior year, however, an opportunity to take the trip appeared. “I was late to apply,” Anna said about the application process, “but every door opened for me to go. Every one. It felt like God wanted me to go.”

Vanguard University has sent teaching teams to China each year since 2004. This year, Dr. Mike Wilson, associate provost and dean of the college, led the trip.

Dr. Wilson first came to China in 1984 where he was an Instructor at Jiangxi Agricultural University for two years. After spending an additional year in Hong Kong, he returned to the States and came to Vanguard, where he currently teaches Chinese History. This summer was his fourth time leading the Vanguard Teaching Team.

The trip to China was the first outreach trip of the summer and started only three days after the spring semester ended. A total of eight students on the Vanguard Teaching Team packed their belongings during finals week in order to fly out of the country on May 12. For Anna, packing in such a short timeframe was hard, but it was even harder to leave the country on Mother’s Day. Still, sacrificing in order to help others was well worth it.

Dr. Mike Wilson of Vanguard University teaches cultural differences in dining etiquette to Chinese students

Dr. Mike Wilson teaching cultural differences in dining etiquette to Chinese students

The students boarded a plane to Shanghai and then another to Beijing. Once landed, the team spent three days in Beijing to tour the area. Dr. Wilson said these days of touring gave the students “a chance to acclimate to the culture and bond as a team.” After a pit stop in Beijing, the team took another flight to Xi’an and then a bus to Hanzhong. All together, the flights and bus ride amounted to nearly 21 hours of travel time.

Once in Hanzhong, the Vanguard Teaching Team spent ten days teaching English to non-English majors at Shaanxi University of Technology. The team lectured in classrooms, gave demonstrations, and spent time developing relationships with many of the Chinese students. “It’s always amazing to me how quickly we can connect in the span of a week,” Dr. Wilson said of the cross-cultural friendships that were made on the trip. “We felt really close to a lot of [Chinese] students who helped us.” Anna was humbled to see God’s love for people, and His desire for us to build relationships with others.

Anna Hernandez from the Vanguard Teaching Team with a group of Chinese students

Anna, center, with a group of Chinese students

Before the trip, Dr. Wilson hoped that his team of students would have their minds broadened by their experiences in China. Anna had a similar wish: the desire to see God’s hand at work in a different culture. Both of these dreams were fulfilled. Dr. Wilson recalls that during group debriefs, each student shared incredible stories of God at work in China. In one such debrief, a student turned to Dr. Wilson and said, “I see why you keep coming back.”

At the end of the trip, Dr. Wilson was glad to see that the team had become “extremely bonded.” The group’s only complaint about the trip was that it was far too short.

“I want to go back,” said Anna when asked if she would consider taking another trip to China. “I would definitely recommend students to take a missions trip if they can. [They] don’t even have to go very far.” Even reaching out to a community in one’s own country is a great way to be a model for Christ.

Vanguard China Teaching Team 2013 at the Great Wall

Vanguard China Teaching Team 2013 at the Great Wall

Each summer, Vanguard University Global Outreach sends several groups of students to countries all over the globe in order to “lead the Vanguard community to deeply value and relentlessly pursue a life of faith in action.” This summer, a total of eleven teams will be given an opportunity to live that mission out internationally. Besides China, other countries the teams will visit are Tanzania, Peru, Mozambique, the Middle East, Ireland, Honduras, Fiji, Ethiopia, the Dominican Republic/Haiti, and Australia. For more information, visit:

Join Us in Looking Back at 2013-2013 – A Year to Remember at Vanguard University!

It’s hard to believe summer is upon us already and another year has flown by.  As we look back at a year that will go down in Vanguard history as one full of growth in so many ways, some of the highlights echoing living a Spirit-empowered life of Christ-centered leadership shine through:

* We welcomed our largest incoming class in the history of the University

* Opportunities to serve our community and our global neighbors were created and cultivated

* Our academic profile and ethnic diversity improved

* Partnerships with like-minded organizations that advance our hands-on learning were forged

Please take a moment to see for yourself how God has blessed this campus and community in abundance.


Arlene Hutton’s Quintessential Love Story, Last Train to Nibroc, Makes Three-week Stop at Vanguard University

Vanguard University theatre department

Vanguard University actors

Last Train to Nibroc carries Vanguard University alumni and a powerful message of acceptance and friendship

Vanguard University’s highly acclaimed and award-winning department of theatre arts presents Last Train to Nibroc opening on May 31 and running through June 16, 2013 in the Vanguard Lyceum Theater.

Set in the 1940s, Last Train to Nibroc tells the story of Raleigh and May, two strangers who meet on a cross country train during World War II (WWII).  This funny and touching tale of an unlikely romance follows the two as they search for their own happiness.  Two favorite Vanguard theatre alumni – Ryan Miller and Heaven Peabody – will return to the Lyceum stage to portray Raleigh and May.

“I cannot remember the last time I was so instantly enchanted by two characters from a first read,” says Sasha Stewart, director and Vanguard theatre alumna.  “Their story is one of acceptance and friendship; simple concepts yet powerful ones when told by the right people.  Raleigh and May are those right people.”

Stewart’s passion for this story comes to life on the stage.  Characterizing the story of Raleigh and May as a unique one, Stewart points out how rare it is for a play to lack an antagonist and how that dynamic leaves audience members rooting for both sides.  Stewart adds that what resonated to her is that while May and Raleigh are hard workers, they are also risk takers, and dreamers, with struggles that are tangible and sincerity that is infectious.

“I have been nothing short of humbled each time I have had a hand in presenting this very relevant and poignant story,” continues Stewart.  “Those seeing this show for the first time are about to journey into the lives of two very honest individuals living in an endearing time period, discovering what their own lives need to be. I envy them the trip.”

Performance dates and times are May 31, June 1, 7, 8, 14 and 15 at 8:00 pm and June 2, 9 and 16 at 2:00 pm. All shows are presented on the campus of Vanguard University, in the Lyceum Theater. Ticket prices are $14 for general admission and $12 for seniors, children, groups and college students. Tickets may be purchased by clicking here or by calling the Theatre Department box office at 714-668-6145.

For additional information about the Theatre Department click here.

Vanguard University Sociologist Presents Key Findings to Improve Quality of Life of Homeless in Costa Mesa

Vanguard University Professor fights homelessness

Professor Ed Clarke discusses findings from         YOU Count


Remember the popular 80’s song by Phil Collins called Another Day in Paradise? (If you’re too young to remember, you can likely hear it on the oldies station.) It addresses the unfortunate reality of how most people deal with the homeless population: we don’t. Or if we do, we don’t know how to help in a way that is effective or useful.

Thankfully, there are people who not only care about the homeless in theory, but are also taking the initiative to do something to help them and impact the quality of their lives for the better.

Vanguard University and churches consortium reveal findings on homelessness in Costa Mesa

Becks Heyhoe from the Church’s Consortium discusses homeless findings from YOU Count

One of those people is Dr. Ed Clarke, sociology professor at Vanguard University. Dr. Clarke, in collaboration with the Churches Consortium, presented data on findings from what is called the YOU Count initiative from last October. The findings were largely based on interviews that Vanguard University students and other volunteers used to better understand the needs of the homeless in Costa Mesa with the goal of providing useful assistance and improving conditions.

But the interviews weren’t the beginning of this initiative, nor will they be the end.  Dr. Clarke has been involved in studying the homeless with the purpose of improving conditions since 2008. In fact, the work he’s done began as a study he implemented on homeless mothers. From there, he focused on accumulating valid and reliable data and developed a system for future research. In 2011, Dr. Clarke set his sights on rapid rehousing and homeless prevention with the end goal of replacing temporary and emergency shelters with permanent supportive housing. His work has assisted government agencies such as the Homeless Management and Information System (HMIS) in improving the collection methodology used for the enumeration performed every three years.

Dr. Clarke has been highly successful in mentoring his students to develop a repertoire of knowledge in social theory and research methods and apply what they’ve learned in the classroom through experiential learning by doing, which, in turn, results in deeper learning.

So what are some next steps?  Housing!  Yes, you read correctly.  Providing housing is the ultimate goal.  To get there, Dr.  Clarke and his team are working toward an integrated model of data management so that the chasm between perceived needs and actual needs is bridged.  The hope is that the work the team is doing here in Costa Mesa will serve as a useful model for other cities to adopt to ultimately eliminate homelessness.

homessless initiative YOU count led by Vanguard University professor

Active audience members listen intently to findings on homelessness in Costa Mesa

So….what can you do to help in the meantime? Get involved! Click here for more information on how you can get make a difference.
Click here to see the recent article in the Daily Pilot about YOU Count.


Vanguard University Professor’s World War II (WWII) Documentary to Air on National Geographic Channel May 31, 2013

Inside World War IIIt’s not every day that students can boast that their professor is an accomplished, professional film editor.

Aaron Daniel Annas’s students can.

On Friday, May 31, 2013 at 7PM ET/PT,  Inside World War II, a documentary for which Annas has three credits – Associate Editor/SFX Design, Finishing Editor, and Sound Effects Editor – will air on National Geographic Channel.  According to the National Geographic, which has posted a trailer on YouTube, Inside World War II is a three-hour television event that provides a detailed visual timeline of the complex war, with personal, in-depth stories from veterans who fought in the deadliest conflict in human history. Inside World War II is the intimate story of the last global war, told by the survivors — those who endured the front line’s bloody conflicts. Those who witnessed the brutality of combat give their unfiltered accounts. Included in the interviews are former prisoner of war and “Slaughterhouse-Five” author Kurt Vonnegut and the grandson of legendary general George S. Patton.

As an assistant professor of Cinema Arts who teaches courses in the communications department at Vanguard University, Annas brings a rich array of professional experience to the academic table.  In addition to Inside World War II, Annas has been assistant editor on Great Lake Warriors (The History Channel) and editor of Parole Diaries (TVOne), in addition to many other films and projects.

Of all the shows he’s worked on, Annas says he is most proud of his work on Inside World War II.  “This documentary had a huge team and tons of footage, including actual footage of WWII,” said Annas.  “Because there were no sound recordings back then, we  had to find  sound sources for all the footage.  So the families who provided footage will be seeing the documentary for the first time.”

For more information, click here.