PLNU recently welcomed two new graduate site chaplains to our Mission Valley and Bakersfield campuses. 

In Mission Valley, Rev. Nancy Pitts began her work as graduate site chaplain this week.

Pitts is an ordained Nazarene minister who has served as a counselor, teacher, congregational care pastor, and most recently a missionary in Kenya.  Her compassion for graduate students comes out of her own experience finishing her master's in marriage and family therapy while working full-time for Alaska Airlines and trying to balance family life with four of her five children still at home.

Rev. Daren Pitcher recently joined the staff as graduate site chaplain at the Bakersfield regional center.

Pitcher grew-up in Pismo Beach and graduated from PLNU in 1988. Daren served in youth ministry for over 13 years before planting Rancho Hills Community Church in Rancho San Diego. He is currently in his seventh year as lead pastor of Ridgeview Community Church in Bakersfield. Throughout his ministry career, Daren has been actively involved on school campuses.  Daren obtained his teaching credential through Azusa Pacific University and taught at the middle school level at East L.A. Light & Life Middle School in Boyle Heights.  Daren also worked in the after-school, grant-funded program through the Chula Vista School District.  He has over 15 years of high school & club volleyball coaching experience and four years of high school golf coaching experience. He currently coaches volleyball at Independence High School and golf at Bakersfield Christian High School. Daren’s wife, Amy, is the girls’ dean at Bakersfield Christian High School. Daren and Amy have two sons, Dawson, 12, and Noah, 10.


To learn more about our regional centers and the graduate program offered at each, please visit the Regional Centers main page.


Bakersfield Regional Center, Mission Valley Regional Center, PLNU

From Sept. 12-17, PLNU celebrated its annual Creation Care Week, sponsored by Waste Management, Inc. 

Highlights of the week included:

  • Presentations by Jim Ball, author of Global Warming and Risen Lord
  • Sustainability Fair 
  • Farmer’s Market Top Chef Cook-Off
  • Networking with professionals working in sustainability
  • Beach clean up at the border in partnership with I Love A Clean San Diego

PLNU is highly committed to creation care and is recognized as a leader in sustainability, especially among Christian universities, Jim Ball pointed out. Some of PLNU’s sustainable practices include the installation of solar panels, composting food waste, a comprehensive recycling and donation program, and water-saving measures (such as a tray-less cafeteria, dual-flush toilets, waterless urinals, and water-saving showerheads). Students also voted to create a “Green Fund” to which they contribute each year, and students also operate a community garden on campus.
For its efforts, PLNU has been a perpetual winner of recycling awards since 2004. The university also won a San Diego Excellence in Energy Award For A Non-Profit in 2009 and the San Diego Architectural Foundation’s Orchid Award for Sustainable Design in 2008. PLNU was also named one of America’s 100 greenest schools in both 2010 and 2011.


PLNU was ranked 15th in the category Regional Universities - West in U.S. News & World Report's 2012 Best Colleges guide. This is PLNU's highest-ever ranking in Best Colleges, and it is representative of the university's academic quality, strong graduation and retention rates, selectivity, and alumni giving rate, among other factors. PLNU was also ranked 15th in the Best Value category for Regional Universities - West. The Best Value category takes into consideration an institution's academic quality, cost, and available financial aid.


In October, PLNU professor of sociology and director of the Center for Justice and Reconciliation Dr. Jamie Gates will deliver one of nine monthly  lectures on the theme of science and ethics. Gates' lecture, "The Politics of Race, Class, Gender, and HIV/AIDS in South Africa," is part of a San Diego city-wide event responding to the award-winning book by Rebecca Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

Events across San Diego discussing the book and the topic of science and ethics are being sponsored by The Center for Ethics in Science and Technology and include an educational alliance between PLNU, San Diego State University, the University of San Diego, CSU San Marcus, Grossmont College, UC San Diego, and the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center.

In addition to Gates' lecture, Dr. Mark Mann, director of the Wesleyan Center at PLNU, will host a panel discussion about religious views of death and immortality in April. Dr. Skip Rutledge, the coach of PLNU's forensics program, is hosting a regional debate at PLNU focusing on the book and the issues it raises. Many classes and reading groups at PLNU are participating in the discussion of the book, as well.

For more information, including a schedule of upcoming events, visit The Henrietta Lacks Series website at The Center for Ethics and Science in Technology.

Center for Justice & Reconciliation, PLNU, Wesleyan Center


Dr. Kathryn McConnell has agreed to accept the role of Dean of Arts and Sciences, after serving as interim dean for the past year. 

McConnell joined PLNU in 1979 as a professor of Spanish, eventually serving as chair of the Department of Literature, Journalism and Modern Languages. She has also served on the executive board of the North American Foreign Language Association (NACFLA).

McConnell has spent the bulk of her time at PLNU guiding students in the Spanish language, literature, and culture. She has traveled extensively in Spanish speaking countries, principally in Spain, where she has conducted research in Madrid’s major libraries: the Hemeroteca Nacional and Municipal, the Prado library, Biblioteca Nacional, Filmoteca Nacional, and the Biblioteca José Ortega y Gasset. She has also been a visiting professor in Baoding, China where she lectured on film theory and language proficiency.

In making the announcement, Kerry Fulcher, PLNU’s provost and chief academic officer, said, “Kathy’s diverse set of experiences as a faculty member, department chair, faculty council member, membership on several major committees and her many years of service to the university have made her an invaluable member of the academic leadership team.  I can think of no other person I would rather have in this role at this key time in the life of our university.” 



Ron Benefiel, Ph.D., has accepted his election by the faculty as dean of PLNU’s School of Theology and Christian Ministry, effective July 1. Benefiel and his wife, Janet, are moving back to San Diego from Kansas City where Benefiel served as president of Nazarene Theological Seminary for the past 11 years. The move back to PLNU is a “homecoming” for Benefiel as he served on the PLNU faculty before being elected president of NTS.  Janet’s ongoing fight against cancer is part of the reason for their return, as it will allow them to be closer to their three children who live in San Diego. Ron, Janet, and their daughters, Leanne and Robyn, are PLNU alumni and their son, Tim, is a current student. 

“In returning to PLNU, I am thankful for the opportunity to be faithful as a Christian educator to this generation of students as so many have been faithful to me,” said Benefiel. “My first priority will be to re-engage the PLNU community. I plan to do 
a lot of listening in my first few months.”

Under Benefiel’s presidency, NTS embraced the challenge of becoming a “missional seminary serving a missional church.” The school expanded its focus globally and began offering courses in new formats, including online and video 
conferencing.  This past year, the seminary developed collaborative partnerships providing the opportunity for NTS coursework to be offered at several Nazarene college campuses.

While serving as a PLNU professor from 1996 to 2000, Benefiel 
co-founded and co-pastored Mid City Church of the Nazarene with John Wright, Ph.D., and David Whitelaw, D.Th. Mid City is now a thriving multi-congregational church.

From 1982 to 1996, Benefiel served as pastor of the First 
Church of the Nazarene in Los Angeles, a multi-congregational church. He also founded and served as the executive director 
of the P.F. Bresee Foundation, a nonprofit community center 
in LA’s Mid-Wilshire district.

Benefiel has always had a passion for serving his community, and his name has been highly respected within the Church of the Nazarene. Over the past 40 years, he has served the denomination on numerous councils and boards related to education, research, and youth ministry.  His work in the community has included serving on the board of directors of 
the Kansas City Urban Youth Center and of rescue missions 
in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Kansas City.  

Benefiel received his B.A., M.A., and an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from PLNU. He earned his Ph.D. in sociology 
from the University of Southern California.  

PLNU, School of Theology & Christian Ministry