Making a Difference

Interview of Andrea Cook, Ph.D.

By Jathan Janove

Andrea Cook, Ph.D., VOA Oregon’s Board Secretary, grew up on a ranch in rural eastern Oregon. At age 18 as a college freshman, she came to Portland and fell in love with Rose City even though she never learned how to ride a bike. “I grew up riding horses,” she explains. 


Andrea’s professional career has been in higher education administration. For 12 years of her 43-year career, she was president of Warner Pacific University (WPU). As president, she made it her mission to provide educational opportunities to people who have been historically underserved in higher education. This includes diverse, low income and first-generation college students. When her term began, WPU was 85% white and mostly from middle income families. When she retired, 65% were students of color. 

Picture of mountain/hills with a farm in the foreground.

View at the family farm. 

To create greater access, the school took several steps to address systemic and institutional obstacles including:


·      Reducing the price of tuition to make it more affordable.

·      Eliminating the requirement of the SAT and ACT tests due to their inherent bias.

·      Rethinking scholarships. “Traditionally,” Andrea states, “scholarships have been awarded for demonstrated leadership in high school offices, clubs, teams, etc. We looked for other types of demonstrated leadership such as having to work while in high school to financially help the student’s family or caring for one’s younger siblings to support working parents.”

·      Providing support for WPU students whose educational backgrounds resulted in under-preparation for college. Andrea explains, “Students who come from academically challenged environments typically need more time to graduate with more money having to be spent, which exacerbates the affordability problem. We created wraparound support for these students beginning on day one. This included academic support and helping create a sense of community. Many of these students were the first in their families to attend college. We didn’t want them to feel they were alone.”


Andrea’s passion for helping the underserved led to her alignment and connection with VOA Oregon. “Our social fabric is torn,” she states. “We need to repair it, which includes addressing diversity, equity, poverty, houselessness, drug addiction, incarceration, and other challenges.” 


Despite these daunting challenges, Andrea remains committed to making a positive difference. “I believe wholeheartedly in VOA Oregon’s mission and will continue to support it every way I can.”