Dr. William M. Wilson, President of Oral Roberts University

Intense-Global-Visionary: Introducing Dr. William M. Wilson

Visionary leaders see the future. They initiate effective plans for progress and lead others passionately. They move beyond boundaries; their impact felt far and wide. Dr. William M. Wilson is such a leader. He describes himself in three words: intense, global, and visionary.

Wilson is the fourth president of Oral Roberts University (ORU). He came into the position with four decades of organizational leadership experience and proven success leading large-scale global efforts in the Spirit-empowered movement.

For more than 20 years, Wilson has hosted the international television program, “World Impact with Billy Wilson,” reaching more than 300 million homes worldwide. He authored several books, including “Father Cry,” “Foundations of Faith,” “Fasting Forward,” and “Born for the Storm.” He also co-authored “As the Waters Cover the Sea,” with the late Vinson Synan, a book about the Holy Spirit’s empowerment of generations and the worldwide explosion of Christianity.

One of Wilson’s primary passions is a spiritual renewal in the 21st century. He co-chairs the Empowered21 (E21) Global Council. E21 is the largest global relational network for Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity. E21, an initiative launched and housed at ORU, connects and resources the Spirit-empowered community. E21 brings together global leaders from ministry, academia, and next-generation platforms, influencing nations through fourteen regional cabinets. The initiative also sponsors intergenerational events all over the world. Wilson’s leadership of the virtual Jerusalem2020 Global Congress engaged over 100,000 participants representing 197 nations, surpassing previous record-setting attendance for Spirit-empowered events.

Dr. Wilson is chair of the Pentecostal World Fellowship (PWF), a unified worldwide body of Pentecostal churches and denominations. The PWF has representatives from thirty-three countries. A dynamic tri-annual conference brings together diverse generations to experience international worship and advance Pentecostalism in the 21st century.

A Life Serving Others: The Ministry of Dr. Wilson

One of life’s most persistent and urgent questions is, “What are you doing for others?” A look at Wilson’s ministry reveals a life given in service for others. While in leadership positions with the Church of God of Prophecy and the Church of God, Wilson influenced tens of thousands in all 50 states and 120 countries. He served as the executive officer for the 2006 Azusa Street Centennial, which drew more than 50,000 people from 112 nations. He also forged a national ecumenical coalition with more than 250 denominations and parachurch ministries through the Awakening America Alliance, founding the national 9-11 prayer gathering called Cry Out America.

When asked for a message to share with the world, Wilson had this response: “Jesus is the answer, and the only way, truth, and life. Ultimately, life boils down to your relationship with God through Jesus Christ and your relationship with others.” These core values are central to Wilson’s ministry and leadership at ORU.

ORU’s Spirit-empowered Education: The Influence of Dr. Wilson

ORU is one of the largest, most influential Christian universities in the world. The University exhibits a distinctive whole-person approach to education. The mission to develop Spirit-empowered leaders originates in the founder’s vision to “Raise up your students to hear My voice, to go where My light is dim, where My voice is heard small, and My healing power is not known, even to the uttermost bounds of the earth.” Almost 60 years later, the vision is stronger than ever. Students experience academic excellence in a global, Spirit-empowered environment that empowers them intellectually, spiritually, and physically. ORU’s high standards, rigorous academics, and robust spiritual life culture merge to develop whole leaders who impact the whole world. US News and World Report rankings showed ORU tied with two other colleges as the number one college in undergraduate teaching faculty in the West Region. US News and World Report ranked ORU as the number one best value of colleges.

Overcoming Challenges: The Leadership of Dr. Wilson

Challenges make the journey intriguing; overcoming them makes the journey significant. When asked about challenges faced by ORU, Wilson shared that over a decade ago, the University was at a crisis point with debt, declining enrollment, and weighty governance challenges. Wilson served as Vice-chair of the Board of Trustees, and their assignment was to turn the situation around. Five years after joining the board, Wilson was elected president and tasked with casting a fresh vision that would build upon the work already started. He participated in launching a new shared governance system to guide the University into the future. Wilson’s leadership created an ethos of excellence at every level while meeting challenges ranging from financial to technological. The rejuvenated ORU is evident by twelve consecutive years of enrollment growth.

Innovative technology is vital in today’s higher education landscape. Wilson met the challenge, bringing advanced technology to ORU. In 2017, ORU opened the award-winning and internationally acclaimed Global Learning Center (GLC). The GLC enables professors to use virtual and augmented reality, training students in multiple disciplines, including science, business, and education. The University established a library of nearly 500,000 immersive learning experiences. ORU created a smart mirror device called the AI-enabled MQ-Mirror, allowing students to engage with all education systems and acquire global knowledge. ORU recently opened a new Nursing and Engineering Complex and the Stovall Center for Entrepreneurship, providing students state-of-the-art classrooms and learning environments.

ORU students are inspired by an accomplished faculty that goes the extra mile to help students succeed, both in the classroom and in life. ORU boasts a student-to-faculty ratio of 15:1, with many faculty members who are experts in their field or have professional experience in their teaching area. The faculty are qualified to offer unique insight into a student’s career path.

The student body represents 116 nations and all 50 US states. ORU staff and faculty are adept at engaging such a robust global community. The 2021 Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education College Ranking ranked ORU 5th in the nation for student engagement. ORU has ranked in the top ten in this category for several years running.

Today’s marketplace mandates college graduates have improved job skills. ORU meets this challenge through its’ Career Services. The department is a pathway into the job market, facilitating connections between employers and students. They assist with job placement and prepare students to enter the workforce through mock interviews, personal resume reviews, job fairs, and access to an online job board with over 20,000 jobs and internships. Their efforts have contributed to the highest placement rates in ORU’s history. Over 99% of ORU graduates found employment or continued to graduate school in the last two years. This unprecedented achievement is a result of ORU’s purposeful journey for students and graduates.

Generation Z College Students: The Passion of Dr. Wilson

Wilson has observed that Generation Z takes their studies and future careers seriously. Many of their families experienced the recession in 2008, so they comprehend the importance of excelling in their employment. They are hard-working, sober, and compete against themselves rather than their peers.

Wilson has also seen soberness in Generation Z, who has grown up experiencing genuine threats to their safety and the world in which they live. He says ORU exemplifies a culture that is “Hopeful, optimistic, confident of God’s love, and showing this generation they can trust in God. They need a sense of security because of the world they’ve known. They need a sense of confidence because they’re going to change the world. Gen Z is an amazing group of young people.”

The Future Ahead: The Vision of Dr. Wilson

ORU unveiled a new capital campaign, Whole Leaders for the Whole World, that launched January 1, 2020. This campaign will improve the student educational experience, provide contemporary buildings, and expand scholarship funds for learners from every nation. The initiative adds innovative academic programs, both on-campus and online. The added resources will allow the University to advance its’ Spirit-empowered whole-person education model.

Psalm 127:1 says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” Dr. Wilson proclaims that God has been building the University; the glory for all progress belongs to Him. ORU remains committed to its mission to develop Spirit-empowered leaders. With Dr. Wilson’s leadership, ORU’s global footprint continues to grow, even in uncertain times, empowering ORU to accomplish this mission in an ever-expanding way.