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Trip to Zambia shows promising future

Three professors from John Brown University traveled to Ndola, Zambia earlier this month to visit Northrise University. John Brown hopes to form an academic relationship with Northrise in the coming years.

The professors were Jim Caldwell, head of the Construction Management department, Maxie Burch, Chair of the Biblical Studies Division, and Joe Walenciak, Associate Dean of the College of Business. They were joined by Caldwell’s wife, Barbara Caldwell, a John Brown alumna and liaison for the future nursing program.

John Brown has long been interested in expanding study abroad opportunities for students, and a partnership with Northrise shows promise.

“It’s amazing and humbling. You see God weaving something together here,” said Walenciak. Although no plans are definite as of yet, the group was optimistic about the possibilities.

“We believe God’s at work,” said Burch. He has served on the board of directors at Northrise for two years longer than he has worked at John Brown and expressed amazement at how alike the universities are.

“We share the same mission,” he said.

Northrise was founded in 2004 as a way to educate people in business and ministry, to forward the kingdom of God in Zambia. Northrise uses an integrative approach of faith, academics and hard work that was inspired in part by John Brown’s history, along with other universities’ approaches.

Although most universities in Zambia rely heavily on government support, thanks to Northrise’s entrepreneurial efforts and support from donors, Northrise is 85 percent self-sufficient, and well on their way to becoming completely so.

In 2011, when Burch mentioned to Moffat Zimba, Northrise’s president, that he was applying for a job at John Brown, Zimba immediately recognized the name.

Burch has continued serving on Northrise’s board of directors, and faculty invited Zimba to speak in chapel last March. Zimba shared the work that God was doing at Northrise and finished with an invitation.

“Come to Zambia,” he said.

Faculty did just that to discuss opportunities at Northrise, as well as participate in a seminar discussing integration of faith and learning and leadership techniques.

“We were all using the same language. We share the same values,” said Burch.

“The students were optimistic, highly motivated. There was a heavy idealism and a good work ethic,” said Jim Caldwell. Caldwell saw possible study abroad opportunities for construction management majors. Northrise will soon begin work on several new buildings.

Barbara Caldwell found the connections to local hospitals and clinics most promising for the nursing program, especially Northrise’s connection to the only children’s hospital in Zambia.

Walenciak mentioned that staff and student exchanges were another possibility, in addition to study abroad programs for graduate business students similar to the existing China program. He added that nothing is yet certain.

“Before we start jumping into action, we need to start planning a vision,” he said.

Even so, Burch saw the possibilities in Zambia as a part of a pattern.

“There’s a larger Africa connection going on here at JBU,” he said. Burch mentioned a recent trip that several faculty members took to Uganda Christian University over the summer, in order to participate in a similar seminar on leadership, as well as the numerous connections to other African nations.

“The center of Christendom is moving south,” said Steve Beers, Vice President of Student Development. He was one of the faculty members who traveled to Uganda. Beers said that Latin America, Africa and Asia will likely have a greater impact on the Christian faith in the years to come.

Each faculty member reiterated the importance of a global focus for students and faculty alike.

“I want to see our undergrad students challenged by how big our world is and how rich other cultures are, and to have an experience that will transform their lives that you just can’t get here,” said Caldwell.