Month: July, 2014

'God Found Me in Africa'

Monday, July 28, 2014

DWU group returns from service trip to two African countries

Beauty and hardship. Atrocities and forgiveness. Poverty and rebirth.

East Africa is a paradox best understood by breaking bread with the people who live there.

Members of a Dakota Wesleyan University team recently spent two weeks in Uganda and Rwanda, volunteering, gifting livestock, and providing other services like agricultural advising and workshops for teachers. They talked to locals about their needs and built a church. Several members stayed on an additional three weeks to take those services one step further.

Dr. Alisha Vincent, director of the McGovern Center at DWU, led a group of 13 people, including DWU students: Thara Ali Said, Muscat, Oman; Andrew DeVaney, Sioux Falls; Amanda Hart, Alexandria; Ana Morel, Gilbert, Ariz.;  Kyle Gerlach, Stickney; Michael Stier, Onida; Kelli Swenson, Chamberlain; and Kayla Vanden Hoek, Corsica; as well as, Sandra Vanden Hoek (Kayla’s mother); Tonya Anderberg, Mitchell; Vincent’s daughter, Esperance; and Lacey Aderhold, a student at Mitchell Technical Institute.

Anderberg, wife of DWU’s former associate director of young adult ministry Brian Anderberg, who passed away last October, came in part to help dedicate a church in her husband’s memory, Revival Tabernacle Church, in Namayemba, Uganda. The church was funded in partnership with Mitchell Fusion and DWU.

Fusion and the university also partnered to create a library for a school that has 600 children. Some of the students also taught volleyball and soccer skills and offered a teacher training workshop. While in Uganda, students visited the source of the Nile River and assisted with a water improvement project, and a women’s conference at which 200 women receive education and assistance related to personal and maternal care.

“Being home … I am seeing that the things that have stuck with me were the relationships I made, were the people I encountered, and the love I was shown,” DeVaney said. “The projects that could be done are endless, the support needed is insurmountable; however, there is something you cannot take away from putting people first. That is what Brian Anderberg taught me … ministry and missions are about people and they’re about relationships. They’re about serving in the moments that seem insignificant, wearing Jesus wherever you are, and more than anything, remembering that Jesus cared about the person and the soul within them.”

In Rwanda, the group volunteered at the Crimson Academy, a primary school for grades K-5, and researched the feasibility of starting a school lunch program at the school. DeVaney, an education major, also conducted teaching workshops for adults and raised enough funds to donate five iPads and teach educators how to use them. Hart, a 2014 graduate and former standout on the women’s basketball team, conducted a basketball camp for sixth- through 10th-graders. Gerlach, a junior, visited farms and advised locals on an agricultural research project, a service so appreciated he was gifted a chicken, which is one of the highest honors.

The group saw firsthand how the people of Rwanda are trying to rebuild their lives and relationships following the 1994 Rwandan genocide, when nearly a million Tutsis and moderate Hutus were murdered by extremist Hutus.

“After learning about this history, students were amazed at the ways in which Rwanda has reconciled this tragedy and they themselves took part in projects where victims worked side-by-side with perpetrators of the atrocity,” Vincent said. “Through this, they realized that forgiveness is a powerful weapon against evil and people can recover even after the most horrific atrocity imaginable.”

“It is hard to put into words the sense of commitment people in Rwanda have to rebuild their beautiful country after the 1994 genocide,” Swenson said. “Hearing first-hand accounts of the horrors and atrocities that many people faced in the country during 100 of the world's darkest days, I came to realize that the people in Rwanda are some of the strongest, committed dedicated, hard-working people I've ever met. Their ability to look at a seemingly insurmountable amount of obstacles in their path with a sense of unwavering bravery is unbelievable and absolutely remarkable to me. I am still working to wrap my head around the amazing beauty that arose from the ashes, from the atrocities that happened a mere 20 years ago. A true beauty and sense of reconciliation that could have only come from God.”

DWU’s team also donated 40 goats and a dairy cow through the McGovern Center’s Livestock for Life program, having raised funds to pay for the animals. The goats were gifted through a program designed by the local school’s headmaster and Parent-Teacher Organization, in which the poorest families in the school receive the animal, care for it until it produces offspring, and then gives the primary goat back to the school for redistribution.

The dairy cow was given to help support nearly 200 children at Crimson Academy primary school to provide milk for the children. DWU students also offered advice and assistance on animal care.

“Ceremonies are a significant part of East African Culture and the students were privileged to be the guests at seven different ceremonies during their stay in Uganda and Rwanda,” Vincent said. “These ceremonies were a way to acknowledge accomplishments of the community, celebrate with song and dance, proclaim goals and vision for the future, and more.”

During most ceremonies DWU students also provided music, speeches and gifts. They also received gifts that included handmade art and sometimes even a chicken or two.

“Kyle Gerlach was one of the students who received a chicken as a gift for his help in agricultural education,” Vincent said. “This gift is traditionally given as a form of highest honor from community leaders.”

Students also found ways to communicate using more than just words.

“Soccer is like another language,” said Al Said, who came to the DWU women’s soccer team from the country of Oman. “Although my Lugandan went as far as ‘thank you’ and my Swahili was broken, it turned out that we communicated through our love for soccer. On the second day of our service projects when we did soccer instead of volleyball, I conducted some simple drills and then we played a game. When I joined in on one of the teams it was as if a barrier was broken between our two backgrounds. It didn’t matter now that I was from another country or that we spoke different languages. Taking me on and ‘humiliating’ me in terms of skills, I was quickly treated as one of them.”

Vincent, along with Swenson, DeVaney and Morel, stayed in Africa another three weeks to continue work through the Esperance Education Institute, a U.S.-Rwanda NGO begun by Vincent. The EEI’s mission is to provide short-term education opportunities to underserved adults and Swenson gave workshops on interview skills and resume building. DeVaney and Morel also helped as classroom assistants at Crimson Academy, DeVaney focusing on teacher education and Morel joining another group from the U.S. to do outreach projects at orphanages and local hospitals.

“God found me in Africa. I saw Him on my visits to the hospital in Kigali (Rwanda); in the eyes of a little girl who asked me to pray for her,” Morel said. “I saw Him while holding a new born child who had just lost his mother. I felt Him as I held the hand of an elderly lady who would not stop smiling as I attempted to communicate with her.

“I found that all I had to do was be there. All I had to do was what we all do at home on a regular basis and that is to share life with one another, build relationships, demonstrate love. God would do the rest.”

By Mari Olson
University Relations


Kitty Allen named vice president for institutional advancement at DWU

Friday, July 25, 2014

Amy Novak, president of Dakota Wesleyan University, has named Kitty Allen vice president for institutional advancement at the university.


Kitty AllenAllen has served as a development officer in the department since 2011.  She has been responsible for developing donor relationships and implementing an ongoing strategy for planned giving at the university.  She has also been a key contact for DWU’s United Methodist constituency.


“Kitty has proven herself to be an important part of the DWU advancement team,” said Novak.  “Kitty deeply values Christian higher education.  She recognizes the important role education plays in building the future church.  Her track record in building relationships, as well as her outstanding organizational ability, make her a logical choice to lead the institutional advancement team.”


Before coming to Mitchell, Allen served as the director of the Appalachian Local Pastors School in Barbourville, Ken., for nine years, and she worked in advancement at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Ken., for several years prior.


Allen earned her Bachelor of Science degree from Crown College in St. Bonifacious, Minn.


She is married to the Rev. Joel Allen, assistant professor of religion at DWU.  They have two daughters, Johanna and Emma.


Dakota Wesleyan University named a ‘2014 Great College to Work For®’ by Chronicle of Higher Education

Friday, July 25, 2014

Dakota Wesleyan University is one of the best colleges in the nation to work for, according to a new survey by The Chronicle of Higher Education.


The results, released today in The Chronicle’s seventh annual report on The Academic Workplace, are based on a survey of more than 43,000 employees at 278 colleges and universities.


In all, only 92 of the 278 institutions achieved “Great College to Work For®” recognition for specific best practices and policies. Results are reported for small, medium, and large institutions, with DWU included among the small universities with 2,999 students or fewer – DWU’s enrollment for 2013-14 was 883.


DWU won honors in three categories this year, including facilities, workspace and security, and supervisor/department chair relationship.


“Being recognized by The Chronicle in this way affirms our belief that Dakota Wesleyan is a special and unique place to both learn and work,” said Amy Novak, DWU president. “DWU has been educating students for almost 130 years and our institution is known for its graduates’ success stories, but this shows the community another side to how we implement our values of learning, leadership, faith and service. We practice what we preach and strive to not only make DWU an exceptional university for our students, but also an exceptional place to work.”


The Chronicle for Higher Education is a nationwide publication for news about and for colleges and universities.


“The institutions that the Great Colleges program recognizes provide innovative educational experiences – while also offering their employees outstanding workplace experiences – and we are eager to help readers  learn more about them,” said Liz McMillen, The Chronicle’s editor.


The survey results are based on a two-part assessment process: an institutional audit that captured demographics and workplace policies from each institution, and a survey administered to faculty, administrators, and professional support staff. The primary factor in deciding whether an institution received recognition was the employee feedback.


To administer the survey and analyze the results, The Chronicle worked with ModernThink LLC, a strategic human capital consulting firm that has conducted numerous “Best Places to Work” programs, surveying hundreds of thousands of employees nationwide.


Great Colleges to Work For® is one of the largest and most respected workplace-recognition programs in the country.

PAST Foundation recognized by President Clinton for outstanding work in STEM education

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

PAST Brings Innovative Education to Teachers and Students at Rural and Native American Reservation Schools

The PAST Foundation, a nonprofit organization committed to redesigning education in America and also a partner with Dakota Wesleyan University to offer a Masters in STEM Education, was recognized by President Bill Clinton during his opening remarks at the CGI America 2014 (Clinton Global Initiative America) for its innovative and successful approach to providing STEM professional development for teachers.

“In 2012 the PAST Foundation and its partners committed to improve STEM education in rural and Native American reservation schools in South Dakota by equipping 450 teachers with the necessary training to implement an innovative, culturally relevant approach to teaching.  It’s now known as the South Dakota Innovation Lab, a statewide STEM professional development program that so far has provided 8,300 students with access to quality education that meets them where they are and prepares them for the modern economy,” President Clinton said.

PAST Foundation and PAST Innovation Lab provide professional development in STEM-focused transdisciplinary problem-based learning to educators. This includes an online Masters in STEM Education program for teachers through Dakota Wesleyan University, online/in-person professional development courses and workshops for educators and programs for students. DWU also hosted a week-long Art and STEM camp for children in June, focusing on robotics, art, and Minecraft mathematics.

Dr. Annalies Corbin is the founder and CEO of PAST.  As a member of CGI America’s STEM working group, Corbin was in the audience for Clinton’s remarks, unaware that PAST would be recognized for its commitment and service.

“I have been extremely fortunate over the years to have had many opportunities to be proud of the work and the people who make up the PAST Foundation.  Today was one of those days.  To my utter surprise and true joy I had the opportunity to listen to President Bill Clinton tell the world about our partnership and work in South Dakota with the South Dakota Innovation Lab.  I will fully admit that I sat in the crowd of colleagues and strangers with tears flowing as I heard our story told by a former U.S. president,” Corbin said.  

The South Dakota Innovation Lab (SDIL) is made possible through the dedication and partnership with the Mid-Central Educational Cooperative and Sanford Research.


Community Plunge seeking vendors

Monday, July 7, 2014

The annual Community Plunge invites Mitchell area businesses and organizations to register for this year’s event.


Community Plunge began at Dakota Wesleyan University six years ago as an opportunity for businesses and organizations to look for employees and volunteers and for DWU students to get to know their new community better. In years past, churches, service clubs and businesses have all participated, as well as student organizations. Last year, more than 50 booths were set up and more than 150 students participated.


The sixth annual Community Plunge will be from 5:30 to 7 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 4, in the Sherman Center at DWU.


To register, contact the DWU Center for Talent Development by email at All registrations must be received by Aug. 15.


DWU holiday hours for the Fourth of July

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Dakota Wesleyan University campus will be closed on Friday, July 4, for the Independence Day holiday weekend.


This includes the McGovern Library and Java City, as well as offices. The library will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday, July 3, and Java City will be closed Thursday.


Regular office hours and library hours will resume Monday, July 7.


Stearns awarded Accounting Program Completion Scholarship

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Jared Stearns, of Canton, was recently awarded the Accounting Program Completion Scholarship from the South Dakota CPA Society.


Stearns, a junior at Dakota Wesleyan University, was the only student awarded this scholarship for the 2014-15 academic year, amounting to $7,500. He is an accounting major who also tutors, is a member of the DWU cross country team, a member of Enactus (business club), and is employed by the accounting department at Trail King in Mitchell. He is the son of Craig and Lee Stearns of Canton.


Johnson awarded Accounting Excellence Scholarship

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Katherine Johnson, of Mead, Neb., was recently awarded the Accounting Excellence Scholarship from the South Dakota CPA Society.


Johnson, a junior at Dakota Wesleyan University, was one of five students awarded this scholarship for the 2014-15 academic year, amounting to $7,750. She is an accounting major and member of the DWU women’s basketball team and Enactus (business club), as well as elected Student Senate treasurer for 2014-15. She is the daughter of Tim and Annette Johnson, Mead.

Dakota Wesleyan University was named to the 2013 President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. This designation is the highest honor a college or university can receive for its commitment to volunteering, service-learning and civic engagement.
Dakota Wesleyan University is proudly affiliated with the Dakotas Conference of the United Methodist Church. Members of any and all faiths are welcome and encouraged to experience an education based on learning, leadership, faith and service.
Dakota Wesleyan University has been honored as a College of Distinction through demonstration of excellence in these areas: engaged students, great teaching, vibrant communities and successful outcomes.
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