In 2013, 21 MNU students—in partnership with Heart to Heart International—traveled to the mountains of southeast Haiti to help construct a new school. The journey to the site was long, and the work often difficult, but those involved were united by “Dégagé”—a common Creole term meaning “make do with what you have." Dégagé was adopted as the title of the entire project that year, made possible by MNU’s annual student-organized relief and outreach effort called “Passion to Serve.” By the end of the year, Dégagé had raised nearly $60,000 for the project, and the school in Haiti now educates hundreds of children in the small village of Cascade Pichon.
The success of the project and the students’ experiences in Haiti made a lasting impression on the Pioneer community. So much so that this year’s Passion to Serve project returns to Haiti, in partnership again with Heart to Heart International. “LQVE Haiti” is the name of this year’s project, created in honor of nursing student Quincy Foster—nicknamed Q—who passed away January 1, 2015, in a tragic automobile accident. An avid soccer player, Foster had traveled to Haiti in 2013 as part of Dégagé, and there developed a love for the Haitian people, as well as a newfound conviction to return to the country for missions work in the future.
Passion to Serve organizers will send four teams of volunteers to Haiti throughout the 2015-2016 academic year. The first group traveled in June and included Quincy’s parents, Jonathan (’91) and Johnna (Palmer, ’89) Foster and students Shay Foster (Quincy’s brother), Annie Huff, and Dylan Aebersold ('15)—all of whom helped make further improvements to the school in Cascade Pichon.
Three additional teams will serve the communities of Anse-a-Pitres, Thiotte, Grand-Gosier, and Belle-Anse in 2016. In these villages, Pioneers will work alongside the Haitian people to build a soccer field, organize leagues and tournaments and provide assistance in the escalating Haitian refugee crisis on the southeast border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Additionally, senior nursing students from MNU will travel to the Southeast region and assist local clinics by providing basic medical care.
Alumni and friends can support the LQVE Haiti project and help students reach the $50,000, goal by donating online on the Passion to Serve website mnu.edu/passion-to-serve-project.
More information on volunteer work can be obtained by contacting MNU ServiceCorps at
Helping students succeed through early intervention is the goal of the new Student Success Network directed by Rick Hanson (’88), associate vice president for academic and professional success. The group of administration, staff and faculty from student development, wellness, residential life and academic support, meets weekly to determine which students need assistance and what kind of support should be offered.
“We aren’t waiting for students to come to us,” Hanson says. “We have systems in place to help identify those who may be having academic difficulty for a variety of reasons.”
In addition, anyone can contact a member of the network to refer a student. Hanson says first-time and transfer students can find the transition to university life challenging.
“We really want to help (students) succeed. Sometimes they don’t know there are resources available or they don’t know how to connect to them.”
Several resources for students are either new or enhanced this year. One such area is counseling. Elizabeth (Eudaley,’94) Diddle, director for counseling and wellness, provides resources surrounding healthy life choices. Through residence life and other programs, Diddle provides education on healthy sleep and mental health topics, as well as support groups for issues like grief. Two new counselors provide options for students seeking professional therapy.
Academic support has been enhanced at the Kresge Center as well. Expanded services include full-time specialists in writing and mathematics. Testing for admissions and placement, as well as proctoring, are offered along with free tutoring for all students – both in person and through the live online tutoring service Smarthinking.
Providing assistance when a student needs it is necessary and admirable. But how much better would it be to solve many problems before they happen? Such is the goal of a related, comprehensive study taking place this year to evaluate the first-year experience. The Foundations of Excellence task force is a group of staff, administration and faculty charged with re-evaluating every touch point between the university and a first-time or transfer student.
Hanson says this exercise has the potential to “revolutionize” the first-year experience for MNU students.
“The goal is a seamless hand off from admissions to orientation to the classroom,” Hanson says. “If we improve student success and satisfaction, remove the barriers and enhance the process, students are more likely to remain at MNU.”
These activities are supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Title III Strengthening Institutions Program; 78% is federally-funded and 22% is non-federally funded over the five-year project period.
In preparation for MNU’s 50th anniversary in 2016, the university is reintroducing programs and traditions that hold significant value to its students, alumni, staff and faculty. The Donald S. Metz American Heritage Week is one such program and was held September 15-17, 2015.
American Heritage Week was originally introduced in 1968 by the university’s first academic dean, Dr. Donald S. Metz, to celebrate and honor the American heritage. This year’s event included a Convocation featuring special guest Allen Brown (’72), attorney and member of the first graduating class. Brown spoke on the unique nature of our democracy and the importance of engaging as Christians and U.S. citizens to preserve and protect our civil liberties.
Brown and his wife, Saralyn (Schmidt, ’72), also spoke at the MNU Tuesday Luncheon following the Convocation.
Later that week three forums were held to explore how Christians can respond to current issues facing society today. Faculty members presented on the three topics. Student panels posed questions and audience members were then invited to interact with questions and comments. The forums included:
• Economic Inequality in American Society, presented by Bo Cassell, moderated by Abby Hodges, PhD.
• The Confederate Flag and the Power of Symbols, presented by Elizabeth George, PhD, moderated by Jordan Mantha, PhD.
• Terrorism and the Privacy/Security Debate, presented by Todd Hiestand, JD, moderated by Andrew Overholt, PhD.
Reinstituting American Heritage Week is one way in which the university is honoring its roots and the commitment of MNU founders to uphold and honor this heritage. At the time of its founding, then Mid-America Nazarene College adopted the theme of “American Heritage Education” to emphasize the ideals of racial tolerance, compassion, service and patriotism through its curriculum and activities.
“Today, the principles of American heritage education still ring true,” MNU President David Spittal says. “By offering varying perspectives on the many social and civil struggles we face as Christian citizens, we are creating the opportunity for better understanding of one another and our individual responsibilities.”
MNU’s “Students Engaged In Exploring and Designing Solutions” (SEEDS) project has made considerable progress, says Dr. Nancy (Humo, ’95, MEd ’98) Damron, dean of the School of Education. In fact, the Kansas Board of Regents (KBOR), provider of the initial funding for the project, has granted a temporary, no-cost extension of the grant so grade school students can demonstrate their progress in one of the four STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) disciplines.
This exciting turn of events is due to the significant progress made by SEEDS participants—48 teachers from the Turner and Kansas City Public Schools districts—in their professional development and teaching practices in STEM courses. The purpose is to improve instructional methods and ultimately boost student achievement.
The grant also provides training in how to use the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), a set of academic standards and content organization practices developed by the National Research Council. For educators teaching in one of the four STEM disciplines, Damron says knowledge of these standards is essential.
“Both data and feedback from teachers demonstrates that a strong impact has been made through the SEEDS program,” Damron says
Dr. Brandon Gillette, director of secondary science curriculum for the Kansas City, Kansas School District, says employing a less traditional style of exploring content in more authentic ways takes time, but puts the emphasis on learning through context rather than memorizing scientific facts. One practical example currently used in the classroom is about Newton's laws.
“Instead of lecturing about equal and opposite reactions or what the mathematical relationship is between a collision of a compact car or a semi-tractor trailer, students explore those collisions using balls of different masses while they predict, observe and explain those collisions,” Gillette says. “From this single activity, students then generate questions and construct models to help explain their questions and observations.”
Gillette says MNU’s program has been helpful to teachers making these important changes in how they teach STEM courses. “Collectively, the NGSS involve a number of significant instructional shifts. The SEEDS program has provided a learning space for teachers to engage in the discussion and practice for how to address these shifts.”
More information on teacher education and the School of Education at MNU is available at www.mnu.edu/learn.
The convenience of ordering a transcript online and having it delivered digitally is now a reality for MNU students and alumni. According to MNU Registrar James Garrison (’90), his office’s work to implement electronic transcript ordering and delivery will save valuable time for students and alumni.
If a student or alumnus needs a transcript sent to another authorized institution that participates in the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) program, a certified digital copy in the form of a PDF can be made available through their secure server regardless of the time or day. In fact, a digital copy of the transcript can be sent to anyone as long as the recipient has Internet access.
According to MNU’s official transcript ordering page (located under the “Resources” tab on MNU’s main website), most requests are processed within one hour, as long as the form is completed correctly and the system is not experiencing a high volume of requests.
For those still wanting to mail or pick up a paper transcript, Garrison says those requests will always be honored, although he believes those requests will become less common as the digital option gains popularity.
“We still allow for holding a paper transcript,” Garrison said. “However, close to half our students — maybe in the 40 percent range — have decided to send it electronically in the past month, and that’s a very good thing. It’s very fast, and helps the students and alumni in so many ways.”
Since its inception last fall, MNU’s Center for Games & Learning has moved beyond researching the use of games to enhance learning and has become a resource for educators in Kansas and for the local community itself. Nearly 200 Olathe School District teachers attended training this summer to learn how to implement games in the classroom. The Center’s professionals are teaching Johnson County Juvenile Justice staff how to implement games in curriculum used with juveniles in the system, and in November, they will present to the faculty at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas. In all they will make 16 presentations this year on behalf of the Center.
According to Lauren Hays, program co-director, being a resource for educators and the community is how the Center integrates itself with the mission of the university.
“Expanding the work of the Center through community outreach is how we are looking for ways to serve the community,” says Hays. “Holding a conference for teachers this summer allowed us to make connections for many of the presentations we are doing now.”
Hays says the Center has many more activities planned. This year it will support a board game club in the Spring Hill, Kansas School District. Using pre-service teachers from the School of Education will give MNU students valuable experience while assisting the school district with a positive activity that increases their students’ confidence and academic achievement. On November 21 the Library and the Center will be a site for International Game Day (IGD15), a global, free event for the public in which anyone can use the Center’s games.
Additionally, Hays says that using games in the classroom has spread beyond the initial research cohort at MNU. Professors are finding more ways to enhance learning with games in a variety of courses and the results of the research will soon be available. The Center also hosts community game nights that are open to the public, and patrons can check out games with their community patron cards.
MNU's Center for Games & Learning is funded by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums. Our mission is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. Our grant making, policy development, and research help libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive. To learn more, visit www.imls.gov and follow IMLS on Facebook and Twitter.
The Center for Games and Learning at MidAmerica Nazarene University is made possible by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services; grant number (SP-02-14-0038-14).