Partnership between Northrise, Baylor Beneficial for Both Universities

October 15, 2015
Established in 1845, Baylor University has cultivated a legacy of educating more than 168,000 men and women for worldwide leadership and service throughout her first 170 years. As the oldest continually operating university in Texas, Baylor’s iconic campus of cream columns and brick buildings is nestled on 1,000 spacious acres in Waco.

Northrise University, founded in 2004, has recognized 240 graduates to date. The first private, Christian university in Zambia plans to expand from one building, currently located in downtown Ndola, to multiple academic buildings, a library, residential living space, recreational fields and a student center on the 640 acres of land granted to them by the Zambian government.

On the surface, it would seem the differences between Baylor and Northrise are as vast as the nearly 9,000 miles between the two campuses. But a commitment to Christian values and academic excellence has brought together these seemingly disparate communities in profound ways.

In 2014, Baylor and Northrise formalized and expanded a strategic, international partnership. This global collaboration has created opportunities for faculty, staff and students from both universities to participate in discipline-specific experiential learning opportunities.

A synergetic partnership

As the largest Baptist University in the world, Baylor is well established. Northrise, as a relatively new university, is working to develop similar credibility.

“Northrise benefits from Baylor’s 170 years of knowledge and best practices, adapted for their culture,” Rebecca Kennedy, assistant dean for spiritual life and missions, said. “Baylor receives the benefit of using our expertise to serve a university and help shape their future impact. Our students, faculty and staff expand their cultural competency by being emerged in a community and building long-lasting relationships.”

What Baylor offers in years of experience and connectedness to institutions of faith and learning, Northrise provides in the form of opportunities for Baylor to engage with an institution that affirms and upholds the Christian values foundational to the University.

“Baylor is seeking to have a global presence,” Madalitso Kalombe, Northrise marketing and communications associate, said. “Northrise is a starting point for Baylor’s international engagement. We provide a platform for Baylor’s mission, a bridge and an understanding to engage with local needs and opportunities in Zambia and in Africa.”

The Baylor-Northrise Initiative focuses on collaborative betterment of both universities through a staff exchange program, discipline-specific experiential learning opportunities and faculty capacity building efforts.

Staff exchange

Over the past two years, more than 25 Baylor administrators and staff members have traveled to Ndola to share expertise in their fields with Northrise staff.

Members of Baylor leadership who have participated in the staff exchange program have shaped student-centered learning experiences at Northrise, assisted with the implementation of new academic initiatives and contributed to the design of the new Northrise campus.

“At its core, this relationship is Baylor as a Christian institution reaching out to our Christian brothers and sisters in higher education,” Baylor professor of management Van Gray said. “We work to increase the organizational reach and capacity at Northrise to ultimately advance the Kingdom.”

This partnership has opened unique opportunities to build capacity at Northrise through staff development activities on Baylor campus. Within the last seven months, Baylor has hosted Northrise leadership in areas such as university advancement, information strategy and technology, student life, internal business affairs and marketing and communications.

Discipline-specific experiential learning

More than 80 Baylor faculty, staff and students visited Northrise University from May 2014 to August 2015.

Seven members of the most recent summer session team are MBA students who piloted an operations course with an emphasis on global collaboration. The experiential learning model designed by Baylor faculty challenged Northrise and Baylor participants to think broadly about their field.

“At Baylor, we can discuss foreign trade, operations and business strategies from an upper-level management perspective, while in nice, cozy classrooms,” Baylor MBA student Jonathan Cole-Mckay said. “However, when you’re in Ndola, on a banana farm or a limestone production site, those technical terms don’t mean a thing to the employees. You have to be able to convey why [these metrics] matter and how they affect them.”

Northrise students have also taken advantage of opportunities to receive discipline-specific training and advanced degrees at Baylor through this collaborative partnership. Mukupa Musonda graduated from the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work in May 2015 with a master of social work degree. She has returned to Ndola and has joined the faculty of Northrise, with plans to launch an undergraduate program in social work at Northrise University in 2016.

Mulenga Chela is currently enrolled at Truett Seminary, working to earn a master of divinity degree. He plans to graduate in May 2016 and return to Zambia, lecture at Northrise and plant a church.

“My time at Baylor University has shaped my faith and equipped me to better serve the poor,” Chela said. “I received a scholarship that has given me the privilege of getting my education at one of the world’s top universities, which I would never have managed to pay for in my lifetime, for free. I desire to use this gift to reach out to the less privileged in Zambia and bless them the way I have been blessed at Baylor University.”

Faculty capacity building

Dr. Cindy Riemenschneider, associate dean of research and faculty development for the Hankamer School of Business, traveled to Ndola in June 2015 to teach a course on research methods to Northrise faculty.

“My passion for research was one thing the Northrise faculty hadn’t experienced before. They had not been exposed to research training, so that was a large part of the expertise I brought to this experience,” Riemenschneider said.

Northrise faculty from the schools of law, engineering, business and secondary education attended Riemenschneider’s two-week course.

“Baylor faculty and staff bring many years of experience,” Kalombe said. “The interactions between Northrise lecturers and Baylor faculty help our staff see how things could be done differently.”

The Hankamer School of Business, the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work and the Louise Herrington School of Nursing have sent or plan to send faculty to build capacity at Northrise in the areas of curriculum and instruction, faculty development, educational technology and research methods.

Compelling future possibilities

For Baylor faculty, students and staff who have visited Ndola, perceptions of collaboration have broadened.

Parousia is a Greek word that means to ‘to come alongside one another,’” Gray said. “This goes both ways for Northrise and Baylor. We have committed to come alongside each other in Christ-like fashion to ensure that each university is at its best.”

While in many ways facing different challenges, Ndola and Northrise are not altogether dissimilar from Waco and Baylor. Those involved in the initiative have taken note of similarities in the global higher education community and Christian family.

“One of the foundational reasons for moving forward with this program – you could close your eyes in the classroom and not even realize a difference, not even know whether you were in Ndola or Waco,” Gray said.

According to Chris Krause, associate vice president for strategic initiatives at Baylor University, the Baylor-Northrise Initiative is ripe for expansion.

In July 2015, Dr. Terry York and Jan Cason of Truett Seminary participated in an exploratory trip to Northrise to begin a conversation of a potential future collaboration. The possibility of a forthcoming faculty exchange with training, advanced degrees and certifications for Northrise faculty at Baylor University has also been discussed.

With opportunities for sustainable, international collaboration and discipline-specific experiential learning, perhaps the most compelling future possibility is the prospect that the initiative could become a standard for Baylor’s partnerships worldwide.

“I couldn’t encourage faculty enough, if they’re contemplating a discipline-specific outreach, to think about plugging into the Northrise Initiative,” Krause said. “We have such gifted faculty and staff on this campus. They could have an experience that is meaningful, sustainable and truly Kingdom work.”

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