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Highland Park's $2M Gift to Improve Student Life at AU

In March, Highland Park United Methodist Church, (HPUMC), announced a $2 million gift to Africa University, designated for construction of a dormitory and the completion of phase two of the student union building. It's Africa University's largest gift from a local church and the most significant investment in student services infrastructure in more than a decade.

"The gift from Highland Park is exciting, it's timely and it addresses a high priority item for Africa University, which is the quality of student life on campus," said Munashe Furusa, the institution's vice chancellor/CEO. 

Once constructed, the new dormitory will be the first addition to student housing since 2002, when two dormitories funded by the South Indiana Conference of The United Methodist Church were dedicated. Since then, enrollment growth has outpaced student housing and recreational facilities.

Initially, the university addressed the gap by housing three students in rooms designed for two. More recently, the institution has had to arrange off-campus housing and bus students from the nearby Mutare.

      Dorms Triple Occupancy Room.

For Lora Majongwe, one of 26 young women who enrolled in March and were housed in the city center, the challenges of living off-campus include higher costs and fewer hours of access to the library and laboratories. What she misses the most though, is the social interaction and sense of community of campus life.

"I feel one misses out on participating in the clubs and sports, which is really a disadvantage," said Majongwe.

"In as much as there is a bus shuttle service to and from the women's center, personally I do not feel safe with the day to day traveling, especially when I have no option but to travel at night," said Cynthia Chikozho, a fellow freshman and resident at the study center.

 "There's no question that Africa University is one of the finest educational institutions on the continent," said Rev. Paul Rasmussen, the senior pastor at Highland Park United Methodist Church.

"Through these facilities, we want to help elevate student life into a world class experience," said Rasmussen. "We believe Africa University can grow into a powerful global presence."

HPUMC has provided ongoing support to Africa University through the general church apportionments as well as annual, second-mile gifts for scholarships. In February 2015, Rasmussen visited the campus for the first time, at the urging of Lisa Tichenor, a member of HPUMC. While there, he lectured, interacted with the campus community and came away "amazed and inspired by the level of passion and commitment from the students."

"HPUMC's investment of $2 million in Africa University in the Beyond campaign is a continuation of a mission philosophy that began in our first 100 years – the Wesleyan idea that we look on all the world as our parish," said Tichenor.   "Africa University's sizable footprint on the continent of Africa is the perfect vehicle for HPUMC to have lasting impact, supporting development of self-sufficiency and creating disciples."

Andra M. Stevens, Director, Communications, Africa University Development Office

A World Service Special Gift is a designated financial contribution made by an individual, local church, organization, district or annual conference to a project authorized as such by the Connectional Table. Current World Service Special Gifts projects include the Africa University Endowment Fund, the Leonard Perryman Communications Scholarship for Ethnic Minority Students, the Methodist Global Education Fund, the National Anti-Gambling Project and the Lay Missionary Planting Network.

Photos: Two: Tichenor family gift announcement and Rasmussen w/AU students. Pics of Majongwe and Chikozho

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