International student putting education to work  

PLAINVIEW - Humphrey Chavunduka sits in a corner of the building inspector's office in the basement of Plainview's City Hall. On top of his computer tower is a nameplate - spelled correctly - with "intern" inscribed under his name. On the desk is a picture of the flag of Zimbabwe and a small map of the country with the capital, Harare, marked with a star.

Plugging away at the computer console in front of him, Chavunduka (pronounced Cha-voo-ndoo-ka) is searching the Web, looking for historic buildings that have been preserved through the efforts of other city governments.

While he is sitting halfway around the world from his hometown of Rusape, Zimbabwe, approximately 20 miles east of Harare, Chavunduka's job is not so different from his work back home.

The Wayland Baptist University graduate student holds a bachelor's degree in city planning from the University of Zimbabwe and an associate's degree in town planning from Harare Polytechnic. Upon graduating, he worked with a consulting firm in Zimbabwe that aids in city planning.

Now he sits at his desk working with the Mainstreet project and community development groups, trying to resurrect Plainview's historic downtown district. It's different, but for Chavunduka, it's all part of his continuing education.

The 33-year-old African is continuing his education at Wayland, seeking a master's of business administration degree. Chavunduka decided on attending Wayland while studying different universities in West Texas at the library in Harare.

"I had ambitions to do graduate studies in America," Chavunduka said. "Mainly, some influences were coming from my family. I have two brothers already here in the states. The elder brother is doing a Ph.D in Wisconsin and the younger brother, the last one in the family, is at Angelo State University.

"I was looking at West Texas in particular because of my younger brother. I got impressed with Wayland because of its structure and student ratio to the lecturers and the Christian environment."

After attending the state university in Zimbabwe, Chavunduka said he wanted something different - he wanted to experience a private university. And while life at Wayland is different than what Chavunduka has experienced - pointing out that "Everybody has a car" - it is not a totally unfamiliar experience.

"My junior high and high school, I went to Catholic schools in Zimbabwe," Chavunduka said. "The way it is done here is similar with the way we did it in high school - like going to chapel and going to church on the weekends."

Chavunduka said attending the state university in Harare was totally different based on all the outside influence coming together.

"It was kind of a melting point," he said. "It's a different environment altogether. I wanted to move away from the crowd and get into a smaller environment and get an experience in the Christian environment."

Chavunduka found Wayland and has been pleased with his experience so far, posting a 4.0 grade point average in his first semester. His current tract has him scheduled to graduate in May 2004, but he could complete his studies in December if he can find a way to continue his classes through the summer terms.

This semester Chavunduka is taking his entire class load online, working with professors from several Wayland campuses. While he isn't quite sure what to think about the online class load, Chavunduka is looking forward to the experience.

"It is very much new," he said of the experience. "I have never been exposed to such an educational system. I have only been exposed to the classroom scenario. I have to experience. I hope I like it. I don't know how it will work out for me, but I will try my best to get the best out of it."

Once he has his degree in hand, Chavunduka is planning on returning to his homeland.

"Eventually I will go back to Zimbabwe and play a roll in the development of the country," he said.

Zimbabwe is developing quickly as the rural areas give way to urban sprawl. Chavunduka said many people are coming to the cities to search for jobs and an education.

"Once they get to the cities, they do not go back to the rural areas," Chavunduka said. "Because of that, there is a shortage of housing and other auxiliary accessories within the cities. The cities are being forced to expand. This expansion is being done through acquisition of neighboring farms and subdivisions. Most of the work in Zimbabwe is geared toward physical planning which is the creation of neighborhoods, land subdivisions, layout planning and things like that."

After receiving his master's degree, Chavunduka is weighing the option of pursuing a doctorate before returning to Zimbabwe. He also hopes to diversify his knowledge by looking into the field of real estate.

"In Zimbabwe, we have a shortage of experts in the area of real estate," he said. "I want to take advantage of my background in city planning and put it into real estate and become an all-around type of expert in the area of field development."

But for now, Chavunduka is content to work on Plainview's development and he hopes to make an impact here before he leaves.