Trustees approve first WBU grads in Kenya

PLAINVIEW -- Wayland Baptist University's Board of Trustees today approved the first candidates for graduation from the university's partnership with the Kenya Baptist Theological College.

Sixteen students will be receiving the Associate of Applied Science degree on July 19 in the first graduation ceremony held in Kenya. The students began their academic foundation studies with Wayland in 2000, after the university began sending faculty to teach at KBTC.

"This is really a landmark decision for us," said Dr. Vaughn Ross, professor of biological sciences and the organizer of the Kenya partnership. "We knew if we developed a long-term relationship that our component would have to be appropriately accredited."

Once all the pieces are now in place, Ross said the university is free to further develop the partnership. Currently, Wayland sends two teams of faculty members - usually two professors at a time - to Kenya twice annually to offer a four-week class in the academic foundations. The students meet all day each day and earn credit for two courses over that period.

In Ross' eyes, the formalization of the partnership means even more Kenyan students can be equipped to spread the gospel to their own country. Most of the students at KBTC are already ministers and many have other careers or vocations that allow them to get jobs in areas of the country where the gospel has yet to be preached. With a formal university degree, Ross said, these ministers will be able to take the message of Jesus Christ even farther.

"Wayland is becoming a central point of ministry and facilitating other groups: two Baptist foundations are doing missions work by helping provide funds for this partnership; individuals are contributing also; many churches are doing missions work by sending students on mission trips and to Wayland to train for ministry; and several associations are also doing mission work by supporting Wayland," Ross said. "Through Wayland, Texas Baptists are providing human resources and financial resources for this project. To me, that's what the university seal says to do: 'Go ye into all the world.'"

Ross and his wife served 19 years as missionaries in Kenya, and it was on a return trip in 1997 that he began to really see the possibilities for such a partnership. After meeting with KBTC principal Bernard Kabaru and the president of the Baptist Convention of Kenya, he knew he could be the link between the educationally needy country and the wealth of educational resources at Wayland. Though Kenya has an emerging higher education program, Ross said, they lack the experience in putting together an accredited program.

Years later, the impact of the partnership has been felt not only by the Kenyan students, who Ross said are grateful for the opportunity to learn, but also by Wayland's faculty and students. The university sent a group of students through the Baptist Student Ministries in the summer of 2002 to do work projects and minister to Kenya Baptists. A recent graduate is currently in Kenya doing student teaching. Ross expects many more such opportunities will present themselves over the coming years.