Daystar University had the joy and privilege of hosting a leadership team from University of Northwestern including President Dr. Alan Cureton, Dr. Janet Sommers, Senior Vice-President for Academic Affairs, and Dr. Pamela Solvie, Director of Global Initiatives, for Daystar’s 41st graduation. During their time in Kenya, they strengthened and grew this unique relationship for deeper joint partnership. You can enjoy some of the photos of their time at this link: http://www.daystarus.org/kenya2019photogallery
About 12 years ago, University of Northwestern helped start Daystar University’s campus radio station, Shine FM, and Dr. Cureton was gracious to sit down and give an interview to recount this history. Please listen (27 minutes) or read the transcript below.
Shine FM Radio Interview Transcript
Dr. Alan Cureton, President of University of Northwestern: My name is Alan Cureton and I have the privilege of serving as the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Northwestern in St. Paul Minnesota in the United States and I've been in that role for over 18 years now and it is a delight to be back in Kenya. It's been ten years since I've been here and my oh my the growth that's taking place in Nairobi as well as just the development out here at Athi River. Oh my goodness, just the growth and the overall explosion of activity. It’s just a delight to see that. It's also a privilege for me to be back at Daystar. I just have such a wonderful love for and support of Daystar. I've been connected to Daystar for the past 30 years in the capacity in the U.S. of helping out Daystar fulfill its mission as a Christ-centered institution of higher education, especially as it reaches out to touch the continent of Africa, so, please know it's just a delight for me to be here.
So thank you. It's just a delight to be here and to celebrate graduation. Graduation is always a wonderful event at Daystar to see what we would call Pomp and Circumstance, the pageantry, the color, the excitement. It is such a wonderful, positive day when you have more than 750 students graduate and then all the family and friends that come and celebrate. It's just a wonderful example of the Kenyan and African cultures and what a privilege it is to be a person that can watch and see what happened. Just the love of the families for what these students have gone through, for what they've accomplished. That's very special.
Shine FM Hosts, Michelle Oboni and Shaleem Wang: It's a known fact that University of Northwestern has the largest student radio in the US, I think with about an outreach of 1 million people. The question is how did you get to gain that status?
Dr. Cureton: Well, it started back in the year 1949 and we have daily chapel which I think that at Daystar you have chapel as well. The students are required to attend that worship service every day. So back in 1949, the students said to the president at that time, who was Dr. Billy Graham, “Could we please broadcast our Chapel programs over the radio?” Radio was a new and evolving and emerging technology. So the president said “Sure, it's a great idea but the school doesn't have money. Why don't you see what you can do.” So the students started taking an offering up every day at Chapel and they were able to generate $40,000 back in 1949. And with that $40,000 were able to acquire their first radio station in Minneapolis, Minnesota. So then over a sequence of several years, they just started buying more and more radio stations around the Upper Midwest and across the United States. Today we have 18 full powered radio stations, and we have a number of transmitters and it's all donated by our listeners who give to underwrite the cost of our operations. And so we are just so touched and honored and we get a chance to proclaim the good news of the Gospel to over a million people each week. So it's just wonderful. That's how it's grown over the years.
Shine FM Hosts: Is it difficult trying to manage all those radio stations?
Dr Cureton: Is it difficult? Yes. Is it a challenge? Yes. It an opportunity which is so wonderful, but it's part of who we are. As a university we can spend all of our time and our studies in our minds. We can live in our minds all day long, but as Christians, that's not sufficient. We need to get out and share our faith. So the blending of helping students grow in their faith and then helping give them an opportunity to share their faith. So you both have discipleship and evangelism which makes all the sense in the world. So we really like that combination; intellectual growth and spiritual growth and then an opportunity to tell others about the good news of Jesus Christ.
Shine FM Hosts: There was this idea that it was actually the University of Northwestern that actually donated and started Shine FM.
Dr. Cureton: Yes that's right. So back on September 11th, 2001, we had a catastrophe in the United States where a couple of airplanes flew into some towers in New York City and when we do what we call our share -a-thon every year where we call and ask our listeners to donate to help underwrite our costs of the radio stations, we said to them at that time, "Let's set aside 10% of your donations and we will send it to New York City for the 911 fund" and the response was overwhelming. So what we've done every year since then is to set aside a tithe of our donations to help birth Christian radio stations around the world. So I will give you an example. During the first year I was here, we started and birthed the first Christian radio station in Mongolia. In Mongolia, the gospel was just coming open to Mongolia back in 2002. The Russian government had let up control of Mongolia and so the government permitted the first Christian radio station. So the station we started there, "WindFM" covers the entire country of Mongolia. The next year, we partnered with Trans World Radio better known as TWR. We helped cover the transmitters for the country of Malawi. And so that was our second one and as a consequence over the years we've birthed Christian radio in the countries of Belize, Kurkistan, Indonesia, Thailand, and South Africa. So it's just been a wonderful part of the Northwestern DNA as its footprint has gone across the world. This fall we're going back to Indonesia and work at helping to cover the entire country this time with Christian radio. So I'll be down in Jakarta as we dedicate the station and pray for it this October. And so that's part of why we started Shine FM . So when when Daystar came to us back in I want to say 2006 or 2007 and asked if we would help start ShineFM, we said that we'd be glad to do so. We were able to tithe our portion and underwrite the cost of starting this Christian radio station at the request of Godfrey Nguru who was the Vice Chancellor of the University. So that's the connection between Daystar and Northwestern.
Shine FM Hosts: Is that how the relationship started?
Dr. Cureton: Yes, it is how it got started but we also go back a little bit farther than that, but for us to be able to come along side and stand shoulder to shoulder with Daystar in the fulfillment of its mission, it was just a privilege and opportunity for us. We're grateful for that. But that's how it started.
Shine FM Hosts: Previously Daystar University and the University of Northwestern, we use to have a coexisting relationship, a student staff exchange program. I wanted to ask how did that work?
Dr. Cureton: It worked very well at the beginning and has in recent years not been as active as we had hoped so that’s one reason why we are here on this visit. We hope to do more relationships exchanges with faculty or combination of our faculty and Daystar faculty doing research together so we are trying to establish that pattern if that is possible and also do student exchanges as well so I do know that there are students that go to Bethel University up the street from our campus. We've had Daystar University students at Northwestern in years past but not in the last five or six years. So we need to resurrect that relationship and reaffirm it. One of our faculty members, Dr. Joanna Klein, is going to take a sabbatical next year and she would like to come to Daystar to teach. She's a micro biologist and also has an expertise in genetics. She would like to teach classes here. So we are hoping to work out some kind of arrangement where Dr. Klein can come over, spend her sabbatical here teaching students and she would really love the opportunity to do that across cultural and given her discipline I think she can be a help to your science department as well as maybe to the nursing program or maybe to the other sciences but she is wonderful. Her husband does research for what we call our National Bureau of Veteran's Affairs for men and women who have served in our military. So they are quite a learned family if you can imagine between the two of them. Two doctors in the family so that's where we hope to do that so that's one reason why we are here.
Shine FM Host: What are some of the challenges that have led to the exchange program not being active the past few years?
Dr. Cureton: Some of the challenges have been just making the cost available for our students as well as Daystar students. So someone still has to pay for the tuition so how do we handle that? How do we do that? Things in America are a little bit more expensive than what they are in Kenya so we have to do the conversions with the Shillings to the U.S. dollars and that time of thing. The other challenge has been just the marketing of it and promoting of it to our students as well as your students that there are options out there and available if they would like. We have Afrizo come to campus, your organization that represents Daystar, and our students love it when they come and they love touring. Afrizo just loves the opportunity to promote Daystar. So those connections have gone well. We just need to resurrect that relationship and somehow address those challenges like you said and see if we can eliminate those what we call "speedbumps". Do you have speedbumps her in Kenya? In England, they call them "sleeping policemen".
Shine FM Host: Yes we do. We just call them "bumps."
Dr. Cureton: We've got to remove the bumps that slow things down so we can get students to come to Northwestern.
Shine FM Host: So the first question most students ask when it comes to student exchanges is "How much are we supposed to pay?" "How much finances are involved in the move from here to there?"
Dr. Cureton: Well, really what we do is try for the Daystar students to pay their tuition to Daystar and the Northwestern students would pay their tuition to Northwestern then we would just do the exchanges ourselves so for every one student that comes from Northwestern we can accept four from Daystar because of the difference in Kenya shilling to the American dollar. What also is important to remember is the classes because we want to make sure that your classes that you would take at each school, our students going to Daystar and Daystar students coming to Northwestern, that those work toward your degree because you don't want to take a semester and the courses don't help you on your track to fulfill your degree so we've got to make sure that the courses blend to satisfy both your faculty and our faculty curriculum requirements. So that's more of a challenge there than the finances, that way you don't lose a semester or if you come for the year then you don't lose the year.
Shine FM Host: So I'll ask a question on behalf of the interns, the people who are finished with school and might want to go to the University of Northwestern to go and do their master's there.
Dr. Cureton: To be honest with you some of the classes you can do online so you wouldn't even have to leave Kenya. You can get a degree from Northwestern online and we are trying to develop all of our graduate degrees so that they are that way. So we have a number of degrees. You can earn a graduate degree in Bible, in Biblical literature completely online. So you can stay here in Kenya, study it online, do it with us and over a course of time achieve that degree so we are trying to do that with each of our graduate programs because as you both know education is changing so it is not always delivered in a lecture format. Your generation of young people being in front of a computer and online is not a big deal where someone my age or older we are use to that lecture format face to face so there are a variety of ways to learn and we are trying to incorporate that in our graduate level and our undergraduate level so you don't even have to leave Kenya to get a degree from Northwestern but if you want to come we will help you work that out somehow or someway. In fact our first international graduate student came from China this past year and she is studying on campus for her Master's in business administration. So we are just barely getting to that realm right now but it is a possibility.
Shine FM host: What internship opportunities do you offer your students there?
Dr. Cureton: We have an office on campus that handles internships for all the disciplines so we really want our students to do some kind of internship or apprenticeship and that goes over very well depending on what discipline you are in, whether communications or business or education. So we try to get students in some kind of situation. For example, one of our biology students is spending the summer in India doing an internship with a medical clinic. So he is over there, somewhere north of New Delhi working in a clinic, doing things that he never thought were possible to do and yet at the same time putting his faith into action and helping out the poor of the poor and representing those who cannot speak or represent themselves. It is a wonderful learning opportunity for him and we try to do that with every single student that we have on our campus.
Shine FM Host: Could we have some kind of agreement where we could also have a similar partnership?
Dr. Cureton: Sure, that is very possible. We would have to work through the pay situation because most of our interns who have internships get paid. So an international student who comes, we have to work through that if they work on campus we can pay them but because of immigration law we are not allowed to pay them if they don't have what we call a green card. So those are some political speed bumps that we have to overcome to make things smooth as possible for students.
Shine FM Host: Are there any more programs that Northwestern would want to partnership with Daystar other than the exchange program?
Dr. Cureton: We are starting a brand new program in the area called data analytics. Data analytics deals in that cyber security world and what's happening right now in regards to all that and how do we protect our information. So not only that but companies like Amazon. I'm sure Amazon is as big here as it is in the U.S. Amazon is really not in the business of selling goods. They are in the business of acquiring data so its not important that they sell you a product. What they want to know is what you are looking at and then they go ahead and sell that to other companies. So this whole world of mining and exploring and manipulating data is a whole brand new field and we are starting a whole new degree and that may be an interest to some people in Kenya especially if we develop that online. So its something that they can study here and stay at home and yet pick it up and earn a master's in data analytics. Of course, we are also going to do it at the undergraduate level but that will be more on campus rather than online but interesting, isn't it? The whole world is just changing right before is especially if you're young generation.
Shine FM Host: We wanted to address the challenges and opportunities of training in the Christian environment particularly in the area of communication.
Dr. Cureton: That's a very good question. How do we convey our faith and to do it with integrity and sincerity and transparency is not easy and then to be continued to grounded in biblical principles and how we convey that is always a challenge. So just the whole ethical part of what we do in communication. We intentionally talk about that with our students like "What music to play? How do you filter that music? What is the message of that music?” Every song has a purpose. What is that message especially in the Christian realm as far as Christian music? You know, what's biblical and what's maybe not as biblical? Not only do we have to filter the music and ask it it is ok but how will we connect with our audience? That's what you want because you know, we keep saying to our students, you know, you're out there and we call the listener. We call her by her name. We know that she's between this age and we know that she has this issue in her life and that issue in her life and keep asking ourselves. How does this pertain to Michelle? You know, how does this pertain to that individual? Then ethically come at it as we communicate with scripture, what is the best way to come at this according to the biblical principles? That's a very good question and we cover that over a four year period. That's not something you can do in a half an hour. And there's not an easy answer to it. There's not a simple answer to it. So it sounds like I'm answering it in very complex way, it's because I am answering in a a very complex way. It's not only that I am transparent as I lead over the microphone or as I Iead an audiences as I minister to those listening because you never know how the Lord is going to use what you say on the air. Its amazing the stories we get, the testimonies of people calling in saying "This song was played at the right time, at the right moment in my life and it touched me." And you kind of sit back and really I don't remember playing that song but the Holy Spirit uses it to touch somebody's life. That's the exciting part about it but there is another side. There comes a great responsibility for those like you who are on the microphone like the two of you, like "What do I do? and How do I handle this?” Great question to ask.
Shine FM Host: Do you have students who believe in other religions? How do you tailor your message to be able to reach across that?
Dr. Cureton: Well, you may not be aware of this but we don't have that issue. We require every student who comes to Northwestern not only to meet our academic standards but also to meet our spiritual standards. It is spiritually what we want is for them to communicate or convey a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior so we don't have students. It is a little different than what they have at Daystar been doing at Daystar for the past 7 or 8 years by opening it up to having people of other faiths come in. On the air we are not unashamed, we are not bashful about who we are and people still listen because they want the hope. They want the encouragement that comes with the Gospel, the good news and people will tune in. They don't want to listen to all that negative stuff that you hear in music or on other TV shows. They want hope. They want encouragement. "How can I get through this day? This days tough enough for me to live. How do I survive? How do I get through the day? How do I find hope and encouragement? That’s what I hope Shine FM as well as our radio stations can provide that hope, can provide that encouragement that people want and need on a daily basis because you both know life is hard. It is not easy and I'm trying to survive and I have children and family and a spouse. Oh my goodness the demands. We are just trying to provide as you are at Shine FM, hope and encouragement to a world that is just hurting and needing the good news of the Gospel.
Shine FM Hosts: Daystar recently started an environmental club. I wanted to ask you in the spirit of going green, do you have any other information or tips you can tell us to make Daystar an eco-friendly environment?
Dr. Cureton: This is a priority for your generation. Your teaching us older ones to be more conscious of whats going on in our environment. We call it sustainability. We found out that people will walk about 10-15 feet to throw something away or recycle it so what we did was we insured there was enough containers around the university on the campus because if it is an effort people won’t do so we try to make it easy for them to do it. We picked that up from Disney because Disney has the same philosophy at their amusement parks that people will throw things away and keep the place cleaner if there are more containers and sure enough that is what happened on our campus. So not only do we have the waste, we have the recycle for plastic and recycling paper. What's also interesting for me too is that our government began to charge us for garbage containers so for recycle containers there is no tax but if you throw garbage away there is a tax. So we are going to recycle then because I don't want to pay that tax. The students have really promoted that and encouraged us and told us as an administration that this is a good deal so they have embraced it and we've run with it. So it all came down to how close are the containers because you need to have more and I haven't seen many on your campus. You need to ask the Vice Chancellor for more containers.
Anytime I walk on any University campus and I see trees being planted I know they are thinking about the future because you and I both know that we may plant a tree but we will never experience the shade of it for another 15 years. You are planting it for somebody else. What a great symbol of investing in the future. What a treat for me to come back after 10 years and see how the trees have grown out here at Athi River. This is great. They've all increased in size but it shows the longevity of Athi River.
Shine FM Host: Before we wrap up, we want you to give a last word to the listeners.
Dr. Cureton: So if you are listening now, please know that Shine FM is there for you. Shine FM is committed to your growth and your walk and your journey every day as you walk as a person of faith so tune into Shine FM. Let them come alongside you to provide that hope and encouragement you need on a daily basis to fight the fight and to walk the walk and to be Christ to everyone you meet. Let us be a blessing unto you through Shine FM.
Shine FM Host: We are really appreciative. It is not every day you get to sit in front of the founders of this station.
Dr. Cureton: You are very gracious and thank you. It is just a joy for us to partner with Shine FM and look forward to seeing how the Lord continues to use this station to expand His Kingdom.