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Groundbreaking on the $20 million Cunningham Student Center

Groundbreaking Event

Cunningham Student Center

"Groundbreaking on the $20 million Cunningham Student Center was held Friday, August 28, 2020 on the campus mall at MNU. The new building, which is part of the Bright Futures Campaign for MNU, will house student services, the dining hall, Admissions and more. Plenty of space for community gatherings, meetings and socializing is planned. The building will replace the Campus Center, one of the university's first five original buildings.

The building is named for the late Dr. Paul G. and Dr. Connie Cunningham, whose ministry and vision has been part of MNU since before its inception. Read more.

The ceremony began with remarks from Dr. Jon North, vice president for university advancement, an invocation from Chairperson of the Board of Trustees Rev. Jim Bond and remarks from Craig Garrett, a senior student and president of Associated Student Government."

"This building will be a huge asset to the students," Garrett said. Adding that it will be a place to form friendships and make memories. He then thanked university leaders and the generous donors who helped make the vision of this building a reality for generations of students to come.

Campaign co-chairs Tim Buchanan and Dr. Dan Rexroth also spoke. President David Spittal expressed thanks for sacrificial fundraising support from many, to a crowd of about 200. Social distancing was employed at the event.

The ceremonial breaking of ground then began.

Groundbreaking Event for the Cunningham Student Center

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Highlights of Groundbreaking Ceremony

Full Length Groundbreaking Ceremony Video

Architect Interview

MNU Groundbreaking Images on the Flickr website

Flickr Photo Album

Cunningham Student Center – Mabee Challenge Progress

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The Dream Lives On

MidAmerica Nazarene University has a rich heritage built upon the strong faith and pioneer spirit of our founders. Thanks to God's gracious guidance and the contributions of committed faculty, staff, students, parents, churches and donors, MNU has grown from its five original buildings and 263 students on a former Kansas cornfield to become a beautiful, thriving campus with 21 colonial-style buildings, an enrollment of 1,870 students, and nearly 30,000 alumni.

Today, after nearly 50 years of growth and change, MNU continues to be driven by its distinctive vision that seeks to impact the world for Jesus Christ through servant leaders who are recognized for their excellence, integrity, and spiritual vitality. Amid the relentless pace of change in our society, MNU is a sanctuary for something of enduring value: scholarly inquiry that is rigorous and centered on the growth of the individual student through the integration of Christian faith and learning.

We are grateful for the integrity of the vision that set MidAmerica Nazarene University in motion, for the strategic choices that have brought us to this moment in our history, and for the evolving vision that shapes our future.

Babcock, Jonathan
Banks, Armand
Dennis, Roy
Petellin, Austin
Oster, Rebekah
Cash, Ervin
Fine, Larry
Palmer, Tori

Jonathan Babcock

Class of 2016

Jonathan Babcock's future certainly looks bright and he credits much of it to his alma mater. The December 2016 grad earned a degree in accounting and is now a research analyst for DeMarche Associates, Inc. The desire to pursue a career in finance is something that developed throughout Jonathan's education at MNU. It started when he went halfway around the world to study abroad at Korea Nazarene University. In partnership with MNU, Jonathan earned a minor in international business management. One of his KNU professors is on the board of a large South Korean bank and learning from him was inspiring. During his free time and while traveling around the country, Jonathan started reading more about banking and investments which he says developed into a deeper excitement about the world of finance.

When he returned to MNU the following semester, Dr. Mary Murphy, associate professor, asked him to help start a student investment club. At this point, Jonathan says he thought, "God really works in incredible ways, especially through the things that MNU does for its students."

The club exists to give students real-world investing experience while providing a fundraising opportunity for the MNU Foundation. With the help of School of Business professors, Jonathan recruited more members for a total of 10 students in the first year. The club manages a portfolio started with $50,000 from the MNU Foundation. In just one year of investing they have made money and foundation board members are pleased with the return. Realizing that more education was needed for club members to be successful, a course was developed.

"That is when God sent us Jack Hansen, one of the most inspiring men I have ever met," Jonathan says. Jack ('92, MBA '99) has 15 years of experience as a broker and investment adviser for Edward Jones. With Jack's help, curriculum was developed for the investment portfolio strategy and management course that he and Associate Professor Mary Murphy, PhD, co-teach.

"This class teaches students in a hands-on way similar to an internship," Jonathan says. "Instead of solely learning concepts, you're able to apply the knowledge you've learned to persuade the class to purchase a particular stock. And the best part is, by the gracious efforts of the MNU Foundation, we're able to invest real money."

Jonathan says these experiences along with a mentor from MNU's Executive Mentorship Program, all developed his interest and significant real-world experience prior to his job search.

"The experience I gained through participating in the investment club opened up a lot of doors for me when looking at career opportunities. Not only did it help me further my knowledge in investing, it also helped me further develop leadership skills. It played a major role in helping me obtain the job I have now."

When asked about the future of MNU Jonathan says, "I am excited to see what the next 5, 10 and 20 years hold for this school, because I know it is going to continue to grow and do incredible things."

Armand Banks

Class of 2015
Criminal Justice

Maybe it's his electric personality, or the way his eyes crinkle up with his huge smile. All kinds of people are drawn to MNU alum Armand Banks.

Armand came to MNU on a football scholarship. He grew up playing ball at a St. Louis area high school and played for the Pioneers as an offensive lineman for four years. Armand will readily tell you that his childhood was "harder than most, but better than some," he says. At a young age, he assumed the responsibilities of someone much older.

The concepts of Christlike faith and life transformation were somewhat new for Armand when he arrived at MNU. "I wasn't really sure what to think," he says. He studied criminal justice, balancing classwork with football and a night shift job at Kids TLC. Like many other athletes, he also met friends and coaches who changed his life.

Life nearly came to a halt in Armand's senior year at MNU. "My mom was involved in severe substance abuse, and it was up to me to get her out and into a better situation," he says. So he personally moved her to Olathe to be close to him, in the midst of his responsibilities in the classroom and on the field.

Graduating in 2015, Armand became the first person in his family to earn a college degree. "My past didn't have to determine my future," he says. His faith has grown, and Armand is forever grateful to his coaching staff for modeling humbleness and teaching him to trust God with each decision.

Today, Armand is married to his college sweetheart and pursuing his personal passion of barbering. Inspired by the relationships that can be formed through this trade, he is motivated to pay forward the same care and concern that formed the bedrock of his relationships at MNU.

To Armand, the future of MNU is filled with purpose. He is excited to see new facilities and scholarship opportunities, so that others can experience transformation while they are a part of the MNU community.

Roy Dennis

Class of 2017

If you've made it out to a Pioneer football game in the last few years, you've doubtless heard the name Roy Dennis. The defensive lineman has played an important role on the team for the last four years, and he is quick to credit being a part of the team as a significant piece of his MNU experience. "I've had coaches that have been like fathers to me," shares Roy. "They've shaped me into the person I am today."

And while Roy will tell you about the professors and coaches who have shaped his life during his time at MNU, he will also tell you how hard it was for him to get here.

Roy grew up in Grandview, Missouri in a single parent home that wasn't always a safe place. He stuck with football while in a variety of living situations during his high school years. Recruited in 2012, Roy is the first of his siblings to attend college.

Once at MNU, Roy connected quickly with the coaching staff and with chaplain Brady Braatz. As a history major, he made a commitment to his classes - sitting in the front, asking for help and learning to overcome procrastination.

Then, during the second semester of his freshmen year, during a Kingdom Come service, Roy felt something he never expected - a calling to serve the Lord as a senior pastor. "That wasn't something I even knew I wanted to do," he recalls. "But I've become more comfortable with this calling, and I know it's where I'm supposed to be."

Roy changed his major to ministry, and began to form close relationships with faculty members Dr. Randy Cloud, Dr. Jim Edlin, Dr. Larry Fine and Dr. Don Dunn. "They've helped me see ministry in a different way," he shares. "They've been caring and open with me."

Like so many students, Roy has relied on financial aid to be able to stay in school. "There are so many kids who need to stay here at MNU in order for their lives to be impacted," he says. "Lots of them can't afford to stay because of difficult home situations. Scholarships are an investment in something that has a significant return."

Today, Roy is beloved on campus. He earned his local ministers license in 2015. He has volunteered with the elementary and junior high age groups at College Church of the Nazarene for the last three years, a position that has further cemented his calling to ministry. "I want to make it safe for kids to come back to church and have a relationship with their pastors," Roy says. "We have to get our kids running back to church, and that takes a relationship."

To Roy, the future of MNU reflects possibility - he hopes the school will continue to foster a strong, relational culture that can be transformational to students from all backgrounds.

Austin Petellin

Class of 2017
Organizational Leadership

Class president. Freshman mentor. ServeTeam member. Volunteer.

Senior Austin Petellin reflects a strong commitment to of one of MNU's core values: a passion to serve others. Since the moment he set foot on campus, Austin has dedicated hundreds of hours to servant leadership. He has worked alongside ESL families at a social services organization, local organization, led a shoe drive for the Kansas City Rescue Mission and built relationships through an after-school program in the metro's urban core.

Austin, whose parents are both MNU alums, calls the Coeur d'Alene, Idaho area home. Whenever he heads home, you can usually find him investing time with the youth group at or Upward Sports program at his home church, Coeur d'Alene Nazarene Church.

Austin specifically credits his two summers as a ServeTeam member as being a formative experience. "Service was the attitude of those summers; it taught me the lifestyle of servant leadership. During the years following those summers, I have revisited certain youth groups to nurture those relationships and hopefully recruit students to MNU."

In fall of 2015, Austin connected many of those youth group relationships through a role typically reserved for a working professional - he helped plan and manage the Kansas City District's NYI Breakaway youth event. As an organizational leadership and marketing major, he hopes to bring this orientation toward servant leadership to his future career. "If there is one thing I've learned since I've been at MNU, it is that God's Kingdom is moving and working everywhere, and I can be involved no matter what. Servant leadership is a lifestyle."

Rebekah Oster

Class of 2013

A love of science and MNU's small class sizes brought alumna Rebekah (Wilkins '13) Oster to the university, but the close-knit community and Christ-focused learning environment kept her there.

A true academic, Rebekah earned her bachelor's degree in chemistry, with an emphasis in forensic chemistry from MNU, and then went on to graduate school at UMKC, obtaining her master's in chemistry. Today, she utilizes the skills she learned in school working as a statistical programmer for clinical trials.

Rebekah deeply values the abilities she learned during her time at MNU and believes they ultimately led to her pursuit of graduate school. "Graduate school is hands off. You have to be self motivated and in charge of your own plan of study. MNU taught me to be that way. My professors at MNU helped me when I needed it, but also trained me to do things by myself."

The focus MNU provides on identifying and using individual strengths also played a central role in Rebekah's decision to go on to graduate school. In fact, it was during her freshman year at MNU that Rebekah discovered her personal strengths, thanks to the Gallup Strengths Finder test each student completes. Rebekah's professors encouraged her to focus on these strengths and put her all into her work - working for the Lord and not for men.

With a heart for science and seeing future generations pursue the field, Rebekah thanks MNU for building a community of learning. She points to the university's unique classes such as modern physics, as well as its encouragement of open conversations on important topics like evolution within the science industry. "When you go to MNU, there is a big emphasis on community. The community changes and grows, but everywhere you go on campus you can see it. MNU is focused on God, on His will and on His passion for each individual."

Rebekah also thanks MNU donors for their contributions, specifically to the math and science department, stating that, "Every dollar given makes a direct impact and goes to something wonderful - most likely chemical instruments in the math and science department. Chemical instruments separate lower-quality institutions from the higher-quality ones. Having these instruments available affects students' experiences and helps them prepare for graduate school."

Focused on progress, whether personally, academically or professionally, Rebekah sees a promising future for herself and the university. To Rebekah, the future of MNU is filled with hope because it provides each student with a springboard into their own bright future.

Ervin Cash

Class of 1981
Communications & Human Relations

An accomplished leader in the business and technology industries, Ervin Cash, 1981 MNU alumnus, firmly believes in paying it forward.

The power of a solid, well-rounded education played a key role in Ervin's ability to successfully guide a diverse group of large, international companies. A role he has not forgotten. As the current CEO for SloanLED, a company which designs and develops high-reliability LED lighting products, he encourages students, especially those pursuing technology-related degrees, to recognize the need for both technical and people skills.

Ervin used his time at MNU to hone his career ambitions and gain the liberal arts education needed to effectively work with people and learn how to motivate them as a leader. "During my time at MNU, I gained a clear sense of commitment about my career pursuit and became more dedicated to achieving success, with a balance of people, technical, business and strategy skills."

Ervin is committed to life-long learning. After gaining his undergraduate degree from MNU, he went on to pursue a mechanical engineering degree at the University of Kansas, an MBA at Xavier University and post-graduate study at Harvard Business School Executive Education.

Ervin currently serves on the Bright Futures Campaign Executive Committee and finds value in remaining connected to MNU.

"I am personally interested in making sure MNU remains viable and increases its relevance with students that are interested in a Christian education, but also want to pursue technology-based careers. MNU holds a legacy and I want to help build and expand on this."

Ervin utilizes and shares his breadth and depth of career expertise to help the university reach more people and share the mission of MNU. He also encourages other alumni to get involved in helping MNU find continued success.

"It's important for alumni to remember how the invisible influence of MNU - what it stands for, teaches and inspires - has encouraged and helped foster success throughout their lives."

"One of the most significant ways to acknowledge and show appreciation is through helping MNU continue its influence in shaping the lives of young people who are facing a very complex future," he says.

To Ervin, the future of MNU is bright, and he commends the university for taking the bold steps to becomes more viable, relevant and necessary in the lives of students.

Dr. Larry Fine

Professor of Practical Theology, Emeritus

A quiet, gentle spirit and genuine interest in getting to know those around him are just a few of the things that make Dr. Larry Fine one of MNU's most respected and beloved faculty members.

Dr. Fine's teaching career at MNU spans 47 years. He's spent all of them as a member of what is known today as the Department of Bible, Theology and Mission. He developed and led the school's first international trip to an overseas site: a student trip to Israel in 1974. Multiple diplomas hanging from his office wall, and too many books to count.

At his core, Dr. Fine is a teacher. He's trained and taught pastors, students who want to become pastors, and even those in the mental health profession. Thousands of MNU students have been personally impacted by Dr. Fine's commitment to Christian service and education.

He carries a particularly deep passion for students preparing to enter a career in ministry to become emotionally and spiritually healthy. "If they're going to have to give emotional and spiritual guidance to others, they need to be healthy in those areas, too," he says. This passion led to Dr. Fine's development of the pastoral counseling and spiritual formation courses that ministry students take during their junior and seniors years at MNU.

Though retired from full-time teaching at MNU, as a professor emeritus, he continues to teach a handful of spiritual formation classes. He speaks occasionally in chapel, where his steady voice challenges students to commit their problems to a sovereign, unchanging God.

To Dr. Fine, the future of MNU is significant.

"This generation is the most sensitive, open, vulnerable and honest I've ever seen."

"They're real. I have tremendous hope for this group of students that are here now. They have a tremendous chance at great ministry in the future because they are more real and accepting, and that means they can reach more people," he says.

Tori Palmer

Class of 2007
Music Education

Music, missions, travel and adventure have led South Dakota native Tori Palmer from her home in the Midwest to Seoul, South Korea via MNU. Though she never imagined ending up on the other side of the globe, she knew early on that MNU would be her top college pick.

"I was 6 or 7 when after seeing a PR [traveling singing] group from MidAmerica I told my mom, ‘I'm going to go to that school and be in that group someday.'" And she did. Traveling for a summer with New Covenant PR group, Tori says that experiences at MNU drove her passion to major in music education and get involved in missions. With jazz band she performed and traveled around the US and to Europe. Coupled with the influence of her professor and advisor Ron McClellan, Tori found herself ready to teach young people in Korea.

"I taught in Kansas for a year but couldn't stop thinking about an opportunity to teach English in Korea," Tori says. "I prayed about it and applied and thought, ‘what's 1 or 2 years in Korea?'"

The relatively short time she planned in Korea has turned into seven years, first teaching English and now music. Still seeking new adventures, Tori has taken mission trips with her Korean church to Thailand on the Myanmar border. Working at a drop-in center that provides vocational training, Bible teaching and meals as well as at a safe house, Tori has learned that when people are seeking God they have a lot in common. "We're like family."

Tori credits her MNU experience and God's leading with what she has been able to accomplish today.

"MNU is where my faith became my own; Christian Beliefs class really challenged me. It shifted my faith into my own. Having an environment that fosters that thinking and growing is so great."

Recently Tori visited MNU and Kansas City. "It's always great to come back here," she says. "I don't think I'll ever come back and not feel comfortable here, even though things change and people change, it still feels like home. To Tori, the future of MNU looks hopeful. "There is hope that comes from what God is doing on campus.

In her own life Tori thinks her future will include something "more missions based." It might be a little scary, but it is also hopeful. Seeing how God has guided her so far, easy to believe he will lead in this too.

To impact the world for Jesus Christ through servant leaders who are recognized for their excellence, integrity, and spiritual vitality.
— MNU Mission Statement

Capital Projects

At the very heart of so many MNU experiences is our beautiful campus. As universities place higher priority on the quality of their facilities, we are pursuing significant projects to enhance MNU's physical campus. More than ever before, education today requires high-tech tools, state-of-the-art facilities and energy-efficient buildings. These are the new prerequisites for a thriving campus.

By building new facilities, we enhance our capacity to serve more students in the future. Through reinvestment in existing facilities, we ensure that our campus is more functional, welcoming and environmentally responsible.

Give to the Campaign

In order to foster a vibrant living and learning community, we must build stronger connections across our campus by providing a place for all our students to interact together and with faculty.

We plan to replace the existing Campus Center and build a brand new, state-of-the-art, multi-use space. The Cunningham Student Center will also allow us to reimagine the space that houses the Enrollment Development, Student Financial Aid Services, Student Development and the campus store. It will provide a larger and more efficient dining area, an expanded kitchen and new meeting spaces. We want to give visitors an incredible first impression of MNU while better serving our students, faculty and staff.

Pioneer athletics have increased MNU's visibility and reputation. Now, we're taking the next step toward excellence by planning a first-rate athletic complex that will meet the needs of our existing program while allowing us to serve more student-athletes and develop new athletic programs.

A 2,000 seat stadium will give us the opportunity to reconnect the Pioneers with their home crowd. A new field will bring a home-field advantage to many of our teams. A new track will provide practice and competition space for the track-and-field and cross-country teams.

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Academic Programs

Over the years, MNU has helped thousands of students uncover their passion and pursue their purpose. Many of our alumni are now scholars, physicians, nurses, pastors, teachers, lawyers, business leaders and artists.

We desire to grow our investment in faculty, top-quality academic programs and relevant, real-world tools. Through our active role and your continued investment into the lives of our students and faculty, the future looks bright.

We are dedicated to creating new and expanding existing services that benefit students and faculty alike. Our investment in the area of Academic and Professional Success will nurture MNU's culture of effective teaching and transformative student learning.

We have made significant progress in building a comprehensive student support team to address the needs of at-risk and diverted learners in our student-focused environment. We want to dedicate additional resources towards increasing course completion and persistence to graduation. This requires new curriculum for developmental courses, expansion of our peer tutoring program and additional student counseling and health services.

In order to effectively prepare students for their future, an office of Career & Life Calling has been created to focus on services for undergraduate students. Career counseling, career preparation, internship opportunities and professional networking are integral parts of the this office.

MNU is blessed with exceptional educators who inspire students' minds and hearts and who animate our classrooms and labs all across campus. We are committed to increasing qualified and motivated faculty, building even stronger academic programs and reimagining ways to teach in a liberal arts setting.

A focus on faculty development will expand professional development activities. Stipends will be made available for faculty in order to integrate new technology and cutting-edge practices into their classrooms.

As the future changes, new areas of technology are developed. New areas of study emerge. New employment opportunities arise.

To better meet the needs of the future, the university must continue to develop new undergraduate and graduate degree programs. New academic programs will be evaluated to ensure they relate to the demands of today's marketplace and future workforce projections. We commit to seeking out talented scholars from within these fields to develop powerful curriculum.

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University Support

MNU is committed to transforming lives by providing Christian education responsive to the needs of 21st Century students. Providing support for current operations and endowment purposes is essential for building MNU's fundamental financial strength and security to make our mission a reality for future generations of students.

University support provides the resources necessary to realize our bold aspirations and to carry MNU forward as we enter a new chapter in our history of inspired learning, innovation, creativity, and taking advantage of emerging opportunities.

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Endowed scholarships enhance MNU's ability to recruit and retain students who have intellectual abilities and talents which will enrich our campus and our future. Additionally, endowed scholarship support increases our capacity to offer competitive financial aid packages and recruit a greater number of outstanding students.

Annual gifts to the University Fund ensure MNU proactively addresses immediate needs, emerging issues, and grand ideas spanning multiple disciplines while staying cutting-edge and responsive. These gifts support the University's ongoing operating costs including academic and co-curricular programs, non-endowed scholarships, athletic team support, and general facilities maintenance.

Education support from local churches helps meet the University's immediate needs and keeps our campus a lively, vibrant, and nurturing place. It is essential to our ability to provide students from the North Central region scholarship opportunities to make an MNU education a reality.

In turn, MNU invests back into the lives of our local churches: students work and intern alongside youth pastors, associate pastors and others. SERVE teams provide support at district camps and other events. Gradutes fill a variety of ministry and service positions at churches across the region, the country and the world. The churches and MNU are stronger together, and we are excited to build an even stronger relationship.

Academic support endowments stimulate and nurture MNU's culture of inspired teaching and transformative student learning through focused programs and initiatives that facilitate our students' ability to prepare for their career and calling. This campaign offers opportunities to establish endowments for academic chairs and professorships, faculty professional development and new program development.

Unrestricted endowment gifts provide an opportunity to create a lasting and powerful legacy; they provide the flexibility for the University to establish priorities and allocate funds to enhance curricular and residential life initiatives. Support for this initiative can be made through contributions to existing endowments or by honoring a loved one through memorial gifts.

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Our Campaign PROGRESS

Every dollar helps create our bright future. We humbly thank all who have helped us in our goal.

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Groundbreaking Invitation for the Cunningham Student Center

Groundbreaking - Cunningham Student Center


"The greatest takeaway from the Mabee Challenge phase of this campaign is that volunteer leadership and widespread support from our constituents made it happen," says Dr. Jon North, vice president for university advancement. "We want to thank the many MNU friends, alumni, parents, faculty and staff, trustees, the Foundation Board, the Campaign Executive Committee, the Mabee Foundation, and donors who supported our mission and gave to the project."While some organizations have put building…

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Bright Futures - More than a building


We're working to make the Cunningham Student Center a reality for the next generation of Pioneers. Read what three Pioneers think about the benefits the new Student Center will bring. Today's students are imagining benefits the new student center will provide. "It will be a connecting place," says Andy Cornelius ('19), associated student government president. "Connections are what keep a student in college by giving them a place to belong. If we can't give them that we're missing what MNU is…

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Office of University Advancement