The Year in Review: The Top News Stories of 2008

North Park University alumna and Fulbright recipient Rebecca Miller

In case you missed these headlines the first time around, here’s a summary of the year’s most memorable moments at North Park University.

Alumna receives Fulbright
CHICAGO, IL (April 16, 2008) – Rebecca Miller, a December 2007 graduate of North Park University, has received the prestigious Fulbright Award. Presented annually to only a select number of college and university graduates nationally, the scholarship will enable her to teach English in Indonesia and to study Bahasa Indonesian over a 10-month period beginning in August 2009.

A native of West Monroe, N.Y., Miller came to North Park for its international neighborhoods. “I want to be connected to the global community,” she says, noting that the experience of hospitality, arts, and worldwide cultures in and around Chicago was as formative and meaningful as the education she received in the classroom. She also chose North Park University for the music faculty, who encouraged her to integrate knowledge and practice of classical Western music with gospel, jazz, folk, and world music.

The music of other cultures has always interested Miller, who majored in music with a concentration on classical and bass guitar. After beginning the application process with the Fulbright program a year ago, Miller spent the following spring and summer doing what she loves to do: tutor students in English as a Second Language (ESL), study Indonesian culture, and learn a modest level of Bahasa Indonesian. Her primary goal that summer was to craft a plan for using her skills and passion for music of all kinds as an asset in the ESL classroom and for being a bridge of positive cultural exchange as a United States citizen in Indonesia.

Miller’s grant is an English Teaching Assistantship. Through this assistantship, she will travel to Indonesia in August 2009 and, following a two-week orientation, she will be placed in a secondary or post-secondary school in a location that is yet to be determined. There she will spend the full academic year teaching the English language, as well as educating her students about the United States. Her intention is to use music as a tool for teaching language and also as a point of engagement with American culture. In addition to teaching, she will study Indonesian language and music. She sees this opportunity as a true cultural exchange in which she will be both a teacher and a student.

“I know that I will grow in immeasurable ways through my year in Indonesia,” says Miller. “I’m sure this experience will make me a better teacher to my non-Western students and also a better friend to people of all kinds. I look forward to broadening my view of life and my spiritual understanding through experiencing how other people go about study, work, friendship, prayer, and artistic expression — every aspect of life.”

North Parkers bike for justice
QUINCY, MA (August 18, 2008) – On Sunday, six young adults parked their bikes with the front wheels standing in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean before jumping in to celebrate the completion of a cross-country journey.

The cyclists, all of whom attend or have recently graduated from North Park University, started their trek on May 24 in Redwood City, Calif., with the rear wheels of their bikes immersed in the Pacific Ocean. Along the way, they stopped at Evangelical Covenant Churches to discuss issues of social justice as well as raise funds. North Park sponsored the trip and paid the students’ expenses.

The riders included Dylan Maysick of Grand Rapids, Mich., Marcus Simmons of Longview, Tex.; Matt Enquist, of Libertyville, Ill.; Eric Landin of Jamestown, N.Y.; Andrea Buchanan of Sioux Falls, S.D.; and Emily Johnson of Minneapolis, Minn. They spent their last night at Covenant Congregational Church in Quincy, which had invited them and helped the riders finish in style. Members formed an 11-car motorcade and others lined parts of the route carrying signs to congratulate the six.

The discussions with church members as well as encounters with others made the greatest impression on the students, they said. “I think people really want to be involved with things that are important,” said Buchanan. “That was really encouraging to me. I was struck by that.”

University weathers record-breaking rainfall
CHICAGO, IL (September 14, 2008) – Nearly seven inches of rain fell within 24 hours over the weekend, sending the North Branch of the Chicago River over its bank and forcing North Park University to evacuate two of its dormitories, Anderson and Burgh Halls. Water stood several feet high in the Anderson parking lot on Sunday night after the worst rainfall Chicago has seen in at least 137 years.

Relocation was necessary when water began to cover the electrical transformers that are next to Anderson and regulate power to that dorm as well as Burgh and Magnuson Center, President David Parkyn explained in an email to students and a through a message on the school’s Web site.

Evacuated students slept at friends’ homes over the weekend, or at the Helwig Center, which was opened to accommodate those who could not find other shelter.

Parkyn updated students Sunday night at the beginning of the regular collegelife worship service, when he announced that classes would be canceled on Monday. He also told students they might be called on to volunteer to help others in the Albany Park community, which was hardest hit by the rains.

The work began on Saturday night, when many students helped city crews place sandbags by the river that runs through the south portion of the campus. Some even brought sandwiches to the workers.

Students said Sunday night they were adapting to the displacement. “People were frustrated at first, but they’re starting to get used to it,” said Colin Lindstedt, a freshman from Cottage Grove, Minn., who lives on the top floor of Burgh. A number of students assisted each other by grabbing items for roommates who were not at the dorms.

Freshman Mariam Ukbazghi of Sioux Falls, S.D., had been shopping all day Saturday and returned that evening to learn that she couldn’t enter her dorm room in Anderson Hall. “I saw the water overflowing, and the trash cans were floating,” said Ukbazghi, who had been staying with her sister near campus.

The school allowed students to briefly return to Burgh and Anderson on Sunday afternoon to retrieve personal items.

Lindstedt praised the school for keeping the students constantly informed through emails and postings on the Web site, and President Parkyn thanked all of the University departments who responded to the crisis quickly and efficiently.

“We are grateful for the diligent work of our physical plant, campus security, and residence life departments, as well as all of our institutional partners and the City of Chicago,” Parkyn said. “I am very pleased with the ways North Park is handling the challenges this flooding has produced on our campus and in our community.”

Additional outreach efforts are being planned through University Ministries, which continues to assess damage on campus and in the surrounding area. The office is currently coordinating groups of students to offer support and assistance where needed, and to help with cleanup efforts in the neighborhood.

University reaches record enrollment
CHICAGO, IL (October 6, 2008) – North Park University again reached record undergraduate enrollment, says Mark Olson, dean of enrollment and director of church relations. Enrollment grew to 1,882 students from 1,854 last year, and first-year enrollment jumped to 415 from 375.

Since the University restructured tuition in 2004, enrollment has increased 33 percent, and it has more than doubled within the last 15 years.

Olson said several factors have led to the higher numbers, including greater representation at college fairs. Last year, staff participated in 120, whereas previously, North Park was represented at roughly 40. Plans this year include representation at about 110 fairs.

The effect of the tightening economy on future enrollment is uncertain, says Olson, although the quality and affordability of a North Park University education make it even more attractive in the current market.

“Historically, education has done well when there is an economic downturn,” he notes, explaining that people continue to invest in their education to improve their opportunities during times of uncertainty. And, he adds, “North Park is $6,000 below the national average for private schools.”