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Southern Adventist University Creates Distance Education Classroom for the Cuba Adventist Theological Seminary

Technology installed in a former storage room will allow the school to offer three master’s degrees.

Personnel from Southern Adventist University and the Cuba Adventist Theological Seminary pose for a photo in the former storage room that was turned into a virtual classroom.

Personnel from Southern Adventist University and the Cuba Adventist Theological Seminary pose for a photo in the former storage room turned into a virtual classroom. Photo: Courtesy of Southern Adventist University.

Southern Adventist University helped the Cuba Adventist Theological Seminary become one of the most technologically advanced colleges in the country by creating a distance education classroom with funds donated to the Collegedale Church of Seventh-day Adventists – allowing the seminary to offer three master’s degrees.

The school has been in need of additional Adventists academic professors. Since the Cuban government prohibits foreigners from entering the country to teach, the installation, which was carried out in August, helps expand the reach and options offered by the seminary.

The idea originated while Elvis Hernandez, principal of the seminary, attended Southern to study English. Hernandez invited David Smith, president of Southern Adventist University, to speak for the seminary’s graduation. During Smith’s visit to Cuba, they discussed the potential of turning a storage room on campus into a distance education classroom.

Smith assigned the technological part of the project to Gary Sewell, associate vice president for Information Technology at Southern. Knowing little about the room, Sewell bought everything the project might require, including cordless drills and screws.

“The amazing thing is that what we ordered was just enough for what we needed,” said Sewell. “God was in it from the beginning, and He just made it all happen.”

In addition to new equipment purchased using donor gifts, Southern gave other used technical components such as network switches, cameras to record church services, memory cards, and hard drives for existing servers. The equipment was installed by Sewell and Nick White, an audio-visual technician at Southern.

Sewell’s team spent nearly four hours with the local maintenance staff at the seminary explaining the inner workings of the system and answering questions throughout the two-day installation process.

“We wanted to make sure that they understand how it works and how to support it. If in the future they want to build another one, they can, because it’s a repeatable process,” said Sewell. “When we turned on the computer, they were just overjoyed. When my wife called in [for a video conference], you should have seen their faces. They loved it.”

Luis Amador, vice principal for academic affairs for the seminary, told Sewell that when he was a student at the seminary 15 years earlier, he had sat in that exact room and prayed that God would use it for something special.

“I know that the administration, faculty, and staff at the seminary are delighted with the distance learning facility they now have,” said Smith. “And we are thrilled that Southern could support them. It has been an honor to help advance God’s agenda in this neighboring country.

Classes are scheduled to begin next semester.