" A little bit of light pushes away a lot of darkness."—Jewish proverb
For Dr. Mazvita Margaret Machinga, this proverb is both an inspiration and a challenge. In August of this year, Machinga became the acting dean of student affairs at Africa University—a school that she entered as a first generation university student in 1998. She recalls that it was not easy coming from a non-Christian background and how important it was for her to learn in a church-related institution with loving and caring people.
“When I was a student, God sent some people to be there for me and journey with me during tough times,” said Machinga. “Christ’s love for me, even as a student, motivates me to love others in response. I want to be a channel of God’s grace to others.”
In her new role, Machinga relates directly with the student government and supervises seven key units—food services, sports and recreation, counselling and career services, campus life and student development, health services, housing, and the international students office. Although she has only been on the job for a few months, the service improvements are tangible. One of the most important parts of Machinga’s role is to build a strong sense of community among the students. As a result of her initiative, the residence halls are used to foster a sense of community among students on campus. Students are engaged in various community-building activities that include social and educational events. In addition, the cafeteria is offering an upgraded and more diverse menu for student and staff meals.
“I have a passion for caring jobs; being the acting dean for student affairs avails me the opportunity…to respond to students’ needs so that they are able to achieve their academic and personal goals,” said Machinga.
As a practical theologian and a psychotherapist, Machinga says that her core purpose is “to enable hope where there is no hope.” She wants the students in her care to feel a sense of belonging, to be free to share their concerns, to know that they are being heard, and that they supported. Machinga draws heavily on her own experiences as a student at Africa University in prioritizing her work. She has set the development of a more robust campus life and student development program as a goal. Elements of the program would include knowledge hubs, global competitions, and interaction with eminent persons.
“Having systems that boost creative thinking amongst students is one of the greatest ways of building leaders for Africa,” said Machinga.
After graduating with a bachelor of education degree from Africa University in 2000, Machinga worked in a rehabilitation program for street children in Zimbabwe and served in prison ministry as prelease counselor for more than eight years. Machinga and her husband Gift serve in the Zimbabwe Episcopal Area of UMC. She has completed a master’s degree in Practical Theology—majoring in Pastoral Care and Counseling—and second master’s degree in Psychology. With funding from the Women of Color Scholars program, founded by the Office of Loans and Scholarships of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, Machinga also earned a doctorate with a major in Pastoral Psychotherapy at the Claremont School of Theology in 2012.