From the Students: Christian University at Gardner-Webb

Gardner-Webb's Christian foundation is important to students
in unique ways. Hear from current students about what it means to them.

Jonathon Rhyne, Freshman Marketing/Journalism

“I know that on my bad days, I am loved by a bunch of people who I don’t even know… Here, people do care about you, and they don’t even have to know your name.” (More)



Hannah Ray, Sophomore English

“Everything falls under that umbrella of 'Why are we doing this?' and a Christian University has the responsibility to do it because they’re trying to glorify God in all that they’re doing.” (More)


Jeremiah Hamby, Senior Psychology

“It’s more than going to Church on Sunday; it’s living in a community of Christian believers in everyday life and being intentional, being vulnerable with them, and the atmosphere at Gardner-Webb has really shown me that…” (More)


Caitlyn Brotherton, Senior ASL

“That’s what college is all about: figuring out what you want to do and who you want to be, and when everyone around you is pointing you towards Christ, it’s a lot easier to be focused on him.” (More)

Gardner-Webb Nursing Alum Joins Battle in South Africa Against HIV


Karen Platt-Dominguez (’98)

Karen Platt-Dominguez (’98) Associate’s Degree in Nursing

“Gardner-Webb is a small community, so it’s like joining a second family.”

Gardner-Webb University graduate Karen Platt-Dominguez (’98) became a nurse for two reasons—to provide medical care and travel wherever the job would take her. So far she’s worked in Brazil, Haiti, Florida, California and South Africa.

There are many physical, social and economic challenges in South Africa, where the government reports that 6.2 million people are living with the HIV virus. Platt-Dominguez is a project manager at the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation (DTHF), housed within the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre (DTHC) in Cape Town, South Africa. Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, drew attention to apartheid in the 1980s and through his advocacy and leadership, the country’s system of racial segregation ended in 1993.

Although he is retired now, Tutu continues to promote human rights around the world. He established the HIV Foundation and is a major financial supporter of the work to treat and prevent HIV and related infections. Platt-Dominguez is honored to have met Tutu a few times. “He is still generous enough to come to some of our events and celebrations as our patron,” she shared. “He is kind and has a great sense of humor—always cracking jokes. He still plays a significant role as a strong leader in the country.”

Platt-Dominguez earned an associate’s degree in nursing from Gardner-Webb. She knew about the University, because she grew up in Shelby, N.C. Her father was a Presbyterian minister and when the family moved away, they kept in touch with Susan Bell, GWU Professor of Art. Bell encouraged Platt-Dominguez to consider Gardner-Webb. “I applied to the nursing program and was thrilled to be accepted directly into the program as well as receive some scholarship money,” Platt-Dominguez recalled. “Gardner-Webb is a small community, so it’s like joining a second family.”

Some of her favorite classes—because of the knowledgeable and engaging professors—were anatomy, psychiatric nursing and the medical-surgical courses. Her studies provided the foundation she needed to continue her education and eventually work in a research setting. “After completing the two-year program at Gardner-Webb, I went on to complete my bachelor’s in nursing at the University of North Florida (Jacksonville) and then Master’s of Public Health at the University of Florida (Gainesville),” Platt-Dominguez related.

She traveled to South Africa, because she wanted to gain experience working with HIV in an international public health setting. She lives in Cape Town with her husband, Alexis Dominguez, daughter, Arya, and son, Miles. Her parents also live there and help take care of the grandchildren. Her father fills in when needed as minister at their church, and her mom volunteers at a school helping children learn to read and with an organization that takes donated books and distributes them to schools across the country. Cape Town has 3 million people and the same modern conveniences available in America. “There are differences and changes to make, but you get used to it,” she offered.

Platt-Dominguez joined DTHF as a volunteer, having heard about the foundation from a friend who worked with Tutu during the reconciliation trials. She was offered a contract position as data manager, then study coordinator once her work permit came through. “As project manager, my day focuses more on current and future project needs as well as budgets,” Platt-Dominguez explained. “I still get to have occasional interaction with the participants but do a lot more people management. I also ensure that the studies are conducted according to protocol and in line with all of the regulatory guidelines.”

Her team researches methods of preventing HIV among key populations. The DTHF is an accredited research group within the University of Cape Town. The foundation’s research, clinical and community outreach staff share a common purpose to lessen the impact of the HIV epidemic on individuals, families and communities.

“I enjoy being part of research and feeling like we are making a difference in HIV and with the individuals we work with each day,” Platt-Dominguez assessed.

For more information about the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation, visit: