A Global Exchange: Study Abroad Programs to Africa Teach American Students an Appreciation for the Continent and the Resiliency of Its People

By Forde, Dana | Diverse Issues in Higher Education, February 8, 2007 | Go to article overview

A Global Exchange: Study Abroad Programs to Africa Teach American Students an Appreciation for the Continent and the Resiliency of Its People


Forde, Dana, Diverse Issues in Higher Education


The wealth of educational opportunities in Africa has encouraged universities nationwide to establish partnerships with institutions on that continent. Kent State University, The Ohio State University, Princeton University and Rutgers University are just a few that have embraced educational programs that strive to engage students in the process of global exchange.

In only its second year of existence, Princeton's ecology and evolutionary biology field semester in Kenya has proven to be highly popular. Based at Kenya's Mpala Research Center, the spring project has drawn an average of seven American students and two Kenyan students each year, says Dr. Daniel I. Rubenstein, the chair of the department.

"While Princeton students may be strong on concepts, Kenyan students are much more aware of natural history and local issues," he says. "We try to enroll local university students so that they learn the ways of modern science and so that the two different groups of students can learn from each other."

As part of the program, students participate in projects, lectures, group discussions and oral and written presentations involving the tropics, East African wildlife, global technology and ecosystems.

"Students come back transformed, as scientists who are aware of important social, economic and conservation issues," Rubenstein says.

Officials at Kent State say partnerships with African institutions help American students appreciate the history of the continent and the resiliency of its people.

Every semester, five student-teachers visit South Africa through a collaborative initiative between the University of Cape Town and the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth. In the program, which lasts between eight and 15 weeks, students learn how global health, poverty and environmental ills impact educational opportunities in South Africa.

"Student teachers have the opportunity to experience social change first hand and bring that back to the classroom" says Dr. Kenneth Cushner, Kent State's executive director for international affairs and a professor of education.

During the summer, Kent State also sponsors professional development workshops for instructors at Kenyatta University, in Kenya's capital city of Nairobi. Through the workshops, Kent State faculty and students from the College of Education lead courses on classroom management and teaching. The university has also teamed up with the University of Zambia's School of Nursing in a program that allows students at the African university to earn doctoral degrees from Kent State.

Dr. Steve O. Michael, Kent State's vice provost for diversity, says the various initiatives have been successful. …

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