Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

U.S., Foreign Higher Ed Institutions Unite to Help Haiti

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

U.S., Foreign Higher Ed Institutions Unite to Help Haiti

Article excerpt

New consortium hopes to help Haitian universities recover and improve a year after earthquake.

American educators have put together an international consortium of colleges and universities to help their Haitian counterparts, many of which had institutional weaknesses even before last year's earthquake toppled campus buildings in Port-au-Prince.

Two dozen schools - large and small, public and private - have joined the Consortium for Rebuilding and Improving Higher Education in Haiti. Boston-based educators with roots in Haiti spearheaded the creation of the consortium this month after a year of planning. Early on they consulted with Olin Robison, who directed a similar collaboration to improve universities in Eastern Europe after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The Haiti consortium members include Harvard, Syracuse and New York universities as well as City University of New York and California State University-Sacramento. From other countries, the University of Quebec at Montreal in Canada and the eight-member Association of Catalan Public Universities in Spain have either joined or expressed interest.

"I think it's wonderful that people are coming through, because there are great needs in Haiti," says Dr. Carole Berotte Joseph, the Haitian-born president of Massachusetts Bay Community College and a consortium organizer.

Academically, many of Haiti's 160 colleges and universities follow an outdated French model. The impoverished country lacks an accrediting agency and few schools have garnered international recognition for their academic accomplishments. Poorly paid faculty hold down multiple teaching jobs and do little research or student mentoring.

The January 2010 quake compounded those institutional deficiencies by destroying or damaging the physical plant of the more than 30 colleges concentrated in the capital. They have reopened, holding classes in temporary quarters, tents and even outdoors.

Consortium members will form partnerships with Haitian schools to work on specific academic and administrative needs those schools identify.

"Some institutions (in the consortium) are known for certain things," Berotte Joseph says. "I think they will pair with an institution in Haiti that needs that kind of development."

The matchmaking will benefit from "the very healthy mix of institutions" in the consortium, adds Dr. …

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