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Diasporia News of Friday, 15 February 2008

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University of Michigan President leads delegation to Ghana

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman will lead a delegation to South Africa and Ghana, Feb. 22 to March 5, to extend existing collaborations with several universities and forge new relationships.

Coleman and the delegation will discuss initiatives that can be incorporated into U-M's newly established African Studies Center, and explore proposals that extend many longstanding projects undertaken by the more than 120 U-M faculty across the University involved in scholarship related to Africa.

"To be relevant in a world that knows no boundaries, higher education must reach far beyond its campus," Coleman said. "Never before have we had so much to learn from other nations. Our students know this perhaps better than anyone, and they look to the university to take advantage of its global connections to expose them to a broad, international perspective.

"A key goal of the delegation is to explore ways to deepen and expand our mutual exchange, bringing new opportunities and perspectives to our educational and research activities," Coleman said. "Our new African Studies Center will help create energy and synergy between our faculty and colleagues in Africa."

The African Studies Center, to launch in July, will enrich and provide additional impetus for teaching and research related to Africa. The center will do outreach, host programs and events and serve as a focal point for U-M faculty and students engaged in scholarly work in and about Africa. It will serve as a resource for research of all kinds, and a platform for cross-cultural exchange, one of 17 centers for area studies at U-M under the umbrella of the University's International Institute.

The new center also will take advantage of its affiliation with U-M's 38-year-old Center for Afroamerican and African Studies (CAAS), which focuses on the study of people of African descent. CAAS's long history of academic engagement with Africa will continue.

"Working with CAAS and Africanists across the campus, we have laid the foundation for what promises to be one the country's strongest and most innovative programs dealing with Africa," said Mark Tessler, director of the International Institute.

In conjunction with the establishment of the center, U-M will greatly increase the opportunities for African scholars to visit Michigan. The U-M African Exchange Scholars Program will bring approximately 10 visiting faculty, students and scholars from African universities to U-M each year, beginning with South Africa and Ghana. Exchange scholars will facilitate initiatives that U-M expects to undertake with partners in Africa, and collaborate on research, scholarship and teaching.

The exchange also will help nurture faculty in African universities in which capacity building is challenged by the drain of young intellectuals away from the higher education system. The program will augment CAAS's Charles Moody Exchange Scholars Program, which has brought scholars from South Africa to Michigan since 1996.

Coleman will deliver three lectures during the trip, one at Kofi Annan Center for Peace Keeping Training in Accra, Ghana, and talks at South Africa's University of Pretoria and University of Cape Town about globalization and the role of higher education.

In visits to eight universities, Coleman will discuss possible extensions of several of U-M's longstanding partnerships. They include:

--A pilot initiative proposed by U-M and African partners to strengthen the health care infrastructure in Ghana, and other African countries, following a framework responsive to World Health Organization recommendations.

--A proposal to collaborate with African institutions to develop and provide open Internet access to educational materials in the fields of medical education, public health and health sciences.

--A heritage studies initiative focused on questions of how universities, museums, libraries and other institutions help societies preserve cultural assets, interpret their histories and remake their cultural inheritances.

--A collaborative research and training program in the quantitative social sciences to expand and strengthen research and its usefulness in setting policy.

The Michigan Gospel Chorale, made up of U-M students, will perform at Ghana's most notable performance venue, the National Theater in Accra, and at other locations in the country, and visit several universities in Ghana.

Coleman's visit will include meetings with Ghana's President John Agyekum Kufuor; Asantehene Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, the King of Asante and Chancellor of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana ; and U.S. Ambassador to Ghana Pamela Bridgewater. She will attend a reception hosted by the U.S. consul General in Johannesburg, Steven Coffman, a U-M alumnus.

University leaders who will be meeting with Coleman include Vice Chancellor Clifford N.B. Tagoe of the University of Ghana, Vice Chancellor Rev. Prof. Emmanuel Addow Obeng of the University of Cape Coast, and Vice Chancellor Kweisi K. Adarkwah of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, all in Ghana; and Vice Chancellor Ihron Rensburg of the University of Johannesburg, Vice Chancellor Calie Pistorius of the University of Pretoria, Vice Chancellor Loyiso Nongxa of the University of Witwatersrand, Vice Chancellor Njabulo Ndebele of the University of Cape Town and Vice Chancellor Brian O'Connell of the University of Western Cape, all in South Africa. Members of the delegation will also visit the University of Fort Hare and the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.

Contact: Nancy Connell Phone: (734) 764-7260

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