An Africa-US University "Eco-Health Partnership" is Born
When bringing two of your friends together, a simple introduction may not be enough to create a lasting friendship. Often you need to identify what those friends have in common so that they can begin to form a lasting bond. In the same way, the Global Knowledge Initiative (GKI) team prides itself not only in connecting potential partners but also helping those partners identify strategic intersections from which fruitful collaboration can grow. One of GKI's most recent matchmaking events took place in the fall of 2011 in Arusha, Tanzania, where GKI brought two research-intensive universities together to explore shared challenges on which their partnership activities would focus.
On September 30, 2011 the Nelson Mandela Africa Institute of Science and Technology (NM-AIST) hosted a tri-partite meeting between Pennsylvania State University (PSU), GKI, and key faculty and staff of NM-AIST. Among the participants were Dr. Peter Hudson, director of the Huck Institute of Life Sciences at PSU; Dr. Doug Cavener, head of biology at PSU, and Dr. Paul Gwakisa, professor and acting dean of Life Science at NM-AIST.
Facilitated by GKI, the 30 attendees engaged in a 5-stage process that drilled down from high-level aspirations of partnership to a ranked and evaluated list — generated by the group — of highest priority actions for partnership. Through GKI's facilitation, faculty from NM-AIST and PSU sifted through the various demands, challenges, and development goals the universities share and can address together. All parties were open about past partnerships and the aspects of those partnerships that either helps them bear fruit or choked off potential. Together, they identified a large-scale problem that PSU and NM-AIST felt they could undertake together: "How might we develop tools to solve problems at the interface of people, the environment, agriculture, wildlife, disease, and water?"
As the groups detailed their available technological, human, institutional, communication, and knowledge (THICK) resources and identified gaps among those resources, the NM-AIST and PSU participants discovered three specific areas in which the two institutions could nurture meaningful partnerships: 1) How might we train students to bridge basic research and application to solve problems in eco-health?; 2) How might we share graduate student education and post-docs?; and 3) How might we utilize technology in each other's institutes to address issues? The participants then separated into three working groups to generate concrete steps to address those areas of intersections. From the plethora of solutions offered, leaders from NM-AIST and PSU, with help from GKI, delineated specific action items to be taken to ensure these programs come to life in the coming year.
GKI's work to connect these two great institutions has not gone unnoticed. Our efforts received praise from both sides. Hudson stated, "Having GKI [at the matchmaking event] made all the difference and means this is a partnership that will flourish. I have been busy rushing around telling everyone how great NM-AIST is and how GKI helped facilitate this." Echoing Hudson's sentiments, Gwasika emailed the team not long after the event, saying, "Many thanks for the wonderful facilitation you took us through last week. I see good prospects for a fruitful partnership between PSU and NM-AIST under GKI 'auspicies'. The school of Life Sciences and Bioengineering at NM-AIST will actively play our role to make the partnership successful, 'fun, and enjoyable'."
Contributor: Christina Golubski
Photo: In2EastAfrica website
Photo - Zebras: Sara E. Farley