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Rochester delegation visits University of Ghana looking for synergies

April 23, 2015
large group of faculty and students pose for a photo at the University of GhanaA delegation from the University of Rochester meets with students and faculty from the University of Ghana.

Faculty members and university leaders often visit other universities to give talks, engage in research collaborations, or explore student exchanges. It is less common, however, for a whole delegation to visit a foreign university.

At the end of March, 12 representatives from the University of Rochester spent three days at the University of Ghana in Accra, Ghana, exploring how the two universities could work together. The delegation laid the groundwork for undergraduate, graduate and faculty exchanges, public health fieldwork, and research partnerships.

“The visit was extremely productive,” said Wendi Heinzelman, the dean of graduate studies in arts, sciences and engineering and a professor of electrical engineering, who helped organize the visit. “We came away from the visit genuinely energized about the possibilities for continued engagement. Actually being at the University of Ghana allowed us to learn about their programs, interact with their faculty and students, and determine where we might partner with them most effectively for both universities.”

Heinzelman said she and her colleagues were “quite impressed” by the facilities and resources that would be available for faculty and student exchanges, as well as their current high level of research.

The delegation consisted of faculty members from a range of disciplines, from political science to biology, and anthropology to engineering. After meeting with their counterparts in Ghana, the delegation reported a number of areas where collaborations could be set up. Heinzelman said that these included continuing the existing visits from Ghanaian graduate students to Rochester, Rochester faculty visiting Ghana and vice versa, research collaborations, offering advice for Ghana’s faculty evaluation process, undergraduate exchanges, and public health student internships.

Some examples of the potential collaborative projects that were discussed were:

  1. Joint research with Rochester’s archaeology, technology and structures group into structures in Ghana, including the castles and forts along the coast, as well as the adobe structures in the northern regions of Ghana.
  2. Joint supervision of students within the growing Ph.D. programs of the computer engineering and computer science departments in Ghana.

“Since our visit, we have learned that the University of Ghana will join the Worldwide Universities Network (WUN), of which we are also a member,” said Jane Gatewood, associate provost for global engagement. “We’re thrilled to have this strong and growing university as the newest member of a network of world-class research institutions. We look forward to growing our collaboration with them bilaterally as well as through the WUN.”

group of students pose holding University of Rochester pennants

University of Ghana faculty members who, during their graduate, all studied at the University of Rochester for a year as visiting students through a formal partnership between the two universities.

The universities have had an exchange agreement for five years now, and for the past four years two graduate students from Ghana have spent an academic year in Rochester. Heinzelman explained that this model was set up to address concerns that sometimes students from developing countries go abroad for their Ph.D. and do not return back home. This one-year visitation program allows the students to be exposed to a different system and access different resources, including developing relationships with University of Rochester faculty, and they then return to Ghana and can share what they have learned with their colleagues there. At the same time, these visits can establish groundwork for ongoing research partnerships when the students return to Africa.

The delegation consisted of Solomon Abiola, public health and computer science; Paul Ampadu, electrical and computer engineering; Kristin Doughty, anthropology; Paul Funkenbusch, mechanical engineering and material science; Jane Gatewood, Office of Global Engagement; Chunlei Guo, optics and physics; Robin Harding, political science; Wendi Heinzelman, Dean’s Office, electrical and computer engineering, and computer science; John Jaenike, biology; LaRon Nelson, nursing; Beth Olivares, Kearns Center; and Renato Perucchio, mechanical engineering and archaeology, technology, and structures. Engineering faculty represented a majority of the delegation, as the University of Ghana was particularly interested in hearing from members of the Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Sciences since engineering is an area that they are focusing on developing.

University researchers interested in learning more about possible initiatives in collaboration with the University of Ghana may contact Gatewood at global@rochester.edu.

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