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Vice Chancellors work to connect Sierra Leone’s Universities with diaspora scholars and US colleagues

Vice Chancellors work to connect Sierra Leone’s Universities with diaspora scholars and US colleagues

20 May 2013.  Kalamazoo, Michigan – Vice Chancellors Professor Abu Sesay of Njala University and Professor Jonas Redwood-Sawyerr of the University of Sierra Leone have been the focus of much academic attention in Kalamazoo, Michigan (USA) where they recently met with US and Diaspora colleagues to develop an action agenda for “Reconnecting the Academy in Sierra Leone and the Diaspora”.  (Photo:Vice Chancellors with Sierra Leonean and US Colleagues, 17-18 May, 2013 at symposium to promote partnerships in the Academy and Community Development, hosted by Kalamazoo College, Michigan)

The Symposium, capping off a 10-day visit by the two Vice Chancellors to Kalamazoo College, was attended by Sierra Leonean and US academics from multiple fields, as well as friends of Sierra Leone from non-profit agencies, health care, and business fields.  Coming from a dozen US institutions, as far away as Los Angeles, California, the twenty-plus scholars and community development experts focused their 2-day Symposium on ways to “Create Synergies that Support the Strategic Visions of Sierra Leone’s Universities”.

Kalamazoo College’s historic relationship with Sierra Leone, which dates back to 1962, was affirmed by both the VCs and Kalamazoo College Provost Mickey McDonald as it was announced that the student exchange program between the three institutions (Kalamazoo, Njala, and USL) will be reestablished in 2014.  This development was viewed as an achievement by all, and welcomed by the Vice Chancellors who also expressed their confidence and optimism about the Symposium’s action agenda to continue to assist with faculty, research, and ICT development in the coming months and years.  The Symposium coordinators, (all of whom studied in Sierra Leone and are  affiliated with Kalamazoo College), Drs. Joseph Bangura and Kiran Cunningham, Kalamazoo College professors, and Dr Kathleen West, a Kalamazoo alumna from the University of Southern California, UCLA, and the NGO, First Ladies Initiative, also pledged their commitment to  deepening partnerships with the Universities and communities in Sierra Leone.

Most Symposium attendees, American and Sierra Leonean alike, either studied at Fourah Bay College or Njala University or conducted research in Sierra Leone in the past and were motivated to attend because of their wish to help rebuild these important institutions.  Many participants expressed their view that expanding high quality teaching, learning, and research opportunities at the Universities is critical not only to democratic governance, job development, community health, civil society, and peace in Sierra Leone, but is also of immense value in reconnecting the Diaspora community, many of whom want to find ways to reconnect with their homeland as contributing citizens.  Among the notable Diaspora members in attendance were: Dr Tom Spencer-Walters of California State University at Northridge, Dr. Patrick Pieh of Eastern Michigan University, Dr Daphne Ntiri of Wayne State University, Dr. Alhaji N’Jai of the University of Wisconsin, Mr. Papa N’Jai of Muskegon Community College, Dr Tamba M’Bayo of Hope College, Ms. Zelene Wilkins in philanthropy, Mrs. Mariama and Mr. Josephus Tucker in the health and business fields, and Ms. Rhoda Jones in healthcare.

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