Into Africa. UAlbany challenges students to make a difference.
From educating Ugandan public health professionals to building new housing in South Africa and addressing famine and AIDS across the continent, UAlbany faculty, students and alumni are having a real impact on a global neighbor.
The University’s School of Public Health forged a connection with Uganda five years ago, when David Carpenter, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment, secured the first of two federal grants to train Ugandans in public health policy. These School of Public Health graduates return to Uganda and apply what they learned in UAlbany’s classrooms and laboratories to improve the health of their country. “We’ve had several graduates go back to Uganda to research health hazards…so much of the future of Africa will come down to education,” notes Carpenter.
UAlbany nurtures many other connections to Africa, as well -- connections that grow out of a curriculum that emphasizes global perspectives.
As part of their Save Africa From Aids program, faculty and students in our Department of Africana Studies – recently ranked as one of the top ten departments in this field nationwide -- work to advance literacy and deliver needed resources to combat HIV/AIDS. The department also sponsors a study abroad program in Ghana that gives UAlbany students insight into the relationship between their own culture and those of the people of Africa. Cross-fertilization of ideas is very important, says Professor Marcia Sutherland, adding: “The students and faculty come back and share what they have experienced – so everyone learns, everyone benefits.”
Over the past four years UAlbany’s School of Social Welfare has facilitated a consortium of departments and programs to strategically address the socio-cultural and health problems related to HIV/AIDS in Africa. Students along with faculty and staff are working with partners in Kenya, South Africa and Ghana to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS and address related problems.
In Durban, South Africa, UAlbany student volunteers with Habitat for Humanity helped build 100 houses to replace substandard housing that was a holdover from the days of apartheid.
And UAlbany alumni are also making a difference in Africa. Peace Corps volunteer Ben Kelcey,’01, arrived in a remote mountain village in South Africa and discovered a place with no industry of any kind, very little agriculture and limited contact with the outside world. He was the first white person that most of the villagers had ever seen and although he had learned the local language (Venda) he had to work to gain their trust. Ben graduated with a B.S. in mathematics and had a distinguished record as a scholar athlete. He has put that experience to work to leave behind some self-sustaining projects that will begin to lift the village out of the third world. His first project was to get a chicken farm up and running and now, in conjunction with a governmental plan to provide electricity, he is seeking to raise money for computers for the local school children.
UAlbany also challenged and prepared alumna, Catherine Bertini, B.A.’71, to serve our global society. Bertini played a major role in addressing world hunger as executive director of the U.N. World Food Programme for 10 years. She was the first American and the first woman to serve as CEO of the WFP and its $1.88 billion budget. She was responsible for feeding nearly 90 million people each year, mostly in disaster zones like Ethiopia, Somalia and India. “It would be impossible to invent a more rewarding job in a bureaucracy anywhere in the world,” she says. “We helped people stay alive every day, children to grow, and women to improve their lives through food aid.” In her work with the WFP Bertini emphasized the important role of women in fighting hunger, and worked to funnel more food directly to them. Today she works to build better futures as the U.N.’s under-secretary for management.