New Consortium Focuses on Africa
by Greta Petry
The Capital Region and Africa are an ocean apart.
But a recently formed UAlbany consortium is helping
to bridge the distance by opening up new opportunities
for student recruitment and internships.
Distinguished Service Professor Emerita Shirley
J. Jones, director of the U.S.African Partnership
for Building Stronger Communities Project and
instructor of a three-credit School of Social
Welfare course on African social and economic
policies and programs, conceived the idea for
the Consortium on Africa. She secured a small
grant from the University’s Affirmative Action
Committee to convene the consortium, which had
its first meeting in November.
Jones said, “I am excited about the positive
response to the Consortium on Africa, and recognize
the early work of Kwadwo (Joseph) Sarfoh (Department
of Africana Studies) and Eloise Briere (Department
of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures) at the
University at Albany in helping to establish exchange
and linkage programs between UAlbany and Africa.”
According to Jones, only about four percent of
international students at UAlbany are from Africa.
The economic plight of higher education institutions
in Africa and the negative image of Africa portrayed
by the media contribute to the difficulties in
establishing those programs.
Carol Whittaker, assistant dean and placement
director at UAlbany’s School of Public Health,
said the new consortium is of particular interest
to SPH students. Whittaker, who co-chairs the
group with Sarfoh, said the students “are very
aware that public health is a global issue. Many
of them are seeking opportunities to undertake
internships abroad, especially in Africa, where
emerging infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS
are ravaging the continent. Some of these students
will undoubtedly pursue careers in international
health. The Africa consortium will provide a platform
for me, other SPH faculty, and students to explore
opportunities and share experiences across disciplines
related to Africa. I expect many productive collaborative
projects to flow from this initiative.”
Whittaker is working with two graduate public
health students who intend to do internships in
Tanzania this summer; SUNY Central’s Center for
International Development (CID) is helping to
set those up. The interns will assist staff of
the Tanzanian Parliament in establishing health
Jones said the initial goals of the Consortium
on Africa were to:
- identify faculty recruiting African students
and/or directing programs and activities in
- increase the number of African students and
scholars at UAlbany.
- promote student and faculty links, and exchange
- help to eradicate negative media portrayals
- spotlight UAlbany courses that address African
issues and policies.
- establish collaborative partnerships to undertake
research and publication, seek funding, and
advocate for effective change and development
in international education with a focus on Africa.
Whittaker noted that Office of International
Education Director John Rohrbaugh, a member of
the consortium, is supportive of the group’s goals.
Rohrbaugh said: “The Consortium on Africa is
a key step forward for the University at Albany
in bringing together faculty who share a common
international interest in their teaching, research,
and service commitments. As we work to better
internationalize our campus, as many other leading
universities are doing, I believe that the Consortium
on Africa will serve as a positive model for initiating
other faculty consortia: on Latin America, on
Asia, on Central and Eastern Europe.”
Other members of the new group include James
Asare; Briere; Shai Brown; Carson Carr, Jr.; Florencia
Cornet; Gareth Griffiths; Deborah LaFond; Margaret
Reich; and Marcia Sutherland. Joining the consortium
from the community are Julian Bain, director of
AIDS Global Advocacy; and Deborah Ballard, an
AIDS educator at Albany Medical Center.
At the December meeting, CID Director James Ketterer
described two major projects CID now has in Kenya
and in Tanzania. In addition, Bain spoke about
his ongoing work with South Africa, where he provides
training and educational programs on AIDS prevention.
As an interdisciplinary spin-off of Jones’s well-established
partnership project in the School of Social Welfare,
the consortium can build on previous efforts that
include her three-credit hour summer elective.
The course focuses on international social policy
and uses action learning and research as part
of its theoretic underpinnings.
Through this course in 2003, 13 UAlbany undergraduates,
graduates, faculty, and community practitioners
visited South Africa, Ghana, and Nigeria on the
Summer Study Tour to Africa. The group was hosted
by Peninsula Technikon, University of Cape Town,
the Ghana Association of Social Workers, and Lagos
State University. Plans for a 2004 summer study
tour are being completed. Depending on grant funding,
this year’s tour will either take students to
South Africa and Nigeria, or to South Africa and
In a separate tour, several consortium members
from the Department of Africana Studies participated
in the department’s third summer program in Ghana
last summer. Coordinated by Sarfoh and held at
the University of Ghana at Legon, the program
provides for cultural discovery and reconnection
with African traditions and practices; promotes
and enhances participants’ knowledge of Ghanian
and African issues; allows participants to take
courses that contribute to UAlbany’s curriculum;
and strengthens academic links between UAlbany
and Ghanaian universities. In keeping with the
interest generated in Africana studies, the department
will offer a Summer 2004 study abroad program
in Ghana and Kenya with a stop-over in Ethiopia.
Such summer study programs fall in line with the
Whittaker noted that UAlbany has strong ties
to Africa. “Our first MPH graduate was from Uganda.
For years after he returned to Uganda, he sent
us his friends and relatives to study public health.
We have been able to support some African students
on Fogarty and Fulbright fellowships. One student
from Chad completed his studies in the spring
of 2003, and is now back in Chad sharing his knowledge.
We have one Ugandan student at this time.”
The consortium is open to any interested faculty
member, graduate student, or member of the community.
Meetings are at noon on the third Tuesday of
For more information and the location of the
next meeting, contact Whittaker at firstname.lastname@example.org
or 402-0385, or Sarfoh at email@example.com