The Office of Global Affairs and International Studies is trying to expand its relationships to a new continent: Africa.
In 2017, Lorna Jean Edmonds, the vice provost of Global Affairs and International Studies, will travel to Botswana and Ghana to seek out partners for Ohio University. Her hope is to enrich OU’s connections with individuals and organizations on the continent to provide more opportunities for students and staff in Africa.
“What I’m trying to do is work with various groups to make sure we have the kinds of relationships we need to facilitate the ability of students and faculty to engage,” Edmonds said.
The project is in the early stages. Edmonds said she plans on hosting an open forum to gauge the interest of students. She is reaching out to alumni and faculty who already have “fruitful” relationships in Africa.
Steve Howard, the director of the Center of International Studies, will accompany Edmonds on her trip to Ghana. Edmonds has never been to Ghana, so Howard said he will introduce her to alumni in the area.
“My goal is to impress the Vice Provost, and hopefully the administration in Cutler Hall she represents to the amazing alumni that we have and the good things we’re doing in a black African country,” Howard said.
The university already has links to Africa, Howard said, that are maintained by staff members, so those opportunities tend to fluctuate based on faculty interest. Edmonds plans to institutionalize relationships on the continent.
“We are trying to build more opportunities,” Howard said. “Because these aren’t supported by the institution, they’re rather supported by individual faculty members, they tend to come and go.”
Ghirmai Negash, the director of the African Studies Program, is not affiliated with study abroad programs, but said he appreciates the importance those opportunities have in his department.
“Study abroad has been very, very useful for our students from OU in terms of giving them exposure,” Negash said. “When they go to Africa, they can connect the knowledge that they have learned from Ohio University in the classroom with practice. That connectivity between theoretical knowledge and practice in Africa is very, very important.”
Edmonds said OU already has strong connections in other parts of the world such as Europe and Asia and is excited to expand the university’s relationship to Africa.
“The continent of Africa is very big,” Edmonds said. “I want to approach this with a really open strategy to be in the best interest of students and faculty. It’s a really big part of the world.”
Originally published for The Post on November 2, 2016.