In summer 2011, our Acting Director, Dr. Maimouna Barro spent four weeks in Senegal to help put in place linkages for a future study abroad program to Senegal around the theme ‘Islam in West Africa.” She visited several institutions of higher education in the country including the Université Cheikh Anta Diop, the West African Research Center (WARC), the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) in Dakar, as well as her Alma Mater, Université Gaston Berger de Saint-Louis.
At Université Cheikh Anta Diop, Dr. Barro had the opportunity to meet with Dr. Maria Grosz-Ngate of Indiana University’s African Studies Center who led a study abroad program to Senegal this summer and in previous summers. Dr. Barro was invited as a guest lecturer and gave a presentation on Women and Higher Education in Africa for the group at FASTEF, the Faculty of Educational Science and Technology. Dr. Barro is currently developing a survey course entitled “Introduction to Islam in Africa” which is in the process of getting approved as a General Education for University of Illinois undergraduate students. As part of this course, The Center for African Studies (CAS) is also very interested in having a study abroad to Senegal component attached to it, in order to offer students first-hand knowledge, direct exposure to and immersion in Islam as practiced in West Africa and Senegal. A long-term project attached to this course is to redesign it for online delivery after it is taught for a few semesters like “AFST 222 Online: Introduction to Modern Africa.” Our hope is to attract a wider pool of students, including K-13 teachers, and allow us to emphasize both its curricular and outreach dimensions.
During her visit at Université Gaston Berger de Saint-Louis, Dr. Barro also had the opportunity to interview the University rector and other key faculty on the institution’s current efforts to partner with U.S. universities and foundations. As the University of Illinois and other institutions in the U.S. continue to emphasize the need to internationalize, it is important that we take a closer look at the nature of academic partnerships and learn from both past as well as ongoing partnerships with African Universities. Dr. Barro proposed a paper examining this question to the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) General Assembly to be held in Rabat, Morocco December 5-9th, 2011. The paper was accepted and is titled “Development Aid and Higher Education in Africa:Â The Need for More Effective Partnerships between African Universities and Major American Foundations.” She will be travelling to Rabat to present the paper.