Ethiopian Delegation Visits UMass Boston
When the 3rd high-level Ethiopian delegation comprised of Addis Ababa University Board Members, the President of AAU, and the Director of the Horn of Africa Environment Center and Network (HoA-REC&N) arrived at UMass Boston campus on Monday, April 14, no time was wasted in settling down to business. The collaboration dates back to 2008, when Professor Maria Ivanova, Co-Director of the Center for Governance and Sustainability, established a relationship with Dr. Araya Asfaw, Executive Director of HoA-REC&N.
There was much to discuss between the two universities, and with a comprehensive Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) already signed in 2012, the path was prepared for specific agreements on a number of issue areas. The delegation included H.E. Mr. Kassa Tekle-Berhan, Board Chair and Speaker of the House of Federation; Dr. Admasu Tsegaye, President of AAU, H.E. Mr. Mekuria Haile, Board Member and Minister of Urban Development; Mr. Berhan Hailu, Board Member (former Minister of Justice); Engineer Samson Bekure, Board Member; and Dr. Araya Asfaw.
This visit focused on a few key issues of importance for the universities, Ethiopia, and the international community at large: environmental sustainability, conflict resolution, interdisciplinary research, and capacity building. In the opening session, Dr. Admasu spoke of Ethiopia’s need for higher education capacity, but lack of specialized educators, “100 foreign professors came (to AAU) last year to help build graduate capacity, and that’s why we need this collaboration badly.” He also spoke of the advantages to the UMass Boston professors who offer their services to AAU, “Addis Ababa is the political capital of Africa; when you work with AAU, you are working with all of the international organizations, like the United Nations and the African Union, and the universities in Africa.” To that end, the delegation and UMass officials including Provost Winston Langley and Chancellor Keith Motley, signed a Memorandum of Agreement concerning faculty and student exchange.
In addition to the MoA on exchange, the delegation also signed a letter of commitment on Environment, Sustainability, and Climate Change and Conflict Resolution and Prevention; they also signed a MoA for the upcoming Integrative Graduate Education and Research Trusteeship (IGERT) program. What this means for UMass Boston and AAU is that their collaboration is going to be situated on the cutting edge of interdisciplinary research and training regarding issues of crucial importance in the 21st century. The National Science Foundation IGERT awarded to UMass Boston in August 2013 will provide the backing and the funding necessary to take on the challenges faced by coastal communities, and these MoAs and the signed commitment will provide the avenues by which IGERT scholars and UMass Boston professors can directly engage with communities in the Horn of Africa region.
Already, there has been a lot of activity due to the collaboration. Negusu Aklilu and Wondwossen Sintayehu, both Ethiopians and PhD students in Global Governance and Human Security, became connected to UMass through the collaboration. Additionally, Michael Denney, also a PhD student in same program, spent the past two summers doing environmental research in the Gambella region of Ethiopia through HoA-REC&N and AAU.
Over the next few years, UMass Boston students and faculty can expect to see more Ethiopians here on campus, conducting research, attending classes, and teaching courses. Additionally, we can expect to have new opportunities for research, study abroad trips, and more at our disposal. What has been in the works for a number of years is coming to fruition, and both universities are going to profit.