University of Houston-Clear Lake and United States International University in Nairobi have established a memorandum of understanding to collaborate through faculty and student exchange programs and to create research initiatives. Professor of Sociology Mike McMullen and Assistant Professor of Anthropology Dawit Woldu will depart on June 5 for Nairobi for a five-week visit to establish the partnership between the two universities.
“We have been working on outreach to the Kenyan community in Houston,” Woldu said. “Our main contact is a Kenyan adjunct professor in our Sociology Department who is also the president of the North American Kenyans Association. In 2016, with his help, we invited a group of potential students from the Houston Kenyan community to the university.”
Community organizers and other activists in the local Kenyan community helped as well. “We got a great discussion going,” he said. “The president of USIU came last year and met with (UHCL President) Dr. (Ira. K.) Blake and our deans. Everything clicked and we all wanted to work together, so we created a framework for our MOU.”
“USIU is an accredited university in the U.S., which is why they are interested in our faculty’s expertise in things like reviewing their curriculum to make sure it’s current with U.S. standards and expectations,” McMullen said. “Over 32 countries are represented on their campus.”
Professor of Anthropology Christine Kovic, who was also part of the committee to create the memorandum, said that the partnership between the two universities was very exciting. “Our students could go and study there, and USIU students could come here to study as well,” she said. “The agreement establishes an ongoing collaboration between us, and the space for partnerships is endless, including establishing collaborations online.”
Woldu and McMullen said the goal for their trip was to begin the process of collaborating and to teach. “We’ll be meeting with faculty and different institutions on their campus,” Woldu said. “We’d like to create short-term training centers for different stakeholders on the continent, particularly in the area of conflict resolution. Then, both institutions could go and give others training on refugees and resettlement studies, peace and conflict studies and social work. We have a lot of experts and they do too. We will find ways to work together to create viable training institutes.”
McMullen said he would be teaching a research methods class at USIU. “I’ll be co-teaching with one of their professors, and I’m looking forward to working with the Kenyan faculty and students,” he said. “I’m very happy to see so much support for this and I’m encouraged that everyone is working to make sure this is a successful collaboration.”
Woldu, who specializes in medical anthropology, said he would be reviewing thesis papers of students in the health sciences. “I’ll be helping to structure papers and develop theses,” he said.
The signing of the memorandum took place on May 8 over Skype, and was attended by Blake, Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs and Provost Steven Berberich, Dean of the College of Human Sciences and Humanities Rick Short, Associate Professor of Anthropology Maria Curtis, and Executive Director of Strategic Partnerships Dwayne Busby.
For information about UHCL’s international education programs, visit www.uhcl.edu/academics/study-abroad.