Insights From Ghana: Day 2

University of Ghana first African partner in McDonnell International Scholars Academy

This week, Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton travels to Ghana to meet with officials from the
University of Ghana and sign official papers making the university the 28th partner — and the first in Africa — in the McDonnell International Scholars Academy.

Traveling with Wrighton are James V. Wertsch, PhD, vice chancellor for international affairs, director of the McDonnell International Scholars Academy and the Marshall S. Snow Professor in Arts and Sciences, and Jean Allman, PhD, chair of the Department of History and the J.H. Hexter Professor in the Humanities in Arts & Sciences. Allman has had a long relationship with the University of Ghana.

The University of Ghana is located in the capital city of Accra and, as an English-speaking country, has a long history of interaction with WUSTL researchers, especially those in medicine and social work. In fact, students from Ghana represent the second-largest group of international students at the Brown School, second only to Korea.

In addition to developing further strategic partnerships for collaborative research and study-abroad opportunities for WUSTL students and other McDonnell scholars at the University of Ghana, the university also is ideally located to serve as a home base for further collaborations in other African countries. The McDonnell Academy hopes to recruit its first scholar from Ghana this year.

Today’s post: University of Ghana signs as first African partner in McDonnell International Scholars Academy.

This is the second of the chancellor’s Insights From Ghana. Yesterday’s post can be viewed here:

Chancellor Wrighton with Professor Jean Allman (Credit: Courtesy photo)

Our Friday in Ghana was intense and rewarding. We began by leaving the hotel at 8 a.m. to make a 9 a.m. meeting at the University of Ghana. Accra’s rush-hour traffic was pretty significant, but we arrived with time to do a quick driving tour of the campus: it is very large with plenty of room for expansion, including for the move of the medical school to the main campus and for the construction of a new hospital.

Some facilities are old, and some even abandoned, but other facilities are new. On the drive to campus we saw many new construction projects in Accra, but some appeared to have been stopped, including what appeared to be a major athletic complex on the campus of the University of Ghana. Unfortunately, it seems that the flow of funds for such projects is often interrupted and major construction can take a long time.

We began our driving tour on campus with a quick photo of Professor Allman and me in front of the Institute for African Studies, which has relatively new facilities. Professor Allman is a leader in African history with many experiences in Ghana over a long period, so I thought it appropriate to begin on campus with this photo.

Our first meeting was with the vice chancellor of the University of Ghana: Professor Ernest Aryeetey. With its British academic influence, the vice chancellor is my counterpart (chief executive officer of the university). The chancellor of the University of Ghana is, in fact, the Honorable Kofi Annan, former U.N. Secretary General!

Research technicians dissecting mosquitoes in a lab studying malaria. (Credit: Mark Wrighton)

Vice Chancellor Aryeetey was very generous with his time and we had a wide-ranging discussion of issues facing higher education in Ghana. He enthusiastically embraced us as an important partner. I learned that the term of vice chancellor is four years, renewable only once, and one cannot serve beyond age 60. In such a system, I would have concluded my chancellorship in 2003!

Indeed, we learned that many leaders in the administration are term-limited, sometimes just six years (two, three-year terms) and administration leaders have to leave their posts at age 60. Academic leaders can be hired on contracts after age 60 for teaching, but cannot hold an enduring position and cannot serve in the administration. Systems and traditions around the world are different, to be sure! As a token of our appreciation for his commitment to our partnership, I presented the vice chancellor with a copy of Professor William Wallace’s most recent (and very beautiful) book on Michelangelo.

The vice chancellor arranged a 2 ½-hour briefing with many of the key academic leaders of the university, and we found many potential areas of collaboration on education and research. One major thrust under way at the University of Ghana is to embrace more of a U.S.-style PhD program versus the British system of earning a PhD in three years after attaining a two-year master’s degree.

Professor Naa A. Adamafio, dean of International Programs, will be our principal point of contact, and she will be coming to St. Louis for a meeting in May. We will bring her to campus to learn firsthand about us and see our facilities. At the conclusion of the briefing, we formally signed the partnership agreement bringing the University of Ghana as the 28th partner into the McDonnell International Scholars Academy, our first partner in Africa.

Palm tree cellphone towers! (Credit: Mark Wrighton)

We were hosted by the vice chancellor for lunch with his leadership team at their guesthouse. From the guesthouse grounds there is a very nice view, including the on-campus cellphone towers. Such towers are ubiquitous in Accra, as telephone landlines are not common and cellphones are widely used. On the campus one of the cell towers was camouflaged as a palm tree! The luncheon was very generous and we enjoyed some local foods and very tasty red wine from South Africa.

After lunch we visited one-on-one with Professor John Gyapong, pro-vice chancellor for research, innovation and development. A counterpart to our Vice Chancellor for Research Evan Kharasch, Professor Gyapong was educated as a physician and served in rural Ghana before becoming a part of the government public health service. After moving to the university, he became very interested in public health issues, and he will be an important contact as we explore partnership activities in public health.

Professor Allman, Dean Adamafio and Chancellor Wrighton (Credit: Courtesy photo)

We then met again with Dean Adamafio and discussed specifics about elements of our partnership. One challenge for students coming to the U.S. is the need to obtain a visa, a process that can take quite a while. I also presented Dean Adamafio a copy of Professor Wallace’s book (see photo).

Our day wrapped up at the Noguchi Memorial Center for Medical Research. The facilities were built with resources from the people of Japan in 1979, and the gift was made by the Japanese government to honor Dr. Hideyo Noguchi, a prominent Japanese bacteriologist who worked on yellow fever in Ghana in the 1920s and ultimately succumbed to the disease himself in 1928.

The Noguchi Center is the leading medical research institute in Ghana and carries much responsibility for the country. We visited labs and learned about important progress in combating malaria in children (see photo of lab techs dissecting mosquitoes!). Interestingly, Japan recently made another gift of a photovoltaic “farm” very close by to power the Noguchi Institute.

At about 5 p.m., we headed back to the hotel for a welcome rest and dinner.