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Global Connections

WCNR's scientists strengthen partnerships in Africa

February 14, 2013

Colorado State University is continuing to strengthen its international engagement and enhance its global impact as a leading research institution.

A delegation from CSU meets with Hawassa University in Ethiopia to sign a new Key Strategic Partnership.At the end of 2012, a delegation from CSU traveled to Africa to sign Key Strategic Partnerships with Hawassa University in Ethiopia and University of Nairobi in Kenya.

Decades of collaboration

The two strategic partnerships are the culmination of decades of ongoing collaboration and outreach efforts between CSU researchers and their African counterparts, and with the support of University leaders will help to strengthen  institutional cohesion and expand opportunities for even greater multidisciplinary collaboration in the future. 

The strategic partnerships provide financial resources to support a variety of initiatives such as faculty exchange, collaborative research, short-term teaching, shared academic programs, joint degrees, and joint research institutes. The partnerships were led by scientists from CSU’s Warner College of Natural Resources and are an integrated, cross-campus effort including involvement from multiple academic departments at Warner, its Center for Collaborative Conservation and Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory, the College of Agricultural Sciences, the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, the School for Global Environmental Sustainability, and others.

Multi-disciplinary collaboration

CSU President Tony Frank shakes hands with a member of the Maasai community in Kenya.“CSU’s Key Strategic Partnerships in Ethiopia and Kenya are two of 15 such partnerships around the world where the university is focused on developing effective opportunities for multi-disciplinary collaboration,” said Jim Cooney, vice provost of International Programs at CSU. “These partnerships and the support from CSU President Tony Frank are a testament to the international involvement of our faculty and the strong relationships they have built in these countries.”

CSU’s partnership with University of Nairobi was led by Robin Reid, director of the Center for Collaborative Conservation, joint professor in the Warner College of Natural Resources, senior research scientist with the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory (NREL) and Warner College alumna. Reid’s work in Africa is world-renowned, and she has a long history and strong friendship with her colleagues at the University of Nairobi and the Maasai people in Kenya.

Reid spent more than 20 years living in Kenya only half a mile from University of Nairobi, and continues to pioneer collaborative solutions for critical conservation issues in the region. She also recently published her award-winning book “Savannas of our Birth” which tells the sweeping story of the role that East African savannas played in human evolution, how people, livestock, and wildlife interact in the region today, and how these relationships might shift as the climate warms, the world globalizes, and human populations grow.

Robin Reid receives a gift from the Maasai at a ceremony honoring the Maasai's contributions to her collaborative research.As part of the delegations trip to Kenya, they made a special visit to Base Camp for Reid’s research. In 2012, Reid and her team of co-authors were awarded the prestigious ESA Sustainability Science Award for their collaborative paper which detailed their research in East Africa and development of a new community-based sustainability model that integrates local knowledge and community participation with scientific data. During the visit, Reid and the delegation exchanged gifts with the Maasai People and presented them with certificates to commemorate their valuable team work and contributions to the award-winning research.

“Whether it is CSU, Ethiopia or Nairobi – natural resources, agriculture, or veterinary medicine: the issues facing local and global communities continue to become intertwined and demand opportunities for cross-disciplinary, international collaboration,” said Reid. “These unique partnerships give us the opportunity to work together and make a genuine impact around the globe, and also to enrich education and research here in Colorado.”

The Ethiopian Key Strategic Partnership with Hawassa University was led by Paul Evangelista, research scientist with CSU’s NREL and Warner College alumnus. Evangelista lifelong passion for collaborative research and outreach in Ethiopia began in 1999. Since then, he has continued to work on dozens of studies and initiatives including wildlife management and conservation, floral inventories, and mapping of ecosystem services that are critical to the livelihoods of local people. He has also been involved with strengthening the teaching capacity of rural schools, construction of water-supply systems, reforestation of native trees, professional training for wildlife managers, and other partnerships that collectively address Ethiopia’s environmental and social challenges from multiple approaches.

The CSU delegation visits with university students and professors in a classroom in Africa.CSU signed an International Memorandum of Understanding with Hawassa University in January of 2012, and the new strategic partnership strengthens the commitment between the institutions and provides enhanced access to opportunities for collaborative research and education. 

Strong ties through Peace Corp

In addition to a wide range of established faculty involvement and research partnerships, the university also has strong ties with Ethiopia through its Peace Corps involvement. Warner College retired instructor and forester Bob Sturtevant and his wife Nancy have spent two years serving with the Peace Corps at Hawassa University in Ethiopia and have helped coordinate collaborative research opportunities and graduate student exchanges between the two universities.

Other ties with Ethiopia, such as the Peace Corps Master’s International (PCMI) program allows student volunteers to pursue a unique Master’s degree through CSU coursework and two years of service. For example, PCMI student Carl Reeder recently returned from two years of volunteer service working with the Ethiopian Wildlife Authority mapping the country’s national parks and protected lands. Reeder is now completing his thesis and expects to graduate this summer.

The CSU delegation included:

  • Tony Frank, president
  • Jim Cooney, vice provost for International Affairs
  • Lou Swanson, vice president for Engagement and Director of CSU Extension
  • Craig Beyrouty, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences
  • Diana Wall, University Distinguished Professor, director of the School of Global Environmental Sustainability, and senior research scientist with the Natural resource Ecology Laboratory
  • Robin Reid, director of the Center for Collaborative Conservation; joint faculty in the Departments of Human Dimensions of Natural Resources, Forest and Range Stewardship and Ecosystem Science and Sustainability; senior research scientist, Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory
  • Paul Evangelista, research scientist, Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory
  • Kathleen Galvin, professor in the Department of Anthropology; acting director of the School of Global Environmental Sustainability; and senior research scientist, Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory
  • Lee E. Sommers, director of the Agricultural Experiment Station and associate dean for Research, College of Agricultural Sciences
  • Susan VandeWoude, associate dean for Research and Graduate Education, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences

Reid and Evangelista are just two examples of a broad variety of faculty and researchers across campus who have made incredible commitments and collaborative partnerships in Africa. The Key Strategic Partnership between CSU and University of Nairobi and Hawassa University will help to strengthen and continue the legacy of collaboration and interdisciplinary research between the institutions for years to come.