ASU’s Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program advances economic and social transformation in Africa through education

Mastercard Foundation Scholars
May 24, 2023
Anna Cearley-Rivas

The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program at Arizona State University wrapped up this spring with a symposium held in Ghana where faculty and staff from ASU, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) and Ashesi University shared insights into institutional and pedagogical best practices to support student learning. The symposium was the final component of the multi-year partnership’s focus on global economic and social transformation through research, teaching and ASU degree opportunities for African youths from select Ghanaian universities.

The partnership, which encompassed two grants, has been administered through ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College as part of its portfolio of global education initiatives, and in collaboration with other ASU partners including the Graduate College, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, W. P. Carey School of Business and Thunderbird School of Global Management.

“The initiative has been mutually beneficial in allowing us to share different perspectives and strategies regarding education research, teaching and student support services,” says Yeukai Mlambo, who is an MLFTC assistant research professor and senior director of international grant initiatives at ASU EdPlus. “It will have a lasting impact through the advancement of research and the contributions that our Scholars are making as transformative leaders for their communities.”

The initiative spanned 11 years through two separate grants from the Mastercard Foundation. The combined initiative has provided higher education degree opportunities for more than 300 student graduates from Ghana and other African countries. A portion of the second grant provided funding for a regular series of faculty and staff symposiums, such as the initiative's final March symposium in Cape Coast, Ghana.

“At Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, we are dedicated to creating global experiences that enhance the student experience and that strengthen our ability to encourage interdisciplinary, practice-based research based on collaboration,” says MLFTC’s Dean Carole Basile. “The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program has brought us new perspectives and ways of thinking differently about our disciplines, as well as tangible outcomes that we will continue to build on.”

While the main program milestones have concluded,10 students are enrolled through ASU to complete their master’s degree online while at Ashesi University as an extension of the closing program. The students are visiting ASU this summer to connect with the academic and local community. Meanwhile, research is being conducted to document the overall impact of the broader initiative at ASU and Ghana. Here are some highlights:

Filling skills gaps and helping strengthen education in Ghana

Both grants supported access to degree opportunities. Through the initiative’s first grant, 120 Scholars obtained undergraduate degrees through ASU in more than 50 majors, including biosciences, engineering, business, economics, and public health and nutrition. These Scholars completed all four years of their degree programs at ASU.

During the initiative’s second grant, Strengthening Institutional Linkages, 156 students pursued accelerated master’s degrees at ASU. These students earned degrees in fields of study connected to Ghana’s economic advancement, such as mechanical and biomedical engineering, global logistics and supply chain management. Institutional participants started a two-year program at ASU to earn their undergraduate and master’s degrees after completing their initial three years of undergraduate studies at their home institutions in Ghana. Students earned their undergraduate degrees from KNUST and Ashesi University, and earned their master’s degrees at ASU (through the W. P. Carey School of Business, the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and the W. P. Carey Department of Supply Chain Management).

A vital feature of the program was connecting faculty members at ASU with their peers at Ghanaian universities to mentor students to become global leaders in their respective fields of study. Learn more about the graduates.

“This partnership has helped us to send students to a world-class university where they’ve been able to engage with faculty, students and systems,” says Millicent Adjei, director of the Office of Diversity and International programs at Ashesi University.

Strengthening educational collaboration and research opportunities

The second grant, which began in 2016, also incorporated an emphasis on faculty knowledge-sharing and collaboration. “As a result of this partnership, more than 200 faculty and staff from both countries had the chance to gain valuable insight into educational initiatives and approaches that resulted in research-inspired outcomes,” said Abubakar Idris, assistant director of the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program.

For example, Professor Patrick Phelan, assistant dean of graduate programs and professor in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy and Senior Global Futures Scientist, collaborated with KNUST faculty to publish two research articles. The research came about as a result of the 2019 symposium that took place in Ghana.

The first research paper, “Effect of transient low-grade solar heat on liquid thermogalvanic cells,” published in Materials Today: Proceedings, in 2021, sought to explore ways to use thermogalvanic cell architecture to produce electricity. Thermogalvanic cells use heat energy instead of direct sunlight. From those learnings, the team designed and tested a cell to produce electricity through this method. The results were published in 2022 in the paper “Stimulating green energy potential in Sub-Saharan Africa: An analysis of copper–copper sulfate for household use” in Thermal Science and Engineering Progress.

“This partnership allowed me to connect with KNUST faculty and students in research areas of mutual interest,” Phelan says. “I remain very impressed by what the Mastercard Foundation Scholars can accomplish.”

ASU and KNUST faculty also collaborated to secure a $15 million USAID grant to establish the Center for Applied Research and Innovation in Supply Chain (CARISCA) in Ghana based at KNUST.

Adegoke Oke, professor of supply chain management in the W. P. Carey School of Business, participated in the initiative’s seminars and symposium, along with colleagues in the Department of Supply Chain Management. Oke is spearheading this continuing new partnership with KNUST Mastercard Foundation’s affiliated counterparts.

“It’s vital to build this capacity in Ghana in order to contribute to self-sustaining development,” he says.

To learn more about the project’s Strengthening Institutional Linkages phase, watch this video.