Faculty development key to strengthening institutional linkages in Africa


Kelly Jasper

By 2035, there will be more young people entering Africa's workforce each year than in the rest of the globe combined.

But a significant gap exists between the number of young people seeking work and the limited employment opportunities available. There’s a mismatch between the skills demanded by the market and the training young people receive. 

"Our goal is to enable 30 million young people in Africa, particularly young women, to secure dignified and fulfilling work by 2030,” says Ashley Collier, the North American partnerships lead at the Mastercard Foundation. How? One way is strengthening education systems so young people can acquire the skills the market needs.

It’s why, over five days in January, African faculty attended the fourth and final Faculty Development Seminar of Strengthening Institutional Linkages, an initiative of the Center for Advanced Studies in Global Education at Arizona State University’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.

Since 2017, faculty from two Ghanaian universities first, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, and later, Ashesi University have traveled to ASU to learn and collaborate.

“Our visitors from partner institutions work with an ASU faculty cohort on themes like research collaboration, leadership, pedagogy, student support and university innovation,” themes selected by the partners based on areas of interest and growth at each institution, says Emily Taylor, program manager of Strengthening Institutional Linkages.

This year, faculty members and staff from across the university, including MLFTC, Thunderbird School of Global Management, W. P. Carey School of Business, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, Graduate College and ASU Career and Professional Development Services, spoke about leadership, collaboration and pedagogy. 

“Our faculty have content and skill and, for student learning to occur, they need effective pedagogy and depth of learning through research, both of which the SIL initiative has worked with us to develop and continues to do so,” says Angela Owusu-Ansah, provost of Ashesi University.

The conversations around education are critical, adds Taylor. “It’s timely as KNUST recently participated in a national review and reformation of teacher preparation and education in Ghana. They are implementing and monitoring a new bachelor of education program, with a particular focus in STEM fields. These conversations align with their institutional priorities and are an important way to help meet their objectives in this area.”

Though this is the final FDS planned for ASU, the universities have forged ongoing partnerships and new collaborations that will continue, says Kofi Owusu-Daaku, lead of the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program for the Vice Chancellor at KNUST. The interaction of KNUST’s new education faculty with those at MLFTC, he says, has the universities exploring the ongoing exchange of students and faculty, joint research projects, conferences, workshops and more. 

Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program Faculty Development Seminar participants

The fourth and final Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program Faculty Development Seminar brought faculty members from two Ghanaian universities to ASU.

Principled innovation

Kicking off the second day of the seminar dedicated to diversity and innovation in pedagogy, MLFTC Dean Carole Basile said educators must critically question what informs their learning and teaching.

“The idea that we can think about innovation as ‘principled innovation’ is very important for us as a college of education,” she says. “We define it as the ability to imagine new concepts, catalyze ideas and form new solutions guided by principles that create positive change for humanity.

“We all have to ask ourselves these questions. What’s informing the innovation? How are they considering context and culture? What are the moral and ethical implications of what they’re doing? And how are they navigating uncertainty? Because I guarantee you, anyone who is doing anything in higher education today is navigating uncertainty and isn’t doing it by themselves. They’re doing it in partnership and in teams,” says Basile.

University partnerships

Partnerships are key to solving grand, global challenges, says Sethuraman Panchanathan, ASU’s chief research and innovation officer, who spoke at the opening of the 2020 FDS. “We at ASU take a lot of pride and privilege in how we link with universities like us across the globe, who have aspirations to want to go way beyond what a typical university these days accomplishes.”

ASU is “committed to solving not only the problems of the immediate region, which is exceedingly important but committing to global development,” he says.

Locally, ASU students benefit from the experiences of students from KNUST and Ashesi. 

“Mastercard Foundation Scholars are improving the learning experience of other students here, and they’re also working on projects that impact our immediate community and beyond,” Taylor says. “Our program is designed to support scholars' entrepreneurship as they work to transform their communities.”

In Ghana, FDS participants share key learnings on pedagogy and leadership with their home institutions. 

That ripple effect is by design, says Tamara Webb, director of International Education in the MLFTC Center for Advanced Studies in Global Education and director for the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program at ASU. While Phase I of the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program at ASU focused exclusively on student scholarships, Phase II incorporates professional development opportunities for faculty in African contexts, focusing on collaborations that facilitate mutual learning and ongoing collaborative research with ASU faculty.

Next steps

In March, ASU faculty members will travel to Ghana for a two-and-a-half-day symposium.

“ASU faculty will work with counterparts at KNUST and Ashesi to co-facilitate selected sessions for local higher education faculty and leadership, focusing on pedagogy, leadership and scholars’ transitions after the program,” says Webb. More than 120 local faculty members have attended in recent years.

Through these events, the three partner universities are learning how to co-create programs and tackle transformative leadership in diverse partnerships. The FDS itself is a feat of both internal and external collaboration, says Webb. A four-member committee with leaders from ASU, KNUST, Ashesi, and Mastercard Florence Ellis, SIL Business Lead at KNUST; Diana Apostolides, now former program manager of the Mastercard Foundation; Owusu-Ansah; and Webb planned the seminar, topics and institutional goals. 

Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program FDS planning committee

A four-member committee with leaders from ASU, KNUST, Ashesi and Mastercard collaborated to plan the Faculty Development Seminar, its topics and institutional goals.

The FDS also included an inaugural event that gathered more than 50 selected ASU faculty and staff working on the African continent along with faculty and staff members from the visiting partner universities and the Mastercard Foundation. Initiated by Webb and supported by the ASU International Development Team, the Global Partnership Series is designed to identify new synergies and strategies to advance ASU’s work in the region.

“It’s forward-thinking, 2020 and beyond, what our collective engagement on the African continent looks like. It’s our time to showcase and strategize, reflect and plan,” Taylor says. “It’s happening while these partners are visiting because we value their role and how they can inform that big picture strategy.”