BOONE, N.C. — A shared passion for national parks and wildlife forged a relationship between Appalachian State University alumna Amy Renfranz ’07 and Dr. Suleiman Makore — a 2018 Mandela Washington Fellowship Alumnus. Now the two are developing a program to connect students in North Carolina to students in Zimbabwe to increase participation in the conservation and protection of wildlife.
Makore and Renfranz, who earned a B.A. in English from Appalachian, are two of several peer collaborators who have maintained a partnership following a Leadership Institute and are now working together on programs to create a positive impact in African communities.
Makore, a member of Wildlife and Environment Zimbabwe, visited Grandfather Mountain in Linville with his Mandela Washington Fellowship cohort while at Appalachian in 2018. There he connected with Renfranz, who is the director of education and natural resource management for the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation. They later met for a full day of hiking and exploration.
“We talked for hours about parks in the U.S. and in Zimbabwe, and about wildlife and park management,” Renfranz shared. “I learned there are a lot of similarities but also major differences in the way wildlands are managed (in the two countries) and in perspectives on wildlife and human interaction.”
Makore, whose organization provides public education on the importance of protecting wildlife and the environment, said he believes people are more likely to value what they understand and strives to increase participation in conservation societies.
Renfranz serves as president of the Environmental Educators of North Carolina (EENC), and as a representative of the organization has been awarded a grant to travel to Zimbabwe in May. There she will work with Makore on The Nature Network, an initiative to help students in the two countries share ideas, experiences and knowledge. While in Africa, Renfranz will meet with educators and naturalists to develop corresponding, curriculum-based lesson plans.
The goal of the program is to enable students to gain an understanding of the natural history of their region by using scientific tools such as weather stations, wildlife camera traps and guided observation, so they can then engage with and teach others in their partnering country.
“Through The Nature Network we hope to inspire children to grow up with an awareness of the beautiful nature around them and think about the bigger picture by interacting with one another,” Makore said.
The Mandela Washington Fellowship is a program of the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. government and administered by IREX. Appalachian is a sub-grantee of IREX and through its Office of International Education and Development has implemented U.S.-based Leadership Institutes as a part of the Fellowship since 2016. For more information about the Mandela Washington Fellowship, visit the Fellowship’s website at www.mandelawashingtonfellowship.org.
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About the Office of International Education and Development
The OIED is responsible for spearheading the internationalization efforts at Appalachian. The internationalization mission of Appalachian is to develop awareness, knowledge, appreciation and respect of cultural differences in both domestic and international contexts in its students, faculty, staff and the surrounding communities. The university is also dedicated to creating a campus environment that builds the theoretical and practical skills needed to interact effectively in a global society. Learn more at https://international.appstate.edu.
About Appalachian State University
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the Southeast, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls nearly 21,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.