BOONE, N.C. — Appalachian State University and South Africa’s University of the Free State (UFS) will strengthen their existing partnership through a federally funded mountain-to-mountain grant project — one that will engage faculty, staff and graduate students at both institutions in teaching, research, mentorship, scholarship and more.
Key project activities and initiatives funded by the grant include the following:
- Developing two new master’s degree programs in mountain studies and community development.
- Developing a leadership mentoring program for young Black women academics.
- Conducting joint mountain-to-mountain research projects in the High Country and South Africa.
- Installing five weather stations in South Africa’s Maloti-Drakensberg Mountains.
The $500,000 grant project, funded through the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in South Africa, will take place over the next two academic years (2020–21 to 2021–22).
“I’m very excited about this project, as it will provide us the opportunity to connect faculty, staff and students in our Department of Geography and Planning and the Center for Appalachian Studies with their counterparts in South Africa,” said grantee Dr. Jesse Lutabingwa, associate vice chancellor for international education and development at App State.
Lutabingwa will co-direct the project with Dr. Grey Magaiza, head of the UFS Qwaqwa Campus’ Department of Community Development. Grant project collaborators at App State are co-grantee Dr. Kathleen Schroeder, professor in the Department of Geography and Planning, and Dr. Julie Shepherd-Powell, assistant professor in the Center for Appalachian Studies and director of App State’s Master of Arts in Appalachian studies program.
Lutabingwa said one of the key aspects of the grant project involves the installation of the meteorological weather stations, which will be used to monitor the climate of the Maloti-Drakensberg Mountains’ highly fragile environment. The mountains’ highest peak, Thabana Ntlenyana, rises more than 11,400 feet above sea level — or more than 4,700 feet above Mount Mitchell, the Appalachian Mountains’ highest point.
App State and UFS Qwaqwa Campus faculty will work together to establish a wireless sensor network that can collect, store and transmit data gained from the weather stations. Several graduate students at the UFS Qwaqwa Campus will also be involved in this work.
“The Center for Appalachian Studies at Appalachian State University has a long history of supporting community-based research within the Appalachian region, as well as internationally in places such as Wales and Austria,” Shepherd-Powell said. “We are excited at the potential for our graduate students in Appalachian studies to work and learn with graduate students at UFS, fostering a shared understanding of global mountain regions.”
Dr. Geofrey Mukwada, associate professor of geography and University Staff Doctoral Program (USDP) project leader at the UFS Qwaqwa Campus, described the grant project as “one of the best things to happen to UFS in years.”
“Building research and leadership capacity is what a 21st-century university needs, and it is the basis for our sustainable future as an institution of higher learning. Many thanks to the U.S. government for the grant and to our partners at App State for their invaluable support,” he said.
App State’s long-term relationship with UFS formerly began in 2009, with the signing of a partnership agreement.
More on the project’s goals
Lutabingwa offered further details regarding the following project goals:
- The development of a multidisciplinary master’s degree program in mountain studies to be offered at the UFS Qwaqwa Campus. Initially, at least seven–10 students will be enrolled in the program, with an expected enrollment of 15–20 students in subsequent years.
- The development of a master’s in community development degree program to be offered at the UFS Qwaqwa Campus, with an initial enrollment of at least 10–12 students. In subsequent years, 20–25 students are expected to enroll in the program.
- At least three joint mountain-to-mountain research projects are to be conducted in the Appalachian Mountains and South Africa’s Maloti-Drakensberg Mountains. This research, which will involve communities in the Maloti-Drakensberg Mountains, will focus on social entrepreneurship; substance abuse; transhumance — the seasonal migration of livestock and those who care for them from one pasture to another; and rural transport monitoring.
- Several senior-level women in academia at App State and the UFS Qwaqwa Campus will mentor at least 22 up-and-coming Black women academics at the UFS Qwaqwa Campus to develop their leadership and research capacity.
- At least 27 faculty and staff will participate in two-directional exchanges between App State and the UFS Qwaqwa Campus for the purpose of developing curriculum, teaching and conducting research.
- Faculty are expected to publish at least three to five research papers as a result of their participation in the project.
About the UFS Qwaqwa Campus
Before being fully incorporated as a UFS campus in 2003, the Qwaqwa Campus — one of two UFS campuses — was a satellite campus of the former University of the North (now known as University of Limpopo). The campus is located in the town of Phuthaditjhaba in Africa’s Eastern Free State.
Currently, UFS has more than 41,920 students, 6,800 of which are enrolled at the Qwaqwa Campus. The university offers certificates, diplomas, and undergraduate and graduate degrees to students in various academic fields.
The Qwaqwa Campus is home to the Afromontane Research Unit, one of only three focused mountain research groups in Africa, as well as the Sustainable Rural Learning Ecologies group in the Faculty of Education. The campus’s research agenda focuses on identifying the best possible strategies for creating jobs in impoverished rural mountainous areas and understanding how best to stimulate economic growth in those contexts. Learn more
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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 the Department of Geography and Planning
The Department of Geography and Planning promotes the understanding of the spatial dimensions of human behavior within the physical and cultural systems of the earth, and the role of planning in achieving improvement in those systems. The department offers degrees in geography and in community and regional planning. Learn more at https://geo.appstate.edu.
About the Center for Appalachian Studies
The Center for Appalachian Studies promotes public programs, community collaboration, civic engagement and scholarship on the Appalachian region. The center is committed to building healthy communities and deepening knowledge of Appalachia’s past, present and future through community-based research and engagement. Learn more at https://appcenter.appstate.edu.
About the College of Arts and Sciences
The College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) at Appalachian State University is home to 17 academic departments, two centers and one residential college. These units span the humanities and the social, mathematical and natural sciences. CAS aims to develop a distinctive identity built upon our university's strengths, traditions and unique location. The college’s values lie not only in service to the university and local community, but through inspiring, training, educating and sustaining the development of its students as global citizens. More than 6,400 student majors are enrolled in the college. As the college is also largely responsible for implementing App State’s general education curriculum, it is heavily involved in the education of all students at the university, including those pursuing majors in other colleges. Learn more at https://cas.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.