Monday, May 02, 2011

UIS partners with African university to provide students with hands-on learning opportunity

The University of Illinois Springfield is forming a long-term study abroad partnership with the University of The Gambia in Africa (UTG) to collaborate on environmental health issues facing The Gambia and the United States.

As part of the collaboration, students in the Public Health, Global Studies, and Teacher Education programs at UIS will visit local clinics in The Gambia to learn how officials carry out health education, immunization, and other public health services. In addition, the students will meet with Gambian scholars, students, government ministers, and representatives of non-governmental organizations, who are interested in discussing perspectives on "global issues."

“We hope this is an opportunity for UIS students to learn how Gambians understand international issues, and how those perspectives differ from American perspectives,” said Josiah Alamu, assistant professor of Public Health at UIS.

The first study abroad group, made up of 20 students, faculty and staff is expected to leave UIS on May 18 and return on June 24. The UTG Public Health Department will match UIS students with local health organizations or academic departments, which best fit their interests. This will provide students with the opportunity to study in the field.

“The relationship with the Public Health Department in The Gambia will fill a gap and allow UIS to establish a link with a university in west Africa,” said Alamu. UIS already has similar partnerships with 33 universities in 13 countries world-wide; however this is the first partnership in Africa.

A UIS partnership with an institution in Africa is very important for several reasons. It provides opportunities for public health students to understand the global public health issues and social determinants of health in a developing country; students from global studies will have the opportunity to meet with scholars and other students from a developing country to discuss perspectives in international relations, economics, policy, business, and governance; students in the teacher education program will observe classes and teach in a developing country; and faculty will develop research and teaching activities in a developing country. In addition, central Illinois and the U.S. will benefit from the pool of professionals who will receive their training from The Gambia.

The consequences of globalization on public health have prompted various national and international organizations to call for help in building global capacity and collaborating through partnerships, such as the one between UIS and UTG.

“By strengthening partnerships we can better understand, investigate, control, and prevent environmental health problems in developing countries,” said Alamu.

The study aboard program is open to all students who are enrolled in a graduate or undergraduate program at the UIS. However, priority will be given to students from the Public Health, Global Studies, and Teachers' Education programs. At the end of the internship students will be required to write a research paper on a health topic or policy related to the country. Students will later make a presentation to the UIS community about their activities.

For more information on the partnership, contact Josiah Alamu at 217/206- 8485 or email To apply for the trip, visit the UIS Office of International Programs website at

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