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Expanding the knowledge economy

ASU, Ghanaian university join forces to educate growing skilled workforce.
MasterCard Foundation, ASU, KNUST to educate Ghanaians for knowledge economy.
March 29, 2016

ASU, MasterCard Foundation join forces with Ghanaian university to train leaders of rapidly growing West African nation

Arizona State University is partnering with a premier university in Ghana to equip the next generation of business and engineering leaders to solve problems and help guide the West African nation’s future, funded by a $22 million grant from the MasterCard Foundation.

The new program, Strengthening Institutional Linkages, will team ASU with Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana, to award 150 master’s degrees.

The trans-Atlantic collaboration aims to produce advanced-degree graduates in fields that are vital to the growing economy in Ghana, the world’s leading source of cocoa and a major producer of oil, gas, gold and diamonds.

Starting in January 2017, the partnership will also bring 42 faculty members from Kwame Nkrumah to ASU to help support MasterCard Foundation Scholars. The relationship will also create opportunities for broader student and faculty exchange and joint research.

“We are committed to educating master learners who will not just fill jobs in the workforce of the future but lead it, in Arizona and around the world,” said Dr. Michael M. Crow, ASU president. “The partnership with KNUST strengthens our global reach, grows our capacity to deliver quality higher education and creates enormous possibilities for both universities as we learn from each other.”

Degrees will initially be focused on mechanical engineering, biomedical engineering, global logistics and supply chain management, helping address skills gaps in Ghana as its economy grows.

“We are hoping for joint proposals, research development and exchange of students and faculty, as well as joint publications,” said William Otoo Ellis, vice chancellor of KNUST, in a Skype interview this week. “It will enrich both institutions.”

Over the six years of the grant, starting in fall 2017, Ghanaian students at KNUST will apply to the program during their junior year. ASU will select 150 to complete their fourth year of undergraduate work at ASU and then spend a year in an accelerated master’s program.

The undergraduate degrees will be conferred by KNUST, and the master’s degrees will be from ASU.

Some graduates will become faculty members, Ellis said, while others will go into industry, particularly the energy sector.

“Science and technology are the drivers of economies,” he said, “in every country.”

Local industries need more skilled workers, particularly in mechanical engineering and business procurement, he added.

When the Olam cocoa-processing factory in Kumasi, Ghana, began operations seven years ago, 90 percent of the workers had to be recruited from elsewhere, said Joseph Darko, logistics manager.

“Sustainability is very important to us,” Darko said, “and we don’t want to be bringing in people from abroad.”

ASU’s prior connections to KNUST include the work of Gabriel Takyi, a senior lecturer and director of the energy center at KNUST, who spent time at ASU’s Polytechnic campus working on development of a photovoltaic reliability lab in Ghana.

In the new ASU-KNUST partnership, the MasterCard Foundation is contributing nearly $22 million toward costs that include tuition, travel and technology.

The graduate program marks an expansion of ASU’s global connections with support from the MasterCard Foundation. ASU already supports 120 undergraduate students from Africa through the existing MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program. An important element of the scholarship is its emphasis on giving back. Recipients engage in leadership development programming and community service throughout their academic journey as they prepare to contribute to their home country and communities upon graduation.

Students in the ASU-KNUST accelerated degree program will also have the opportunity to do a year of service back at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, according to Aryn Baxter, program director for the MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program at ASU.

“It’s designed around cultivating leadership skills,” Baxter said, “and encouraging each individual to develop a vision for how they want to give back.”

While current MasterCard Foundation Scholars come from 20 African countries, the new initiative will focus on Ghana, where there is an existing pipeline of qualified students and an economy that’s ready for highly skilled graduates.

“There are economic opportunities in these fields,” Baxter said, “and we see a potential for the graduates to really make an impact.”

Ghana, with a population of 27 million and a democratic political system, has one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies because it is politically stable and has an abundance of natural resources. The country expects to see a shift from agricultural employment to services and industry, and spends about a quarter of its gross domestic product on primary and secondary education. However, there is a gap in higher education, and the country needs more people with advanced degrees.

"Higher-education institutions in Africa are positioned to make significant contributions to the communities they serve and will benefit from new kinds of partnerships with international universities,” said Peter Materu, director of Education and Learning at the MasterCard Foundation. “As demand for access to tertiary education continues to grow across the African continent, ASU’s experience delivering access and excellence at scale creates an exciting opportunity for collaboration and learning.”

The Strengthening Institutional Linkages program will be housed in the Center for Advanced Studies in Global Education in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at ASU. The three principal investigators of the project are Baxter; Ajay Vinze, professor in the W. P. Carey School of Business; and Jacqueline Smith, assistant vice president and executive director of university initiatives.

Above photo by Madit Yel, MasterCard Foundation Scholars

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March 29, 2016

ASU, MET Professional Academy team up to show Peoria 8th-graders what it's like to pursue a career in science

It’s a great big world of science out there. And picking your own path is just part of the fun, a group of middle school girls learned recently at Arizona State University.

“Make sure that you’re always open to all kinds of things,” Arizona State University biogeochemist and oceanographer Hilairy Hartnett told the eighth-graders from the Peoria Unified School District. “You never know what might be more exciting than you think.

“So if you have a chance to take a class you never thought of, if you get a chance to do a weekend field trip in some topic you never thought about, go for it. You never know how it’s all going to fit together.”

The dozens of students — with their school district’s Medical, Engineering and Technology (MET) Professional Academy — were visiting ASU’s School of Earth and Space ExplorationThe School of Earth and Space Exploration is an academic unit of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. as part of an effort to get more girls interested in STEM fields, just in time for Women’s History Month.

“We are sponsoring this trip ... to create a pipeline for eighth-grade students who have expressed an interest in science, engineering, technology or math, to give them exposure and get them excited and empowered,” said Adriana Parsons, MET Professional Academy director.

The goal of that program is to prepare students for careers in high-demand industries.

Hartnett, who runs the CaNDy (Carbon and Nitrogen Dynamics) Lab at ASU, talked to the girls about her experience in the science field, the type of research done at the lab and encouraged the students to seize opportunities when they present themselves. The students then toured her lab.

“These days there is a lot of different ways to do science,” said Hartnett, an associate professor. “Some of it is very specific. You can do chemistry or biology or engineering. Or you can be a more general scientist if get a degree in an interdisciplinary field.”

Later in a classroom, seven ASU undergraduate and graduate students — all women — shared with the girls what they study at SESE, from astrobiology and stars, to life on Mars. Each table of students was given a task: Out of eight areas of research, pick one and discuss how many scientists it would take to study this field.

It was then that a room full of girls who didn't know each other, from different schools within the Peoria Unified School District, began to brainstorm. A quiet room with hushed voices turned loud, with engaging conversations, head nodding, agreement and laughter. Each table had one of the seven ASU students asking thought-provoking questions of the girls.

“One of the main goals of the MET Professional Academy is to increase female participation,” Parsons said.

Nya Udengwu, an eighth-grader from Kachina Elementary School, became interested in technology, engineering and math from a prior visit to ASU. She envisions the world much different than past generations, when few women were employed in these fields.

“For me personally, I’m motivated and I know I can do it,” she said. “But in some places where people aren’t getting the motivation that they need, it’s kind of hard for them to push forward. They don’t have that help.”

During this visit, Udengwu wanted to see what ASU had to offer, and Hartnett summed it up perfectly: Because ASU is such a big university, it is a great place to not know what you want to do. It’s an opportunity to explore and find out what you like.

Parsons hoped the students felt empowered — especially during a time when “like a girl” can still have a negative connotation and women are still breaking down many barriers. So what do students tell people who doubt their intelligence and ability because you’re a girl pursuing a career in STEM?

As eighth-grader Lydia Barkel from Vistancia Elementary School said, “Bring it on!”