SENCER E-Newsletter, February 2007, Volume 6, Issue 5
SENCER Abroad: SENCER Co-PI Visits Senior Associate and Alumni at the University of Johannesburg
While January is a time for the beginning of the second semester for faculty and students in the United States, in South Africa it's the beginning of an entirely new academic year. Students were moving into dorms and faculty members were preparing for the first day of class when Karen Kashmanian Oates, SENCER Co-PI, took time during a personal trip to Africa to visit the University of Johannesburg. There, she met with the universities academic deans and past SENCER Summer Institute faculty attendees interested in pursuing a university wide SENCER initiative.
Dr. Debra Meyer, SENCER Senior Associate, and Karen Oates met with the Science Dean, Dr. I.C. Burger, to help plan the next steps for the introduction of SENCER courses, especially those involving HIV, into the science and non-science curriculum. The courses will especially focus on HIV/AIDS, a topic of great concern to students and faculty given the devastating levels of infection in South Africa. Studies conducted in 2005 estimate that 10.8% of the population of South Africa was infected with HIV/AIDS at that time, compared to a current 0.6% prevalence of infection in the United States. In her article in the first issue of Science Education and Civic Engagement: An International Journal, Debra discusses the impact of HIV/AIDS on the education system of Africa, as well as the importance of a strong education system in fighting the spread of the disease.
In addition to the meeting with the Science Dean, Debra and Karen held a strategy session with SSI 2005 alumni Nadine Petersen, a lecturer in the department of higher and adult education, and Vanessa Merkel of the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Assessment. As a result of these sessions, Nadine Petersen will help plan the approach to initiate a strong emphasis on connecting with the teacher education programs at the University of Johannesburg, as well as the student practicum and service learning initiatives which are open to all university students. With the help of Vanessa Merkel, who works in professional development, the formation of an academic staff development program for all university faculty, as resources become available, was suggested. The team at the University of Johannesburg is well-positioned to implement the planned reforms, and hopes to garner more support, from both their institution and outside organizations, to bolster their efforts.