The African Alumni Project is a collaborative initiative of six renowned educational institutions that believe more can be done to engage and connect African Alumni of international universities. These six partners have joined forces to learn about the career and life trajectories of their African Alumni.
The idea for the African Alumni Project evolved as a result of participation in The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program, and the subsequent on-going research study: Career and Life Trajectories of African Alumni of International Universities. The goal of the study is to understand the influence of international education on the careers of university alumni from the African continent as well as post-graduation connections with their countries of origin.
Participating universities are keen to reconnect and re-engage with their African Alumni, and to that end a team of researchers recently traveled to Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and South Africa to interview University of California – Berkeley (UCB) and Michigan State University (MSU) graduates.
Dr. Robin Marsh (UCB), Dr. Amy Jamison (MSU), and Sidee Dlamini (UCB and MasterCard Foundation Scholar) interviewed a total of 38 alumni, graduating from 1960 through 2013. These 38 former students are leaders in industry, academia, applied research, the not-for-profit sector and philanthropic foundations. They span a wide range of disciplines including public health, social welfare, environmental design, law, civil engineering, business and economics.
Like our MasterCard Foundation Scholars, the majority of the alumni interviewed came from humble backgrounds, were academically strong, and received scholarship support. These former UCB or MSU students were determined to return to their home countries convinced that their education would allow them to have greater impact. And while family obligations or scholarship commitments may have impacted the timing of return for some students, all felt certain that their degrees and knowledge would be far more useful in their home countries than in the U.S.
Prime Minister Ruhukana Rugunda of Uganda, is an alum from Berkeley, and was interviewed by phone. He stated: “I do believe that most Ugandans [who study outside the country] want to come back home. At least that was my desire then, and I know it to be the desire of very many people. The [MasterCard Foundation Scholars] Program supports the best and most talented young men and women, so that they can come back and help us accelerate the development of Uganda … that’s the way to build a meaningful and better future, for our people, and for our country.”
Nearly all of the alumni volunteered to mentor the MasterCard Foundation Scholars, and several offered internship opportunities. They also provided advice for our Scholars on how to overcome the adjustment obstacles they face, make the most of their education and exposure to new ideas and people, and help them to prepare for a successful return. Sidee Dlamini summarized the advice: “The international degree has allowed the alumni to think differently and learn different approaches to solving problems. Their exposure to people from around the world has made it simpler to relate to, and work with, different individuals in the global context.”
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