Dominican faculty visit Africa

Anthony Ochiabutor, adjunct faculty in the School of Professional and Continuing Studies’ Master of Arts in Conflict Resolution program, accompanied a group of Dominican faculty on a site visit to Africa in December to explore opportunities for engaging Dominican students in educational and internship programs in Kenya and Tanzania. Accompanied by representatives from Global Alliance for Africa (GAA), a Chicago-based nonprofit organization, the group included Al Rosenbloom, associate professor of marketing and international business; Joyce Shim, assistant professor, Graduate School of Social Work; Kathleen Odell, associate professor of economics; Felice Maciejewski, university librarian; and Jessica Mackinnon, director of public information.

The 10-day program started in Nairobi, Kenya, where the group visited a safe house operated by Heshima Kenya, another Chicago-based nonprofit organization dedicated to providing shelter, education, trauma counseling and job training for refugee girls from Sudan, Ethiopia, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. By learning and working together, the girls from different national, ethnic and religious backgrounds are developing tools for resolving entrenched conflict and stereotypes. The group also visited Kibera, the largest slum in Kenya, where they met entrepreneurs who have received microloans from GAA, and checked out the library that GAA has built in the community.

In Lwak, the group visited St. Elizabeth Mission Health Centre, a medical clinic founded by the Franciscan Sisters of St. Anne of the Netherlands, and had a chance to see the library that has been funded by GAA.

An art therapy program operated by GAA in Naivasha was of particular interest for the Master of Conflict Resolution program because it served as a community center in the aftermath of the 2007 presidential election during which ethnic violence erupted between people from the Kikuyu and Luo tribes, two of the largest ethnic groups in Kenya. In the first few months of 2008, more than 300,000 people were displaced from their homes and 1,200 people were killed.  Naivasha experienced the repercussions of this conflict and GAA’s art therapy program provided a means for healing some of the wounds.

Anthony met with representatives from two universities to discuss possible areas of collaborations. Those opportunities are very promising for student internships and faculty exchanges.

At Hekima Institute of Peace Studies and International Relations in Nairobi, Anthony met with Dr. Elias Omondi Opongo, the director of the Institute, and two of his associates, Dr. Nalugala Reginald Maudlin and Kifie Wansamo, the vice rector. Hekima offers master’s degrees in peace studies and international relations as well as certificate programs in conflict analysis, conflict resolution, transitional justice, human rights and Catholic Social Teaching. Their discussions centered on areas of possible collaboration with Dominican’s Master of Conflict Resolution program. The Hekima representatives showed interest in student and faculty exchanges, internship or practicum possibilities, and online course exchanges.

At Tangaza University in Nairobi, Anthony met with Brother Jonas Dzinekou and Mapopa Oscar Mphande, dean and provost of the university. They both showed interest in working with Dominican University in areas of mutual benefit. The Catholic university offers undergraduate and master’s degrees through the School of Theology and the Institute of Social Ministry, among other centers.

While this visit was primarily explorative in nature, Anthony returned to Dominican with great enthusiasm for partnership opportunities in Africa. He will be meeting with the administration of the School of Professional and Continuing Studies this semester to discuss how he can share with students some of the rich experiences he had in Africa. He looks forward to opening communications with the universities he visited and enhancing the Master of Arts in Conflict Resolution program by working with colleagues in Africa wh have had first-hand experience with conflict resolution and from whom our students and faculty could learn much. Reciprocally, there are numerous ways that Dominican University could provide professional development opportunities for university faculty in Africa.