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University of Missouri Celebrates 20th Anniversary of Exchange with University of Western Cape in South Africa

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John Fougere

Chief Communications Officer

University Relations

Aug 24, 2006

Contact: Jennifer Hollingshead

Office: (573) 882-0601

E-mail: hollingsheadj@umsystem.edu

University of Missouri President Elson S. Floyd will lead an official delegation to Western Cape, South Africa this week as part of a celebration of the 20th anniversary of a historic academic and research exchange between the University of Missouri and the University of the Western Cape.

The official delegation also will include UM Board of Curators President Angela M. Bennett and Rodney Uphoff, Director of the South Africa Education Program and a member of the UM-Columbia Law School faculty. The delegation will meet with Western Cape and South African leaders, including Western Cape Premier Mr. Ebrahim Rasool and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The celebration coincides with the 10th annual International Education Association of South Africa conference, in which several University of Missouri representatives will participate. 

The historic academic exchange agreement between the two universities was signed in 1986 during the restrictive South African Apartheid and has the proud distinction of being the first ever such agreement between a U.S. university and a historically black South African university.

“The University of Missouri is privileged to continue to build on this strong foundation,” President Floyd said. “Working with the University of the Western Cape, we have achieved a unique and productive relationship that is the truly the envy of the higher education world.”

Last year, a collaborative research effort between the University of Missouri and the University of the Western Cape resulted in a $4.4 million grant from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicines, a division of the National Institutes of Health, to investigate African indigenous herbal medicines. In seeking the research grant, the UM/UWC team competed against some of the best medical research groups in the world, including Harvard, Johns Hopkins and Columbia University.   

Since its inception, the exchange program has sponsored more than 361 exchange visits, representing more than 40 academic disciplines. Such faculty exchanges support the program’s goals of creating mutual understanding between the institutions and fostering cooperation in teaching, research and service.

The exchange program attained national recognition when it was selected as one of five model projects in black South African education by the Institute for International Education in New York. In addition, the United States Information Agency recognized the UM/UWC relationship as a “model” international academic linkage. University of Missouri faculty members and students who have participated in the program have been given a rare inside view of a South African university and a country in transition. UWC faculty members in turn have benefited by learning about governance, which helped lead to the establishment of an International Relations Committee by the UWC Faculty Senate.

“UWC has made considerable intellectual strides as exchange after exchange has deepened its immersion into the world of international knowledge creation and helped to keep the academic project at UWC alive, even during its times of greatest political challenge,” UWC Rector Brian O’Connell said. “Missouri has much to do with UWC reminding itself constantly that its fundamental purpose is knowledge production and its dissemination, and UM can rightfully claim that through its support to UWC it has made, and continues to make, a significant contribution to the welfare of our country and sub-Saharan Africa.”

In 1996, the University of Missouri South African Education Program was expanded to support collaborative projects between the University of Missouri and a broad range of South African partners, including historically disadvantaged educational institutions, government agencies, and non-government organizations. Projects carried out under this program have included: research on training teachers in writing, language and media literacy; the role of sports in the lives of political prisoners on Robben Island; women painters as guardians of Ndebele culture; statistics; structural health monitoring; community development; wildlife management and conservation; and science education. The University of the Western Cape remains the University of Missouri’s primary partner in South Africa.

“I am confident that the next 20 years will bring even more collaboration and partnership between the two institutions for the benefit of all those we serve,” President Floyd said. “We look forward to working with the University of the Western Cape and South Africa to build a better future.”

For further information about the University of Missouri South African Education program, its anniversary or the IESAS Conference, please visit the following Web address: http://www.umsystem.edu/ums/departments/aa/southafrica/.