Fairfield University awarded nearly $300,000 from USAID through Higher Education for Development



Three-year grant will integrate service learning, technology and health education in SenegalSenegal

Fairfield University has been awarded $299,607 by United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through Higher Education for Development (HED) for a three-year grant that will integrate service learning, middle school health education and educational technology in Senegal for the Collège Universitaire Régional de Bambey (CUR-Bambey) faculty and students and local middle school teachers by leveraging new learning technologies as appropriate for the local environment for teaching health education topics.

Three Fairfield University professors share co-directorship of the grant named "The Use of Information and Computer Technology (ICT) and Service Learning to Develop Health Curricula": Winston Tellis, Ph.D., Stephen and Camille Schramm Chair in Information Systems and Operations Management and Vishnu Vinekar, Ph. D., assistant professor in Information Systems and Operations Management, who are faculty members in the Dolan School of Business; and Elizabeth Langran, Ph.D., assistant professor and director of the Educational Technology Program in the Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions.

Rev. Paul J. Fitzgerald, S.J., senior vice president for Academic Affairs at Fairfield, called the grant "an exciting opening for us," one more way in which the University is engaging with Africa. "Africa is one of the five priorities for the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) worldwide. This grant allows Fairfield professors to bring their expertise to the direct and indirect benefit of children, bettering their health care and building capacity among their teachers."

Service learning is a pedagogical approach that links academic study and community-based service so that each is strengthened and both are transformed.

In keeping with the Jesuit identity, this grant will enable the University to build on a sustained history of partnerships with international institutions of higher education in Nicaragua, Russia, Central Asia and several European countries.

The ICT project will leverage new learning technologies as appropriate for the local environment for teaching health education topics. Local middle school teachers will become familiar with the pedagogy of using technology to teach content. While the first content area to be taught with the technology will be health education, the pedagogy can be applied to other content areas as well.

 In January 2011, Professors Tellis, Vinekar and Langran will travel to Senegal to conduct a needs assessment, in partnership with CUR-Bambey. Together they will develop a curriculum after consultation with the advisory board of the pilot school in Dakar. The baseline data collected at this time will inform their decisions for the following years.

The partnership is designed to strengthen the capacity of CUR-Bambey's community service program to be self-sustaining by utilizing a "train-the-trainer" approach.

The project was inspired several years ago by then Fairfield undergraduate and Stags basketball player, Mamadou Diakhate, '08, whose senior project was a proposal to introduce computers into his boyhood school in Dakar, the capital city of Senegal.

The professors worked on a grant application to HED with an ultimate goal of training the local Senegalese faculty in Service Learning, Information Technology, and Health Education. "Given the fact that only one proposal would be funded under HED's request for application, we are thrilled to have been chosen," said Dr. Langran.

"It is a team effort, in which each one of us brings skills and experience that should raise the dignity of the people in the rural areas, along with a new awareness of issues that affect them directly," Dr. Tellis said. "Best of all, it is a model that will develop the local expertise, such that we will not be needed towards the end of the project, if we have done our job as planned."

"The environment in rural Senegal could be similar to the poor areas in Delhi where I have worked with children in the slums learning to use computers," said Dr. Vinekar.

The project will involve several trips to Senegal by the Fairfield faculty members. "We will leave behind a self-sustaining operation that will enhance the wireless network transmission, and education infrastructure in the rural areas," Dr. Tellis noted.

Photo caption: Left to right -  Vishnu Vinekar, Ph. D., assistant professor in Information Systems and Operations Management, Dolan School of Business, Elizabeth Langran, Ph.D., assistant professor and director of the Educational Technology Program in the Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions, Winston Tellis, Ph.D., Stephen and Camille Schramm Chair in Information Systems and Operations Management, Dolan School of Business.

Media Contact: Meg McCaffrey, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2726, mmccaffrey@fairfield.edu or Joan Grant, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2950, jgrant@fairfield.edu

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Posted on November 10, 2010

Vol. 43, No. 109