The final UMAPS colloquium and farewell reception were held on February 13. This event celebrated the 2019-2020 UMAPS scholars cohort, their U-M faculty collaborators and mentors, and the African Studies Center (ASC) at the University of Michigan (U-M). The 13 scholars who comprise the outgoing cohort now find themselves as members of the prestigious UMAPS alumni, which continues to grow each year. The UMAPS scholars were joined this year by Johannes Machinya, who has been a Mellon post-doctoral scholar at ASC during the 2019-20 academic year.
The growth of the UMAPS alumni network provides important benefits to the University of Michigan, as well as the many African universities to which the UMAPS alumni return. In addition to gaining from collaborating with faculty, staff, and students at U-M, the UMAPS cohort added tremendously to the university itself over the academic year. The cohort participated in and presented at the UMAPS research colloquium series, represented U-M and their universities at conferences in and outside of Michigan, and collaborated with U-M faculty to produce publishable work in leading academic journals. Through the UMAPS program, ASC has supported 162 UMAPS scholars since the program’s inception.
Aminu Dramani (Department of History and Political Studies at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana) joined the UMAPS program as part of the 2019-2020 cohort with the objective of completing his PhD dissertation. During his stay at Michigan, Dramani worked with Mike McGovern (Anthropology). Reflecting on his time at Michigan, Dramani noted that McGovern’s guidance dramatically improved his own scholarship. Beyond the mentorship from McGovern, Dramani mentioned the following as the three most important things he gained from his time at the University of Michigan: space, time, and resources.
U-M must never do away with the program. Just as we [current UMAPS] have benefited from it, it must stay for many others to benefit. The program has brought about transformation in terms of academic writing and even reading. Keep the UMAPS program so that many more people may get the same opportunities in the future, says Dramani.
The UMAPS program enables African scholars the opportunity to have the space to focus on their independent research, the time to pursue and hone their scholarship, and the resources and institutional support with which to do so during their time at U-M.
This sentiment was echoed by another UMAPS scholar, Darlington David, who is a senior lecturer in the Department of Mathematics, University of Liberia. He expressed appreciation at having faculty from various African universities with diverse academic backgrounds coming together as a group of scholars to collaborate with their Michigan mentors. David characterized his experience as a UMAPS scholar as ‘priceless’ and as ‘a dream realized for Africa at large.’ David recalled how his U-M faculty collaborator, Trachette Jackson (Mathematics), had high expectations of him right from when they met for the first time. It is this combination of access to resources and academic support, that enables UMAPS scholars to excel, and that contributes to the success of the UMAPS program.
These relationships allow scholars to transition from early, to mid-career scholars, according to Valentine Ucheagwu, who is a lecturer in the Department of Psychology at Chukwu Emeka Odumegwu University, Nigeria. At U-M, Ucheagwu worked with Bruno Giordani (Psychiatry, Medical School; and Psychology). He commented that his time at Michigan helped him to advance his ability to set up research structures and networks and to prepare applications for major external research grants. Following his time as a UMAPS scholar, Ucheagwu plans to set up a child psychology center in collaboration with his colleagues in Nigeria and at the University of Michigan.
Networking opportunities at U-M have proved to be another defining component of the program for UMAPS scholars. Wawa Nkosi, who is a lecturer in the Department of Economics at Stellenbosch University, South Africa, and worked with Jim Adams (Economics).
My mentor exposed me to the people who are connected to my research. Building connections with different and diverse scholars here, I have broadened my networks really deeply, Nkosi said.
These networks help build the infrastructure of long term academic success for these scholars.
Collaboration proves to be a cornerstone of the UMAPS experience, and U-M stands to benefit as much from this as the UMAPS scholars themselves. The vibrant cultural and social life of Ann Arbor allows the UMAPS scholars the opportunity to engage with its civic life events—thus contributing to the university's, and city’s community during their residence in Ann Arbor.
Just as they have benefitted from the UMAPS program, the new alumni hope that future cohorts will be afforded the same opportunities. Asked if he would encourage other African scholars to apply to the program, Darlington David stated,
Absolutely! Why wouldn't I? This program is unique and serves as an opportunity to collaborate with renowned faculty in your field of studies. You attend departmental workshops, seminars, and other training programs across campuses and this puts you ahead in your research work.