Three UMAPS alumni from Makerere University, Uganda participated in the annual meeting of the African Studies Association (ASA) on November 29--December 1, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia: Andrew Ellias State, 2011-12 cohort and dean of the School of Social Sciences; Eve Nabulya 2012-13 cohort and lecturer in literature; and Pamela Khanakwa, 2017-18 cohort and lecturer in history. Eve Nabulya, who started a PhD program at Stellenbosch after her time as a UMAPS scholar and received her PhD last year, attended the ASA meeting as a fellow of the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Her presentation focused on eco-communitarianism in East African literature. Andrew State’s presentation addressed state interventions and rural livelihoods in Uganda, while Pamela Khanakwa participated in a roundtable on the work of innovative historian of African history Luise White.
The conference also featured a roundtable panel on “STEM Education and Research Amplified through University, Government and Community Cross-disciplinary Alliances,” discussing the role of programs such as the U-M African Presidential Scholars (UMAPS) can play in faculty development, and the relation between STEM and other disciplines both within the UMAPS program and within Higher Education in Africa more broadly. The panel was co-convened by Oveta Fuller, associate professor of microbiology at the University of Michigan, and Barnabas Nawangwe, vice chancellor of Makerere University, with additional panelists Andries Coetzee, ASC director, and Uphie Chinje Melo, president of the University of Ngaoundéré, Cameroon, whose remarks were presented in absentia.
Vice Chancellor Nawangwe opened the discussion by reminding the audience of the detrimental effects of World Bank policies on the Higher Education sector in Uganda and Africa more generally by shifting funding away from the sector towards primary education. The effects of this de-funding of the tertiary sector still linger and are manifested as very high student to faculty ratios and difficulty realizing capacity building for faculty. Audience contributions were an important component of the roundtable discussion, which was well attended by audience members interested in the UMAPS program, the research goals of Makerere University, as well as Higher Education generally, and STEM education in particular. Main areas of discussion were the differential impact of previous World Bank policies on different disciplines, with some arguing that persisting low enrollments in the STEM disciplines versus the humanities and social sciences makes the problems especially urgent for STEM, whereas others posited that the lower STEM enrollments are precisely what has shielded STEM disciplines from the most pressing problems of higher education in Africa. Ending on a conciliatory tone, the roundtable stressed the mutual relevance of STEM and humanities/social sciences, and pointed to the success of the UMAPS program as open to and attracting Africa-based faculty from all disciplines.