Ann Arbor, Mich. (January 31, 2023 ) – The African Studies Center (ASC) welcomes eleven early and mid-career faculty from universities in Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, and Uganda.

Established in 2009,  U-M African Presidential Scholars (UMAPS) has been the University of Michigan’s flagship program for engagement with colleges and universities on the African continent. ASC has since hosted 216 scholars to date representing a wide range of disciplines.

The highly competitive program attracts applications from scholars in all disciplines working at universities and colleges across the African continent. In addition, UMAPS fellows are integrated with the ASC and U-M community, including the home departments of their U-M collaborators.

Meseret Azene lectures at the Center for Food Science and Nutrition, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia. She received her BSc in pharmacology and MSc in food science, both from Addis Ababa University, where she is currently pursuing her PhD. Her research interests focus mainly on the nexus between nutrition and infection/non-communicable diseases. While at Michigan, she will work with Joseph Eisenberg (School of Public Health) on a project titled “Epidemiology of diarrhea among children of 6-59 months in community and hospital settings in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.”

Marissa Pahaladh is a lecturer in pharmacology at the University of Pretoria, South Africa, and holds a PhD in pharmaceutical chemistry from the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa. Her doctoral research focused on silico-molecular modeling and drug design on the Ebola virus, and her interest is in cancer metastasis. At Michigan, Marissa will work on a project titled “Molecular mediators of cancer metastasis,” with Max Wicha (Medical School) as her U-M host.

Eyerusaleam Kassahun is a lecturer in the School of Theatre Arts at Addis Ababa University,  Ethiopia, from where she also holds an MA degree. She has written and produced short, and feature-length films and stage plays. Her academic interests include decentralizing the diverse spectrum of Ethiopian cinema and theater, focusing on issues stemming from Ethiopia’s relationship with black people in Africa and the diaspora. At U-M, she will work with Frieda Ekotto (Afroamerican and African Studies, LSA) on the “Re-Theorizing Colonialism through Ethiopian Theatre” project.

Grace Njoki Maina is a tutorial fellow at KCA University, Kenya. She earned her Bachelor of Education and MA in history from Kenyatta University, Kenya and is currently pursuing her PhD at Makerere University, Uganda. She has worked in various research settings within universities and the NGO sphere. At U-M, she will work with David Temin (Political Science, LSA) on a project titled “Women in traditional governance of Kenya: Agikuyu women ‘Ndundu cia Aaka.”

Jean Pierre Ngendahayo is an assistant lecturer in applied mathematics at the University of Rwanda. He holds MA and BA degrees in mathematics and statistics from the same university, where he is also currently pursuing a PhD. His research centers around mathematical modeling and scientific computing in the areas of epidemiological modeling and so-called “inverse problems.” At U-M, he will work on a project titled “The Solution of Two Dimensional Transient Inverse Heat Conduction Problem,” with U-M host  Divakar Viswanath (Mathematics, LSA).

James Orwa is a  senior instructor of biostatistics at Aga Khan University, Kenya. He received his MSc in biostatistics from Hasselt University, Belgium, and is currently enrolled in a PhD program in public health at Ghent University, Belgium. While at U-M, he will work with Akbar Waljee (Medical School) on a project relating to artificial intelligence/machine learning approaches for the identification of predictors of maternal, neonatal, and child health risks.

Jude Okoye is a lecturer in the Department of Medical Laboratory Science at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Nigeria. He recently completed his PhD dissertation at the same institution, focussing on the oncogenes and tumor-suppressor genes in the human papillomavirus, Epstein-Barr virus, and Herpes simplex virus type 2 among female sex workers. He is a recipient of the 2021 Merck Foundation “Best Young African Researcher Award” and the 2022 American Association for Cancer Research “Global Scholar-in-Training Award.” At U-M, he will work with Yatrik Shah (Medical School) on a project titled “Gut microbiome and colon cancer,” evaluating the clinical and therapeutic implications of race-linked genomic and gut microbiome variations and interactions of metastatic colon cancer. 

Daniel Ramotsoela is a senior lecturer in the Department of Electrical Engineering at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. He holds a PhD in computer engineering from the  University of Pretoria, South Africa. His research interests include system security and machine learning, focusing on Internet of Things applications and cyber-physical systems. His research project at U-M, titled “A Framework for Intrusion Detection in Industrial Control Systems,” will focus on the development of a framework for host-based intrusion detection in industrial control systems. His U-M host is Todd Austin (College of Engineering).

Tshepiso Scott is a lecturer at the Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, South Africa. She holds an LLB and LLM from the University of Pretoria and an LLD from the University of South Africa. Her research interests center on consumer protection law and company law. During her time in the UMAPS program, she will work on a project titled “Improving consumer access to redress in South Africa” and will be hosted by Kyle Logue (Law School).

Tesfaye Wondyifraw is a senior lecturer in the Department of History and Heritage Management at Debre Markos University, Ethiopia. He holds an MA degree in archeology from Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia. At Michigan, he will work with Brian Stewart (Anthropology, LSA) on a project titled “An Archaeological Study of Buahit Serit: A Newly Discovered Rock Art Site in East Gojjam, Northwestern Ethiopia.” The project will explore and evaluate this site and work toward the conservation of this endangered cultural repository.

Bosena Yirga is a lecturer in the Department of Urban Sociology at Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia. She also completed a BA in sociology and an MA in social anthropology from Addis Ababa University, and is currently pursuing her PhD in urban and regional development at the same institution. Her research interests include green infrastructure planning and management, urban poverty, governance approaches, and forest management. At Michigan, she will work on a project titled “Governance approaches for green infrastructure planning and management in selected Ethiopian urban areas”  with U-M host Larissa Larsen (School of Urban and Regional Planning).

The U-M Office of the President provides funding for the UMAPS program, as well as the Office of the Provost, the South African Initiatives Office in the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies, and private donors. To learn more about UMAPS, visit


Contact: Omolade Adunbi ( and Teyei Pam (

The African Studies Center (ASC) at the University of Michigan provides strategic guidance and coordination for Africa-related education, research, and training activities on campus and promotes opportunities for collaboration with African partners on the continent. ASC is a member of the International Institute.