The U-M African Presidential Scholars Program held its Research Symposium for the fall semester in the Rackham Assembly Hall Monday. The program was established in 2008 following former University President Mary Sue Coleman’s visit to Ghana.

Each semester, UMAPS invites selected early-career faculty members from institutions in Ghana, Liberia, South Africa and Uganda to the University to conduct post-doctoral research for up to six months. During their visits, scholars study topics ranging from breast cancer detection to literary depictions of poverty, all under the mentorship of University faculty members.

The scholars are placed in the African Studies Center and various departments depending on their discipline and research topic.

“We started this research symposium as a way for the University community to learn more about the research that was being done by these excellent scholars,” said Devon Keen, program manager at the African Studies Center.

She said the program aims to foster a better understanding of global issues through the African perspective.

“There’s someone from the Law School who did tax law and we had a visiting faculty person who worked on international tax from the South African perspective,” Keen said. “And as a result of their collaboration, in his next publication the University faculty member included a chapter in his publication about South African tax law. He had been writing about international tax law for a while but never thought of it from an African perspective.”

Keen said the collaboration between the University and various African universities fosters cultural exchange.

“In this way the program benefits the visiting faculty and benefits our faculty and students who get a chance to learn from, meet, and expand their networks in research agendas,” she said. “It’s a big way to internationalize the University. One of the big goals of the University is internationalization.”

UMAPS scholar Nicole DeWet, an associate lecturer at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa, presented her research on “The Determinants of Youth Health Outcomes in South Africa” and focused specifically on the relationship between secondary education and the prevalence of AIDS among youth.

DeWet said she hopes her research helps further the existing treatment for AIDS in South Africa.

“In the long run, I want it to just build on existing knowledge about AIDS,” she said. “The time that we’ve been given here to build on this existing knowledge is so important. In terms of the long-term impact, I guess it will be a collection of what (I’ll) do to promote research in Africa, about research in our countries.”

DeWet worked at the Population Studies Center with her faculty mentor, Barbara A. Anderson, to expand her doctoral thesis on adolescent mortality, and will continue to conduct research at the University for another four months.

Kofi Gyan, program manager at the International Family Planning Fellowship Program, has been a part of the program since its early years.

“The best part was getting a different perspective on health, humanities, social sciences from an African point of view,” Gyan said. “There’s not a lot that is known about Africa than there is about this city.”

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