While many University students plan to head home or fly to the beach for spring break, which starts Friday, University President Mary Sue Coleman will travel to Ghana and South Africa to develop joint programs between the University of Michigan and African institutions.

Gary Krenz, Coleman’s special counsel, said Coleman plans to meet with the president of Ghana, the American ambassador to Ghana, the king of the Ghanaian Asante Tribe, and top officials at eight universities in Ghana and South Africa during her two-week stay. She will be accompanied by Krenz and a delegation of 12 University professors and administrators on the trip.

The trip is being funded almost entirely through undesignated private donations made to the University of Michigan’s general fund, Krenz said.

The delegation has four main goals: to improve health care systems following the World Health Organization’s guidelines, increase the availability of health-related resources through the Internet, strengthen faculty expertise at African Universities and study how African institutions preserve local heritage. Coleman will deliver three lectures during the trip.

Ghana and South Africa were selected for the visit because they are the two South African countries where the University’s presence is the greatest, Krenz said.

Coleman plans to meet with students studying in the University of Michigan’s study abroad program at the University of Cape Town during her visit and renew the contract with the school, Krenz said. She will also award the university’s vice chancellor an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.

Krenz said Coleman plans to sign contracts to formalize an exchange program between the College of Engineering and the University of Johannesburg, and sign looser agreements with two Ghanaian universities – Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and the University of Cape Coast – to establish exchange programs.

Coleman’s planned trip holds many similarities to her visit to China in 2005, which resulted in this year’s academic China Theme Year, as well as some notable partnerships with Chinese institutions. After the 2005 trip, the University’s College of Engineering established a joint institution with Shanghai Jiao Tong University. The institute now teaches a combination of curricula from both schools.

Krenz said the delegation is interested in forming another joint program through the South Africa trip, but there are no formal plans.

Mark Tessler, director of the University’s International Institute, will make the trip to South Africa. He said he hopes the outcome of the trip will be similar to the results of the China trip.

“A theme year would be very nice,” he said.

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