Ethiopian university presidents visit K-State

By Bryan Richardson

A delegation of Ethiopian university presidents visited Kansas State University on Friday in a quest to further develop their institutions.

The goal of the visit is to demonstrate to the Ethiopian delegation how public U.S. universities work and to continue to establish relationships in hopes of collaboration opportunities.

The trip originated with a letter sent by the Embassy of Ethiopia in Washington D.C. to K-State. Officials from K-State and a delegation of other universities — Texas Tech, Langston, Tarelton, Texas State, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M Kingsville — visited Ethiopia last summer.

Friday was the reciprocal trip to the United States and included stops at Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. Six of the eight visiting presidents signed a Memoranda of Understanding with K-State during the U.S. delegation visit to Ethiopia. The memoranda officially say the institutions desire to collaborate with each other.

The Ethiopian university presidents spent the day exchanging information with K-State officials and touring the facilities. The morning started with a driving tour of campus and a breakfast.

Marcelo Sabates, associate provost of the Office of International Programs at K-State, told the group that their relationships aren’t just about visiting each other days at a time but about truly working together.

“We want to be your friends and your significant partners,” he said.

Part of working together involves understanding each other, so the morning started with a presentation on Ethiopia by Professor Mengesha Admassu, president of the University of Gonder.

Ethiopia is a developing country with a growing university system to go along with its young population. Of the 84 million people in Ethiopia, 62 percent are under the age of 25.

Fifteen years ago, there were two public universities. Today, there are 32. Policy requires 70 percent of students at those institutions to pursue a degree in science, technology, engineering or mathematics fields.

The challenge now involves building these institutions up to a higher level in terms of faculty, research and programs.

Admassu said it’s “very difficult” to find experienced faculty members to match the growth that’s currently taking place. He said staff exchanges of a minimum of one month would improve the teaching quality.

“Sharing their rich experience will be a model for our young faculty members,” he said. “That would be of much benefit for future leaders.”

In addition to staff exchanges, discussed plans for collaboration include curriculum development, graduate student advising, online training, and student exchanges.

Admassu said the universities hope to use K-State as a benchmark for engineering and veterinary medicine.

“We want to take these lessons from here to our institutions,” he said.

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