In collaboration with Uganda Martyrs University (UMU), the Ford Program is building an exciting partnership with Purdue University focused on research and community engagement in Uganda.

Involved in the effort are Professor of Agricultural Economics Jess Lowenberg-DeBoer and Professor of Chemical Engineering Joseph Pekny. Lowenberg-DeBoer, associate dean of the Purdue School of Agriculture, also directs Purdue’s International Programs in Agriculture (IPIA), which facilitates collaborative research and agricultural extension projects with colleagues in 50 countries, many in Africa. Pekny is the director of the e-Enterprise Center, one of 11 leading research centers that make up Purdue’s cutting-edge interdisciplinary research effort, Discovery Park. In July 2008, the two visited UMU and spent three days assessing agriculture and infrastructure in Ford’s partner village of Nnindye.

Since their exploratory trip, Lowenberg-DeBoer and Pekny have brought together more than 15 Purdue faculty members from multiple disciplines who are interested in developing research and community engagement projects in Uganda. Three of these faculty members will travel to Uganda in June 2009 to further explore partnership possibilities in agriculture, women’s studies, and library and information sciences.

Dr. Charles Olweny, vice chancellor of Uganda Martyrs University, recently participated in planning meetings at both Notre Dame and Purdue during a seven-day trip to the Midwest. His presence served to deepen institutional ties with both universities and helped the group move forward several projects to build capacity at UMU. One will boost Internet bandwidth to create a virtual development “bridge” between universities. Another will explore reorganizing the UMU farm so that it can profitably support the university as well as serve as a demonstration farm for the surrounding community.

In October 2008 and April 2009, Maureen Powers, Vice President and Dean of SIT Study Abroad, visited Notre Dame to explore possible collaboration. SIT, a pioneer of experiential field-based study abroad, and the Ford Program are joining forces in a long-term partnership to promote undergraduate research that examines critical development challenges. As they did in November, Ford and SIT will jointly sponsor a student research conference each year, to be held at Notre Dame and feature students and faculty from both institutions. Next year’s conference will be held at Notre Dame February 26-27, 2010.

SIT Study Abroad provides academically rich programs in nearly 50 countries for more than 2,000 undergraduates from over 200 colleges and universities each year. It is an initiative of World Learning, which also encompasses the Experiment in International Living and the SIT Graduate Institute, formerly known as the School for International Training.

The Ford Program is also developing a partnership with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in Uganda. Catholic Relief Services was founded in 1943 by the Catholic Bishops of the United States and reaches more than 80 million people in more than 100 countries on five continents. Their mission is to assist impoverished and disadvantaged people overseas, working in the spirit of Catholic Social Teaching to promote the sacredness of human life and the dignity of the human person. More than 100 CRS staff members work in Uganda on projects spanning HIV and AIDS, agriculture, microfinance, water and sanitation, partnership and global solidarity, and emergency preparedness and recovery.

Jack Norman, CRS Uganda country director, recently visited UMU with some of his staff to observe firsthand the areas where the Ford Program and UMU are working. Norman is excited to explore potential ways to partner in community development work as well as in teaching and research at Notre Dame and UMU. This is a natural partnership given the longstanding relationship between CRS and Notre Dame and a shared focus on working with local communities to help people fully realize their full potential.