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University Officials From Africa To Visit UVA To Discuss Consortium

May 23, 2002-- Top officials from four universities in southern Africa will visit the University of Virginia May 27-29 to talk about forming a consortium with far-reaching implications in education, research, health care and public policy.

The consortium would expand relationships with U.Va. built over the past 25 years and would encourage collaborative work in environmental sciences, long-distance learning, international studies and HIV prevention.

Brazao Mazula, vice chancellor of the University of Eduardo Mondlane in Mozambique; G.M. Nkondo, vice chancellor of the University of Venda in South Africa; Sharon Siverts, vice chancellor of the University of Botswana; and Luis G. Nongxa, deputy vice chancellor of the University of Witwatersrand, also in South Africa, will meet with U.Va. President John T. Casteen III. Scientists and officials from the U.S. State Department, the World Wildlife Fund, the National Academy of Sciences and the National Research Council also will participate. Vice chancellors at African universities are equivalent to presidents at U.S. universities.

U.Va. started developing partnerships with individual African universities beginning in 1974, when its scientists collaborated with researchers at the University of

the Witwatersrand to conduct tropical meteorology experiments. This led to student and faculty exchanges, expanded research and a seminar series last fall that used state-of-the-art technology to link students and scientists on both continents in real time.

"At the conference, we plan to discuss and ratify the conversion of our present institutional partnerships into a consortium for research, education and outreach to policy makers," said Jeffrey Plank, assistant vice president for research and public service.

The first two days of the conference will be devoted to informal discussions and workshops. On Wednesday, representatives from all the universities will discuss building a regional approach to environmental research, education and sustainable development in southern Africa.

"We are trying to develop new and innovative education projects in southern Africa," said Hank Shugart, W.W. Corcoran Professor of Environmental Sciences and director of U.Va.’s Global Environmental Change Program. "We are coordinating our work at a new level and hope this is a first step in intensive African interaction in education, research and training."

Consortium members hope to strengthen the southern Africa regional environmental community through educational programs in environmental sciences and professional development programs for policy makers. Their goal is to close the gap between research and policy by convening groups of natural resources stakeholders representing governments and international conservation organizations, property owners and experts in ecosystem research and environmental law.

The consortium plans to further develop a collaborative international learning infrastructure, to upgrade existing field stations in critical ecosystems and to convene transnational science-to-policy groups. One goal is to develop a range of distance learning courses for students to pursue advanced degrees at U.Va. and WITS. Exchange programs and classes and field research will complement these courses.

During the workshop, U.Va. and the World Wildlife Fund plan to sign a memorandum of understanding to establish a working relationship for initiatives involving environmental management issues and research in Africa, Latin and South America and other rapidly developing regions. This relationship will further benefit the consortium's initiatives.

Contacts: Fariss Samarrai, (434) 924-3778 or Lee Graves, (434) 924-6857

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Contact the Office of University Relations at (434) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (434) 924-7550.

SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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