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UK Faculty Member Helps Redevelop African University's Curriculum

Saturday, May 3, 2014

University of Kentucky Agricultural Economics Professor Mike Reed visited Zimbabwe’s Africa University (AU) to evaluate their faculty of agriculture and natural resources (FANR) curriculum during the Spring 2014 semester.

Reed connected with AU through the Fulbright Specialist Program (FSP), which promotes linkages between U.S. scholars and their counterparts at host institutions abroad through short-term collaborative projects.

Non-U.S. institutions – such as Africa University – submit FSP project requests to strengthen and support their development needs. AU submitted a project to FSP seeking help for the redevelopment of its FANR curriculum.

Reed was selected to review the curriculum of each of FANR’s programs, suggest changes in course content, recommend faculty development, present strategies for AU students to engage with small agribusiness and review FANR’s infrastructure for training.

Reed’s curriculum review was the third in a nine-part process to revise FANR’s curriculum, which will be finalized for approval by December 2014.

“AU has a curriculum that is 25 years old, and they have never had anyone look at it,” Reed said. “They realized they needed to change, and were very motivated to do so.”

One of the primary problems Reed identified was the shortage of staff and resources.

“They have so few faculty, it is amazing that they can accomplish so much – they are very dedicated,” he said. “However, if you don't have enough faculty members you are not going to have an effective curriculum.”

FANR has three bachelor's and two master’s degree programs, with a teaching staff of only seven. Subsequently, students take a broad range of required courses. This gives graduating students broad capabilities in many aspects of agriculture, however they lack the depth of specialization.

“Farmers account for 70 percent of the population in Zimbabwe and even many city dwellers have their own farm plots, it makes sense for graduates from FANR to have a broader background that covers many aspects of agriculture,” Reed said . “However, the students need more options for specialization in their coursework in order to produce effective, innovative graduates who will succeed as entrepreneurs.”

Due in part to the international efforts of Reed, UK is now one of the top producers of U.S. Fulbright Scholars in the U.S. In a recently released ranking in the Chronicle of Higher Education, UK is tied for fifth among research institutions for its number of professors earning Fulbright grants for the 2013-2014 academic year.