By Janice Phelan, January 12, 2021
Students at the Missouri Innovation Center in Lee's Summit, MO, connect with students in Kenya via video conference in 2019.
Representatives from the University of Central Missouri (UCM) and the Government of Makueni County-Kenya, a member of the South Eastern Kenya Economic Bloc (SEKEB) and Global Classroom Exchange (GCE) celebrated a unique international partnership at a Jan. 8 virtual event. The early morning Zoom session included representatives from the university, Government of Makueni County-Kenya, the Economic Bloc and Global Classroom Exchange.
Officials signing the partnership’s memorandum of understanding were the governor of Makueni County, Hon. Professor Kivutha Kibwana; Dr. Phil Bridgmon, UCM provost and vice president for Academic Affairs; Dr. Laurel Hogue, vice provost for UCM Extended Studies; and John Musau, founder and CEO of Global Classroom Exchange.
“From our experience when we came to the university, the focus is really on the students,” said Kibwana during the virtual signing. “Even more exciting is creating this new nuance in education, this virtual education.”
Critical aspects of the partnership include leveraging technology to enhance academic learning, developing career pathways with joint workforce programs for global markets and establishing dual credit and concurrent programs with Makueni County-Kenya, Hogue said. “Today is the result of a lot of work and collaboration, and we are really excited about the work ahead,” she added.
The initiative is resulting in meaningful collaboration and project-based learning, Musau said. “We talk about having borders, and we talk about creating opportunities and sometimes those two don’t go hand-in-hand. I feel this is one opportunity for us to make a difference.”
Also attending the ceremony was Rick MDowell of the Lee’s Summit Economic Development Council. “Workforce is a major initiative for Lee’s Summit and the regional area in Kansas City,” he said. “Now we see this as throughout the world as a major initiative.”
Through the partnership, UCM Extended Studies will work with the university’s Kenyan peers on education and workforce development. The partners are leveraging technology to foster global collaboration in resolving local challenges. The organizations are working together to develop real-world sustainable solutions for students and adults. Students will also gain hands-on experiences in areas such as Internet of Things, virtual reality, telehealth and entrepreneurship -- just to name a few -- while working on industry-recognized certifications and accelerated degree programs.
“This is an important engagement in workforce development that will provide career pathways in an area that is growing and emerging,” said Dr. Phil Bridgmon, UCM provost and vice president for Academic Affairs.
The partnership’s foundation began in 2019 with Summit Technology Academy (Lee’s Summit R-7 School District) meeting virtually with students in Kenya to become acquainted and begin planning their combined efforts. During fall 2019, Kenya Governor Kivutha Kibwana and a delegation from Kenya visited Lee’s Summit to tour the Missouri Innovation Campus and meet with officials from UCM and Summit Technology Academy.
This new partnership has benefitted from the involvement of Digloso Ltd, a company focusing on providing emerging populations with technological infrastructure and modular application platforms. Digloso is headquartered in Kenya.
Business, individuals and organizations have the opportunity to collaborate in the project, which is actively seeking partners to help with solutions. For more information, contact Joe Mullins at firstname.lastname@example.org or Dr. Laurel Hogue at email@example.com.
The University of Central Missouri operates campuses in Lee’s Summit and Warrensburg, offering undergraduate and graduate degrees as well as certificate programs, professional education courses and customized corporate curriculum. UCM and Summit Technology Academy have shared space and resources in the award-winning Missouri Innovation Campus facility since its opening in fall 2017. The South Eastern Kenya Economic Bloc includes three counties: Kitui, Machakos and Makueni with a combined estimated population of 4.7 million. The Bloc was created to provide social and economic development for its citizens.