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Rutgers agrees to share expertise, knowledge in joint collaboration with Botswana

 Botswana President Mokgweetsi Eric Masisi first assumed office in April of last year. He visited Rutgers last year in September, while he was in the country for a United Nations General Assembly meeting.  – Photo by Wikimedia

On Feb. 15, Rutgers and leaders from the country of Botswana signed an agreement to start the joint initiative known as the Botswana-Rutgers Knowledge Collaboration, which aims to use technology to share knowledge and develop programs to help Botswana reach its goals, especially as a budding regional hub of South Africa, according to Rutgers Today.

The partnership is led by University President Robert L. Barchi and Botswana President Mokgweetsi Eric Masisi, and will focus on helping Botswana transition from a natural resource-based economy to a more knowledge-based one by improving healthcare, information technology, higher education and research, entrepreneurship and innovation, civic leadership and other needs in the country. 

"This agreement goes beyond the traditional institutional academic agreement – it is not a partnership between Rutgers and a single university or a consortium of universities, but a partnership with an entire nation," Barchi said. “We are discovering common interests and opportunities, and learning how we can share our expertise to help tackle major issues and cultivate the next generation of leaders with skills and expertise in priority areas sought by Botswana’s leadership.”  

The main part of the collaboration is the creation of a hub in Botswana based on knowledge, which will utilize the same technology that allows classrooms at Rutgers to be connected digitally. Rutgers and Botswana hope to move knowledge instead of people by using this technology to bring together working groups, develop training sessions and communicate ideas. 

“A recurring theme of the agreement is access. We’re going to help create a knowledge hub, which will provide a platform for regular communication between Rutgers and partners in Botswana as well as educational consulting and training programs,” said Michele Norin, senior vice president and chief information officer at Rutgers. “The hub will also serve the needs of new businesses, government offices and educational institutions in Botswana.” 

The partnership will also benefit Rutgers and New Jersey by achieving the University's mission for global engagement. It will provide both research opportunities to researchers at Rutgers and business development opportunities in Botswana for New Jersey residents. 

Barbara Lee, senior vice president for Academic Affairs, said Rutgers was prepared for this partnership between a university and a nation.

“We have a tremendous amount to offer in terms of programming, student interests and a wide variety of faculty expertise and activities,” Lee said. “Rutgers has a long history of global engagement dating back to our charter in 1766, and, today, we have over 10,000 international students and scholars and nearly 400 international partnerships with institutions abroad.” 

This collaboration took Rutgers and Botswana leaders several months to complete. Last year in September, Mokgweetsi Eric Masisi and Neo Masisi, the first lady of Botswana, visited the University while they were in the United States for a United Nations General Assembly meeting. Later in October, Mokgweetsi Eric Masisi hosted a tour of Botswana's major government offices, hospitals and research institutions for Barchi, Eric Garfunkel, the vice president for the Division of Global Affairs and Richard Marlink, the Rutgers Global Health Institute director.

Marlink, who has previously spent more than two decades working with Botswana to combat HIV/AIDS, also signed an agreement with the University of Botswana that focused on health, which is the first international agreement with the Rutgers Global Health Institute.

“We know from our discussions that addressing healthcare system gaps – particularly with regard to cancer care and treatment – is a high priority for the government of Botswana,” Marlink said. “Plans for expanded medical specialty training, a new teaching hospital and a biomedical engineering curriculum at the University of Botswana are beginning to take shape.” 

Other members of Rutgers involved in the collaboration are Ted Baker, a professor of management and global business, George F. Farris, chair in entrepreneurship at Rutgers Business School, Brent Ruben, director of the Rutgers Center for Organizational Leadership and Tom Farris, dean of the School of Engineering. 

Ruben said the University will work with Botswana to work on new cooperative training and mentoring programs for students in civic government, education and research. The training and programs will be both online and in person.

Garfunkel said overall the goal of the collaboration was to engage on priority areas that both countries identified, provide training and develop a curriculum for a more knowledge-based economy in Botswana, both in terms of its workforce and research.

“We are taking a long view and not merely trying to put a Band-Aid on a handful of issues with our research," Garfunkel said.

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