Ghana scholars meet with URI President David M. Dooley, oceanography professors to strengthen academic exchange between faculty, students

Scholars from the University of Cape Coast in Ghana won the hearts—and hats—of University of Rhode Island professors during a visit this week to strengthen an academic collaboration between the two institutions.

The five-day visit was part of a $24 million sustainable fisheries project led by the Coastal Resources Center at URI’s Graduate School of Oceanography on the Narragansett Bay campus. The Ghana delegation met with President David M. Dooley, GSO Dean Bruce Corliss and other URI faculty and staff.

The Ghana officials seemed especially impressed with URI’s new master of oceanography degree program aimed at creating job opportunities in fisheries, environmental management, shipping, energy and other related fields.

Domwini Dabire Kuupole, vice chancellor of the Ghana university, said the new program would provide Ghana students with the skills to solve real-world problems in his country. Under the program, launched earlier this month, students can select courses from fisheries, coastal systems or ocean technology and data, and they also can participate in internships. Also, students don’t have to write a thesis.

“We’re very excited about this program,’’ Corliss told his guests during a talk Tuesday. “We’d be very interested in international students joining us.’’

The other University of Cape Coast visitors were Ernest Okorley, associate professor of graduate studies; Rosemond Boohene, director for the international studies center; Johnson Boampong, dean of the biological sciences school; and Denis Worlanyo Aheto, director of fisheries and aquatic sciences.

CRC has a long relationship with the Ghana university. The coastal center is leading a five-year, $24 million United States Agency for International Development Ghana Sustainable Fisheries Management Project to revitalize marine fisheries stocks. It is the largest USAID grant ever awarded to URI.

Two fisheries experts from the Coastal Resources Center, Brian Crawford, in-country project director, and Najih Lazar, senior fisheries advisor, have been living in Ghana for the past year to help lead the project and benefit the 100,000 men and women involved in the fishing industry there.

The Ghana delegation had a busy week. They met with faculty and staff from the GSO, Anton F. Post, director of the Coastal Resources Center, the College of the Environment and Life Sciences and the Graduate School. They also toured the Inner Space Center and met with students and staff researching fisheries, aquaculture, marine policy, mapping systems and other fields.

Among the topics discussed were student exchange programs, the creation of a J Term undergraduate course in Ghana, professional development programs and joint research opportunities in marine fisheries, aquaculture and coastal resources. The Ghana university is also interested in exploring academic opportunities in pharmacy and business administration.

Corliss said GSO is also collaborating with institutions in the Azores, Cuba, Indonesia and Vietnam, but that the Ghana partnership is the “most advanced.’’

“We’re very pleased to have leaders from the University of Cape Coast visit to continue our discussion about collaboration for research and education,’’ said Corliss. “We think this is a very important international collaboration for the GSO.’’

Kuupole agreed: I’m very excited to be here. We’re meeting a lot of good and honest people. It’s marvelous.’’

To show his appreciation, Corliss gave the Ghana officials parting gifts: a GSO cap; a GSO coffee mug; and copies of “Rhode Island’s Shellfish Heritage’’ by URI alumna Sarah Schumann. The book looks at the significance of shellfish to the area from pre-Colonial days to today.

During a meeting with the president, Kuupole extended an invitation for Dooley to visit Ghana.

“Mr. President, I have the pleasure of representing the University of Cape Coast in inviting the president of the University of Rhode Island to visit,’’ said Kuupole. “We expect a visit in the next couple of months.”

Dooley said he would be happy to make the journey: “I am delighted to accept the invitation, and I will have my staff start working on the travel arrangements. We will learn a great deal from you. This is not a one-way partnership.”

He said the two universities share a common interest studying climate change, especially as it affects coastal communities, and that global collaboration is crucial to tackling the problem.

“We need new science, and it takes all of us working together to solve these kinds of problems,’’ he said. “I am happy to tell you that URI faculty members are interested in these types of opportunities to collaborate with international universities and agencies. They’ll go anywhere to work on critical problems.”

Kuupole was energized about the URI-Ghana collaboration: “We want to see the University of Cape Coast move out of the confines of Ghana to the wider world. We know someone with more expertise in fisheries and coastal issues across the ocean, and that is the University of Rhode Island.”

Pictured above:

Ghana scholars and URI faculty and staff meet in President David M. Dooley’s office, from left to right in back, Nancy Stricklin, assistant to the provost for Global Strategies and Academic Partnerships; Anton Post, director of the Coastal Resources Center; President Dooley; Domwini Dabire Kuupole; Elin Torell, international program director for the Coastal Resources Center; and Don Robadue, project manager at the Coastal Resources Center. Seated in front, left to right, Johnson Boampong; Ernest Okorley; and Rosemond Boohene; Denis Worlanyo Aheto.

Media Contact: Elizabeth Rau, 401-874-2116