While many programs at the University of Colorado are struggling to prove their worth as budget cuts continue, one program is looking forward to making their short summer class unnecessary.
The African Population Studies Research and Training Center is closing its fourth summer session focused on improving ground research in Africa this week. CU is hosting 16 students and research professionals from various institutions in Africa for the two-week class.
Most of the participants are Ph.D. and masters students at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa and research officers at the African Population and Health Research Center. Both institutions have sent participants to the previous courses.
This year, the course also included students from the University of Ghana, the University of Capetown in South Africa, the University of Rwanda and the University of Ibadan in Nigeria. Five CU graduate students are also enrolled in the course.
The aim, said Jill Williams, the program’s assistant director, is to create a “domino effect” inspiring improved data analysis.
“We want to train the trainers, so to speak, so we can send them back home to teach others what they learned here,” Williams said. “We want to continue building relationships, but we’re hoping the course will not be needed in the future.”
Williams said the course is meant to improve research and analysis in Africa, which could affect policies and procedures pertaining to health and other issues.
The first short course was offered at CU in 2006 in partnership with Brown University and two institutions in Africa. The course was also offered at CU in 2007 and at the University of Witwatersrand in 2008.
Akaco Ekirapa, a research officer at the African Population and Health Research Center, said the course is helping her better understand the analysis of data and improve field research.
“We collect a lot of research that gets used for policy change,” Ekirapa said. “Our Minister of Education recently increased education funding because we provided him with research about the poor health of schoolchildren in Nairobi slums.”
Ekirapa heads up a field team of researchers and said she is learning the importance of consistency and the effects her research has on data analysis.
Samuel Oti, also a research officer at the African Population and Health Research Center, said he’s using the course for more selfish purposes to help prepare him to begin his Ph.D this fall.
“The big take-home for me is setting the right path for in data analysis and dealing with the data that I’ll collect,” Oti said. “I’m doing everything from scratch and it’s going to be a long process so the skills I’ve learned here will help me better understand how to do the research and analysis.”
Jane Menken, director of the program, said the program began as a way to help researchers in Africa become more self-sufficient and less reliant on analysis outside of the country. But the partnerships have created a mutually beneficial relationship giving CU students better access to their own research.
Christie Sennott, a CU student in the sixth year of her Ph.D. in sociology, spent six months in Africa doing research for her thesis after taking the short course in 2007.
“The work I did there would not have been possible without the connections I made in the program,” Sennott said. “I had so much support on the ground from the relationships I’d built in the program.”
Williams said the program is funded through a grant from the William and flora Hewlett Foundation and will provide at least two more years of the program and one more short course.