Mercer Receives Fulbright-Hays Grant to Support Research in Malawi


ATLANTA — The U.S. Department of Education has awarded Mercer University an $84,220 grant from the Fulbright Hays Group Projects Abroad program for an international education program in Malawi. The project’s principal investigator is Dr. Zipangani M. Vokhiwa, a native Malawian and an assistant professor of science in the College of Continuing and Professional Studies. The grant, one of only 12 short-term research grants given this year, will fund a four-week field research trip to Malawi.

“My colleague, Dr. Ismail Gyagenda, and I are happy for Mercer, the College of Continuing and Professional Studies and Tift College of Education,” Dr. Vokhiwa said. “It is even more fulfilling to know that the grant will be a platform for an added value to the careers of the participants during and after they return from the trip to Malawi.”

Dr. Gyagenda, an associate professor of education in Mercer’s Tift College of Education, will serve as the curriculum designer for the project. The grant will fund the research of the 10 participating practicing teachers and two administrators who are either enrolled at Mercer or are currently serving in metro-Atlanta area school districts. The participants will collect data for use in integrating environmental awareness and cultural competency and then integrate the data into their area studies curricula for their classrooms. In addition, the participants will establish an ongoing collaborative online exchange program with Malawian educators. The project will complement Mercer’s on-going study abroad initiatives including Mercer On Mission and Tift College of Education’s collaboration with the Ricks Institute in Liberia. Though the project is not a part of Mercer On Mission, Dr. Vokhiwa participated in a Mercer On Mission in 2011 that helped to lay the groundwork for the grant.

The U.S. and Malawi teachers will connect via two existing Mercer programs, MercerPen and Ning. The host for the project is the Malawi Institute of Education, which is the center for curriculum development in Malawi. The Mercer participants will form a collaboration with Malawi teachers and administrators who will also be recruited in Malawi under the grant using the online programs MercerPen and Ning. They will collaborate on curriculum development and exchange ideas based on the project’s general theme, “The Interaction of Environment and Culture,” and develop projects that benefit their respective teaching careers. The hope, Dr. Vokhiwa said, is that the relationships it fosters between the teachers will last far beyond the grant’s official ending date in May 2014.

“I am delighted to learn of Dr. Vokhiwa’s success in obtaining the award for Mercer,” said Dr. Priscilla R. Danheiser, dean of CCPS. “Designed to support overseas projects in training, research and curriculum development in area studies for teachers, students and faculty, the Fulbright-Hays underscores the commitment of the College to partner with Tift College of Education in providing outstanding, distinctive curricular experiences for students enrolled in the University’s teacher preparation programs. Students selected for participation in the experience will surely benefit their schools and transform the lives of their students for years to come.” 

“We are proud of Dr. Vokhiwa’s efforts on this grant, as it goes to the heart of our mission as a department and a College,” said Dr. Hani Q. Khoury, professor and chair of the Department of Mathematics, Science and Informatics in CCPS. “The funding will provide Mercer students with a wonderful opportunity to learn about how to integrate environmental science awareness with the process of education.”

About Mercer University
Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education. The University enrolls more than 8,300 students in 11 schools and colleges – liberal arts, law, pharmacy, medicine, business, engineering, education, theology, music, nursing and continuing and professional studies – on campuses in Macon, Atlanta and Savannah – and four regional academic centers across the state. The Mercer Health Sciences Center launched July 1, 2012, and includes the University’s medical, nursing and pharmacy schools and will add a fourth college – the College of Health Professions – on July 1, 2013. Mercer is affiliated with four teaching hospitals — Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah, the Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon, and The Medical Center and St. Francis Hospital in Columbus. The University also has educational partnerships with Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex in Warner Robins and Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta. It operates an academic press and a performing arts center in Macon and an engineering research center in Warner Robins. Mercer is the only private university in Georgia to field an NCAA Division I athletic program.
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