Professor’s dream of STEAM center in Malawi becomes a reality

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7 adults posing in Southeast African field
Dr. Zipangani Vokhiwa (third from left) with Dr. Tiwonge Gawa, leader of the Pollinator Project (far left), and a field team of entomologists from the Museums of Malawi in Thyolo at Gotha Macademia Estate.

Mercer University’s Dr. Zipangani Vokhiwa, professor of science in the College of Professional Advancement, has been approved to establish a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) center at Malawi University of Science and Technology in Southeast Africa. Named the Centre for Artificial Intelligence and STEAM (CAIST), the Centre is slated to open in October with an education and innovation lab and an artificial intelligence unit.

“It is fulfilling to have the STEAM Centre approved by the Senate at Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST),” said Dr. Vokhiwa. “This action will enable the Centre to carry out both short and long-term activities and strategies for the benefit of students and faculty fellows at the university.”

Dr. Vokhiwa has been in Malawi since January as a Fulbright U.S. Scholar. Before arriving, he recruited several American universities for a consortium to provide support for the STEAM Centre. He and his colleagues analyzed the university’s needs and drafted a proposal for the Centre that was approved in June.

“I am pleased to welcome a new destination for innovative artificial intelligence and STEAM learning where MUST faculty fellows, undergraduate, postgraduate students and industry partners will be embracing the scientific and artistic inquiry alike,” said Dr. Address Mauakowa Malata, vice chancellor of MUST. “This Centre of Excellence will form a platform for a collaborative approach to foster the development of transferable 21st century skills and explore design thinking programs through a forward-looking and creative lens.”

Originally from Malawi, Dr. Vokhiwa wanted to return to the country as a Fulbright U.S. Scholar, so he could support MUST, which recently launched nine new master’s degrees and three new doctoral degrees. While in Malawi, he has been teaching and conducting research and will complete his 10-month assignment in October.

five people stand out side, with a truck to the right
Dr. Zipangani Vokhiwa is pictured with a team of drone experts at Nkhota-Kota Wildlife Reserve in Central Malawi. They were studying ecological and biodiversity threats in protected and unprotected landscapes in selected areas. From left, they are Maclean Kumwenda; Ruth Mtuwa, head of the drone team; Dr. Vokhiwa; and Wildlife Specialists Michel and Therese Saini. Photo courtesy Dr. Zipangani Vokhiwa

“I thank the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program for the award, which facilitated the process of the establishment of the Centre, and Mercer University for the support offered to me to carry out this noble assignment during the 10 months away from the Mercer campus,” Dr. Vokhiwa said.

“The work of Professor Vokhiwa to initiate the process of setting up the Centre has added value to the university as issues of science, technology, engineering and mathematics will now be a strategic intent of the university,” said Dr. David Mkwambisi, professor at the MUST Institute of Industrial Research and Innovation (MIIRI). “Personally, working with Professor Vokhiwa allowed my own personal growth and progression within the global framing of addressing local and international partnerships.”