Illinois-Njala Curriculum Development Initiative
The University of Illinois displays breadth and depth in disciplines relevant to multifaceted global health challenges, from the One Health of humans, animals, and environment to the development and implementation of technologies which address issues ranging from clean water accessibility to the business of agricultural production in developing economies. Great potential exists to advance a cohesive program which utilizes global health as a common thread to demonstrate our capacity for interdisciplinarity as the norm in research, education and outreach. A collaborative push on campus has been brewing for the past two with significant support from multiple campus levels and diverse locations including ACES, the College of Medicine, the Center for African Studies, the Center for Global Studies, Vet-Med, College of Engineering, and even community partners, such as the University YMCA. Many of these efforts converged in early 2014 around the existing partnership between Illinois and Njala University in Sierra Leone The partnership between Illinois and Njala goes back 50 years to when Njala University was founded, but more recently, has been strengthened by a strategic partnership through ACES led by Paul McNamara. Now, as part of a larger effort focused on establishing and expanding research partnerships across disciplines at the two institutions, exchanging faculty, students, and coordinated outreach activities, we seek to develop a global health curriculum centered on the Illinois-Njala partnership.
A full semester-long course will be developed that will be co-taught by an interdisciplinary team of instructors on the multiple components of global health including topics such as: epidemiology and tropical medicine, water and sanitation, sustainable economics, food security, and environmental health. Each 3-week module will be taught by an individual faculty member in his or her area of expertise.
A set of subject-specific courses will be developed, each from the perspective of how the topic is directly relevant to Njala and the surrounding areas in Sierra Leone. These courses will be developed into distance-learning courses where both UIUC and NU students will be able to participate via an online platform, likely Moodle. These interactions will eventually develop into a full-fledged blended learning environment for UIUC and NU students, but may start with a simple capture and deliver modality for NU students. By using the lens of how these topics are relevant in contemporary Sierra Leone, the effect will be twofold: it will strengthen the content offerings for Njala students across a variety of topics in a way that is directly applicable for them, and will serve to provide a direct and real-world connection with many of the curricular themes for Illinois students providing diverse understanding and heightened cultural awareness. These experiences will hopefully be a springboard for increasingly collaborative curricular experiences for UIUC and NU students to develop first-hand experience with intercultural interactions, and engage in sharing their unique perspectives and experiences.