Brock volunteers enhancing education across the globe

Through an international partnership, members of the Brock community have been busy travelling the world offering their expertise to developing nations.

A handful of volunteers have taken advantage of the University’s connection to Academics Without Borders (AWB), a non-governmental, Canadian organization of which Brock International Services has been a member since 2016. With success stories now under its belt, the University is hopeful more participants will soon follow.

Among the helping hands that have travelled abroad is Faculty of Education Instructor Mary Katherine Rose (MEd ’06), whose lifelong passion for global health and education drew her to AWB.

The organization connects talented and committed people from Canada and other countries with higher education institutions in developing nations to support sustainable institutional growth and change.

Interim Associate Vice-President, Research Michelle McGinn and BDU PhD in Law student Belay Worku took a suspension bridge on hike to Tis Abay near Bahir Dar, Ethiopia. McGinn spent time in Ethiopia in spring of 2018 with Academics Without Borders.

Rose recently returned from working with Aga Khan University (AKU) in Nairobi, Kenya, to assist with the development of a Master of Science (MSc) degree in Population Health that will be launched next year.

“With my experience in curriculum design and international planning and experiences, the project with Aga Khan University appeared to be the best fit,” she said.

The six-month project, which started in April and runs until October, focuses on curriculum design, course development and outcome mapping for the Population Health MSc.

Rose spent six weeks from mid-June to the end of July working on location with faculty at AKU, in collaboration with Dr. Stanley Luchters, AKU’s Chair of Population Health and his team. The group created a work plan developing course and degree outcomes.

Rose is one of three members of the Brock community that have taken on AWB projects since the partnership began.

Health Sciences Experiential Co-ordinator Janet Westbury (BPhEd ’93, MA ’98) spent two weeks at the University of Global Health Equity (UGHE) in Rwanda from July 21 to Aug. 1.

With an ongoing interest in health, teaching and learning, the Brock alumna travelled to UGHE as the lead in developing the Educational Development and Quality Centre for the university.

“I was keenly interested in Academics Without Borders but also the mission of UGHE,” Westbury said. “AWB’s focus on building capacity through collaboration with a focus on excellence and sustainability is directly aligned with my values.” 

She will be returning twice to Rwanda — in December and summer of 2020 — as the project continues.

Last year, prior to her appointment as interim Associate Vice-President, Research, Professor of Education Michelle McGinn participated as an AWB volunteer on a project with Bahir Dar University in Ethiopia.

Over five weeks in March and April 2018, she taught two courses in the inaugural cohort of Bahir Dar’s PhD in Law program.

“Teaching is always a learning experience, but never more so than in this case,” said McGinn. “Developing these courses to fit a new discipline, a new country and a new culture pushed my understandings.”

Beyond set course content, McGinn and the students had rich discussions about the influence of social sciences on doctrinal scholarship in law, decisions about publishing in English or local languages, and the challenges of accessing prior scholarship behind publishers’ paywalls.

“Imagine doing a PhD without all our library resources,” McGinn said, reflecting on the fortune of students at Canadian institutions.

Brock International Services and Academics Without Borders are hoping to help more members of the University community have similar eye-opening experiences with various projects abroad as they move forward.

“Participating in an opportunity with AWB is a great way to increase your global awareness,” said Sandra Gruosso, Associate Director, Brock International Services.

Opportunities provided through AWB, she said, encourage intercultural and international understanding, foster leadership and personal development, and provide meaningful opportunity to improve the lives of those in the developing world.

AWB Executive Director Greg Moran said the organization “gives voice to the importance of the commitment of Canada’s institutions of higher education to global development and building bridges with our colleagues in the less fortunate parts of the world.”

Faculty and staff interested in participating in future projects with AWB are encouraged to contact Brock’s Global Scholars Office by email at or x4088.

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