Fostering Global Collaborations at the United States-Africa University Partnerships Initiative Summit 

By: Grace Pregent

Left to right: Dr. Avasha Rambiritch, Prof. Pineteh Angu, and Dr. Grace Pregent 

This February the United States-Africa University Partnerships Initiative Summit brought together partners from public, private, and civil spheres to engage in building sustainable Global North-Global South coalitions. It was a two-day event hosted by the University of Pretoria, and I was honored to represent the Writing Center at Michigan State University. This was my first time in South Africa, and I particularly valued staying at the innovative Future Africa Campus along with other delegates. Each day we walked to the conference facility through the campus gardens, which were designed to highlight how an urban landscape can be utilized as a food resource. 

Participants engaged in dialogue around experiences and lessons learned from collaborative higher education initiatives invested in by the United States Department. The theme was “Equitable and Sustainable Partnerships for Impact,” and in his presentation, Dean Steven Hanson shared about MSU’s extensive history in collaborating with African higher education institutions (fun fact: I learned that out of the 76 languages taught at MSU, 30 are African languages). He also shared about the grant-funded project on developing writing and research capacity led by Co-PIs from the Writing Center and Makerere University in Uganda. I met our Co-PI from Makerere, Prof. Fredrick Muyodi, in person for the first time as we engaged in the conference with several members of MSU’s Alliance for African Partnerships (AAP). 

While attending the summit, I also visited with the University of Pretoria’s Humanities Writing Center (HWC) and Unit for Academic Literacy. Dr. Avasha Rambiritch (HWC Coordinator) and Prof. Pineteh Angu (Director and Associate Professor in the Unit for Academic Literacy) generously hosted me, Prof. Muyodi, and MSU WRAC graduate student Tshepang Mashiloane for lunch and a tour of their writing center. While participating in a roundtable, I learned more about writing centers in the South African context and the grant-funded research taking place at the HWC through video recording consultations and thematically considering culturally cognizant consulting practices. For example, Dr. Rambiritch and the consultants shared about enriching consulting sessions with multilingual metaphors that honor the many languages spoken by their writers and about considering the construct of writing centers as “global villages.” Going forward, we’re keen to work with the HWC on a comparative study of effective writing consultations that would decenter Western practices and ways of working with writers. We also hope to host Dr. Rambiritch as a visiting scholar at Michigan State in the near future (stay tuned).

Since joining the Writing Center in 2019, I have been amazed by the breadth of the Center’s partnerships across communities. Working alongside multiple campus partners including AAP, the African Studies Center, Canadian Studies Center, and the Education Abroad Office, we’re fostering intentional and reciprocal collaborations that offer faculty, staff, students, and community members opportunities to connect across cultures through writing. Together we’re thinking in complex ways about global community making, with all its possible exciting effects, while keeping in mind the potential harm caused by globalization without respect for difference and local context. 

This work energizes me, and with renewed enthusiasm following the summit, I’m excited for the collaborative writing and research possibilities continuing and coming next for the Writing Center at Michigan State and our partners. We have so much to learn from each other. 

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