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The Center for African Development is bringing Africa to W&M

  • CAD directors:
    CAD directors:  (From left) Phil Roessler, associate professor of government, and Iyabo Obasanjo, assistant professor of kinesiology and health sciences, are co-directors of the Global Research Institute's Center for African Development.  Photo courtesy of the Global Research Institute
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Exciting developments are on the horizon for the Global Research Institute’s Center for African Development (CAD). With the addition of Professor of Health Sciences and Kinesiology Iyabo Obasanjo as co-director and the increase of program offerings such as a speaker series, study-abroad opportunities and a larger presence within the COLL curriculum, CAD is on track to greatly expand its impact.

As a location for the study of African nations, cultures, politics and economies, CAD aims to bring William & Mary to Africa and Africa to W&M. Through the pillars of research, learning and linkages, CAD fosters faculty-student research relationships to collaborate on projects in the fields of public health, governance and development. Ongoing research at the center is looking at the impact of the mobile phone revolution on poverty-reduction and the origins and consequences of spatial inequality. New projects analyze the impact of women’s leadership on health outcomes.

“CAD provides students with an unparalleled opportunity to engage in research on cutting-edge projects that address some of the biggest development challenges in the region,” said Associate Professor of Government Philip Roessler, co-director of CAD.

With new research and programmatic activities made possible by the expanded leadership team, students will be able to participate in a forthcoming course on contemporary Africa, study-abroad opportunities in places like Ashesi University in Ghana, research projects in countries such as Kenya, as well as other opportunities both on campus and off. Through these additional opportunities, students and faculty will be able to better understand the consequences of the fast pace of economic and political changes occurring on the continent.

Student experiences working with CAD are proof of the impact the center has at William & Mary — and in African countries.

“This summer, I’ll be working with a student-faculty research team to identify barriers to mobile micro-insurance uptake among Kenyan farmers and develop a pilot intervention to improve farmers’ resilience to economic shocks," said Henry Crossman '19, who will depart for Kenya after he graduates. "Mentorship from CAD faculty is what’s making this project possible.”

As CAD expands, Obasanjo has ambitious goals for the center.

“I hope to bring my life experience as an African and my work experience from leadership in Africa and my research work on African Public Health issues," she said. "My goal is to develop opportunities both on campus and abroad for students to be exposed to different aspects of Africa and to be able to see Africa as part of a globalized world rather than off to the side on the global stage as it is generally presented.”

CAD’s many goals for the future include sustaining a collaborative research center, facilitating student learning about African development, building linkages with African institutions to institute cultural and educational exchanges, becoming a core part of the COLL curriculum and establishing W&M as a prominent destination for African research.

 “What we plan to invest in going forward is bringing African thought leaders to W&M to provide our students with an opportunity to engage with these individuals and deepen linkages with institutions across the continent,” said Roessler.

Obasanjo is enthusiastic about this new initiative, saying, “I am most excited by the new CAD Speaker Series because it gives us the opportunity to bring Africans working on important issues to campus to interact with students and faculty. I believe such interactions will lead to interesting new collaborations and opportunities for students.”

As Roessler states, “Our goal is to make CAD an interdisciplinary center for research. Two additional disciplines that are also highly relevant for the study of African development are economics and data science. I would love for CAD to expand to include these disciplines as well.”