Three people from Metro State will visit Ethiopia later this month
to explore opportunities for faculty and students to study and work on
The three delegates from the College—Interim Executive Director of
the Office of International Studies Akbarali Thobhani, Vice President
for Institutional Advancement Carrie Besnette, and student Nicole
Oudenhoven—will be part of an annual November visit to Ethiopia by the
Denver-based Cunningham Foundation.
The Cunningham Foundation, established in 2003 in Denver “with the
mission of helping the courageous people of the impoverished areas of
Ethiopia to help themselves,” partners with Ethiopians in different
sustainable development projects. These include the Hope Bracelet
Project, in which Ethiopians make bracelets for sale in the U.S.;
Quarters for Kids, in which Colorado high school students raise funds
for Ethiopian students; and the Ethiopia Library Project.
“There will be 20 of us total on the trip,” said Thobhani. “We will
be exploring opportunities for partnering with the Cunningham
Foundation and with local Ethiopian communities.” Other travelers
include administrators, teachers and students from area K-12 schools.
The group leaves Nov. 19.
“Developing strategic partnerships that allow academic departments
to collaborate with and strengthen communities in other countries
enhances our students’ educational opportunities and it aligns with
Metro State’s mission of preparing students to work in a global
society,” Besnette added.
According to Thobhani, the initiative is a result of Besnette
knowing Noel and Tammy Cunningham, who established the foundation and
wanted to get Metro State involved after having partnered for many
years with local K-12 school districts. Besnette, Thobhani and
Cunningham Foundation representatives met with Metro State President
Stephen Jordan last spring to discuss initial ideas about possible
collaborations between the College and the foundation. In August,
Besnette and Thobhani submitted a formal proposal to the President’s
Office, laying out the rationale for the partnership and the
The stated goals of the trip are to:
• establish an ongoing affiliation between Metro State, the
Cunningham Foundation and its affiliate in Ethiopia, Project Mercy;
• create opportunities for Metro State students to participate in
the projects sponsored by the foundation;
• encourage Metro State faculty to develop service-learning
study abroad courses involving Ethiopia;
• encourage Metro State faculty and students to undertake
• develop joint initiatives with Regis University faculty and students
who are engaged in development projects with Project Mercy; and
• involve the Metro State Foundation and the Division of
Institutional Advancement to develop creative educational
outreach and fundraising activities to promote Ethiopia projects.
Thobhani and Besnette sent out a call to department chairs to
solicit applications from students interested in joining the trip.
Oudenhoven, a junior majoring in English, was selected “because she had
a great potential to contribute, based on her past community service
and her enthusiasm,” Thobhani says.
“I’ve always had a strong desire to go to Africa and the goals of
the Cunningham Foundation are right up my alley,” says Oudenhoven, who
has worked with the Colorado Aids Project and Bead for Life, an
income-generating project for Ugandan women.
Oudenhoven is looking forward to the trip and will explore ways to
involve Metro State students in Ethiopian projects. She has already
coordinated a drive to collect donations and says she has received
many, including thousands of dollars in physics equipment from Doug
Howey in the Physics Department.
When the rest of their group returns to the United States on Nov.
29, Thobhani and Besnette will remain in Ethiopia until Dec. 5 to
explore the potential for a Metro State study abroad course to
Ethiopia’s sites of historic significance. Their itinerary for the
final week includes a visit to Axum, Denver’s sister city, where they
will meet with the mayor and other city officials.
A list of items needed by one of the Ethiopian schools the Cunningham Foundation supports can be found at http://www.mscd.edu/~collcom/todayatmetro/assets/edu_ethiopia.doc. Contact Oudenhoven at 303-910-7634 or firstname.lastname@example.org before Nov. 13 if you would like to donate.
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