Students to conduct research in South Africa

Global Development Studies exchange program recieves $270,000 in CIDA funding

Marc Epprecht, acting head of global development studies, says that the program will benefit students at both universities.
Marc Epprecht, acting head of global development studies, says that the program will benefit students at both universities.
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Master’s student Leslie Wells had to change her thesis on South African HIV policy due to lack of available information.

But, thanks to a new global development studies exchange program, Wells, MA ’12, will be doing her own ground research as early as July.

Queen’s is one of 38 Canadian post-secondary institutions to receive Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) funding for this partnership program with the University of Cape Town (UCT).

Over the next four years, up to five undergraduate and two master’s students will be given internship opportunities in South African non-government and community-based organizations. $270,000 in funding means that Wells, along with two other graduate students, will have access to the primary resources necessary to complete their research.

Wells said the program also creates travel opportunities that many students would not otherwise have. Approximately $7,000 will be available to each Queen’s student accepted into the program. This will cover travel, living and communication-related expenses.

“The funding ... is going to allow people who maybe don’t have the means to get some international experience,” she said.

Wells said this will also benefit her future academic career.

“I’ll be able to make some contacts while I’m there, with other people who do similar things,” Wells said. “Getting the experience working with primary sources is valuable if I choose to go on and do a Ph.D.”

Marc Epprecht, acting head of the global development studies department, said that summer exchange programs are often less popular than exchanges during the school year. Many students can’t afford to take four months off work, he said.

“[We can] subsidize the master’s students to get a great field experience to do research in South Africa, and they can make their major research paper into a thesis, so it’s kind of upgrading it,” he said.

No undergraduate students will be taking part this session, as the program was announced too late in the academic year.

Another aim of the program is to develop a virtual classroom to link two classes from UCT and Queen’s. The classes are working on similar projects concerning Aboriginal rights and reconciliation in their respective countries.

Epprecht said the funding will allow relationships to be fostered so that students on both sides can take advantage of the opportunity.

The program will also provide four UCT graduate students with $10,000 each to study at Queen’s for one semester every year over the next four years. This program builds upon an institutional partnership between Queen’s and UCT, which officially began in 2002.

“We aren’t dumping someone in a place where, in addition to the culture shock, they also have to deal with language issues. UCT is one of the best universities in the world,” he said, adding that it ranks only 29 spots below the 2010 Queen’s on the QS World University Rankings.

Epprecht said that he has so far received a lot of positive feedback from the program.

“It’s hard to organize a big application in a very short period of time,” Epprecht said. “But because of our connections [between Queen’s researchers and South Africans] we were able to cook it up.”

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