(L-R) Musa, a Mali member, Dr. Florence Dunkel, associate professor of Plant Sciences and Pathology at Montana State University, Fatima, Mali member, Dr. Ernest Owens, Opus College of Business & Dr. Ashley Shams, Department of Modern and Classical Languages
The University of St. Thomas hosted its second "Mali Night" on Monday November 3rd, 2008. This special event celebrated the 5 year effort of the University of St. Thomas in engaging their faculty and students with agricultural issues in Mali. To date, 38 students, 10 faculty and 1 Dean have travelled to Mali from UST working on collaborative projects that have included the production of Shea Butter, cultivating seed potatoes, the design of an evaporative cooler optimized for sub-Saharan conditions, water purification, and the training of faculty at the Institute of Agriculture and the Institute of Engineering in using modern design software.
The University of St. Thomas, with its tradition of service and emphasis on excellence in teaching, encourages learning opportunities that are meaningful and engage students in real-life situations that connect to the world around them. The University of St. Thomas is currently working with Montana State University on a USDA Higher Education Challenge Grant entitled: "The New Paradigm for Discovery Based Learning: Implementing Bottom-Up Development by Listening to Farmers' Needs while Engaging them in Participatory, Holistic Thinking". Projects emphasize working with Malian representatives of higher learning, subsistence farmers, and several other US institutions. The focus of this year's project is the cultivation of seed potatoes.
"Mali Night" gave guests an opportunity to celebrate and learn about the culture and people of Mali. Participants had a chance to see authentic Malian art, listen to Malian music, see pictures of the country and its people as well as learn about previous projects from videos and photo albums. Guests also had the chance to taste delicious Malian specialties that had been prepared especially for the event.
The evening was made even more special by the presence of Dr. Florence Dunkel, associate professor of Plant Sciences and Pathology at MSU and Principal Investigator of the current grant; by the presence of Sidy Ba,, assistant professor in Hydraulic Engineering at the Institut Polytechnique Rural de Formation et de Recherche Appliquée and in Koulikoro, Mali and member of the Mali Agribusiness Centre; by the presence of Malian friends and colleagues (who generously gave their time and energy), and by the attendance of many students and university community members as well as guests from the greater community.
The event was organized and hosted by the UST faculty active on the current grant:
Dr. Susan Smith-Cunnien, Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice
Dr. Ernest Owens, Opus College of Business
Dr. Jane Saly, Opus College of Business
Dr. Camille George, School of Engineering
Dr. Ashley Shams, Department of Modern and Classical Languages