Tracy, David, and I have been iterating on making a proposal for our school, UCSC. Tracy, for the most part, has been pioneering the effort. When asked to provide a proposal, we found ourselves a bit at a loss for how that happens (in a non-science grant sort of way). As part of the endeavor, we are collecting letters of recommendations. I’ll try to give more of an update soon, but here is a beautifully written letter from our Stanford colleague.
Dear Sir or Madam,
I am an international student from South Africa currently pursuing a doctoral degree in medical imaging instrumentation at Stanford University. I have great pleasure in writing this letter of support for the Academic Bridges project, whose members will be visiting tertiary education institutions in southern Africa to seek ways to support them through connection and collaboration.
Growing up in South Africa, I attended the country’s public school system for my primary and secondary school education, as well as my undergraduate university studies. I have seen both South Africa’s high dropout rate in secondary and tertiary education institutions, and the exacerbating effect this has on the country’s already severe skills shortage. For students fortunate and dedicated enough to complete a university degree, such as myself, we nevertheless often lack ready access to the ecosystem of cutting-edge research essential for developing skills-based and high-value drivers of economy in developed countries. Without becoming a global player in research and innovation, Africa will continue to suffer from over-reliance on exploitation of natural resources for agriculture and commodities export.
From these, I recognize a critical need for universities in southern Africa to receive the attention, resource and academic relationships needed to both mitigate the region’s skills shortage, and connect Africa’s academics and students to the ecosystem of world-class research and innovation.
Over the past 3 years, I have come to know various members of the Academic Bridges team through student group activities at Stanford University and mutual friends. I understand the Academic Bridges project aims to connect with individuals and universities in developing countries to their peers in the Unites States, to explore opportunities for academic collaboration and support, and importantly, to bring stories back to the members’ respective universities so that their experiences could spur further spontaneous initiatives towards elevating tertiary education in developing countries.
Academic Bridges is a great project because of its uniqueness and open-mindedness. The project is unique in its support of an aspect of developing countries often under-appreciated for its significant role in economic and social upliftment. In comparison, while being no less worthy causes, many more initiatives exist to support basic health care, primary education, agriculture, micro-financing etc. Academic Bridges is open-minded, because the members do not start their journey with a preconceived problem, solution or agenda; instead they are prepared to eagerly listen, learn and explore solutions sensible for each locale and occasion.
I was able to attend their last meeting and have been following the project ever since. As someone from southern Africa, I deeply appreciate their goal and vision, and through this letter hope you would share in my appreciation. I would like to express my full support and confidence in this team of competent and driven individuals, and would be truly thankful for your favorable consideration and support of Academic Bridges’s grant proposal.