A donor-funded study abroad program expanded students' worldview and instilled in them the urge to give back to their Tanzanian host community.

MSU-Tanzania Partnership Program Supports Study Abroad in Tanzania

The Michigan State University (MSU)- Tanzania Partnership Program (TPP) supports a successful study abroad program in Tanzania. The program, Sustainable Community Development in Tanzania (SCDT), gives students the opportunity to learn a hands-on community engagement approach to development in a Tanzanian context. SCDT offers students two interrelated opportunities: (1) undergraduate student scholars work with faculty and graduate student leaders in community development and collaborative research using a community engagement approach; and (2) graduate student leaders receive support for programs in areas related to the sustainable community development initiatives of TPP. The SCDT program is generously funded by donors. In 2015, six undergraduate students received scholarships to participate in the SCDT study abroad program.  

SCDT is at the forefront of MSU and TPP’s efforts to embed community engagement principles into the university’s study abroad experience. The program is designed to increase community capacity and improve community well-being, while providing a transformational experience for MSU and Tanzanian students. SCDT is run in partnership with members of the northern village of Naitolia, the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM), and Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA).

Students and faculty from MSU, UDSM, and SUA work together with the community to organize, manage, and complete development and research projects. Projects vary depending on the immediate needs of the community and the interests of the students. Students learn about the history of development in Tanzania, different approaches to development, and receive linguistic training in Kiswahili. To culturally orient and deepen students’ connection to the community, the SCDT program includes a homestay with local families. Students gain friendships and form academic partnerships that are likely to continue long after the program has ended.

In 2015, the projects focused on community development in Naitolia. The students researched water scarcity and quality, agriculture, and animal health in the village, and conducted interviews with girls and women on reproductive health. In addition, they took part in the renovation of a classroom and created study aids, such as large painted diagrams of human anatomy, for the primary school in Naitolia. The 2015 faculty lead for SCDT is Jonathan Choti, an instructor in the MSU Department of Linguistics and Germanic, Slavic, Asian, and African Languages. Graduate student leaders Tula Ngasala, a doctoral student in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Jessica Ott, a doctoral student in the Department of Anthropology, assisted Dr. Choti. University of Dar es Salaam faculty leads were Emily Mwita from the UDSM College of Education, Faustin Maganga from the Institute of Resources Assessment at UDSM, and Sharadhuli Idd Kimera from SUA, who worked with graduate student leaders Linda Munisi and Neovitus Singa, who are both master’s students studying natural resource assessment at UDSM. For more information on the study abroad program, contact Dr. Choti by email at chotijon@msu.edu.

The 2015 Tanzania Partnership Project participants with Dr. Choti. Photo by Kristen Gmerek.


Study Abroad Students Raise Money to Feed Students in Tanzania

Over the summer of 2015, six Michigan State University (MSU) students selected as to participate in the donor-supported Tanzania Partnership Program traveled to Tanzania to learn participatory and integrated approaches to development as part of the Sustainable Community Development in Tanzania Study Abroad Program. The participants were profoundly impacted by their experience living and working in the Maasai village of Naitolia, which was suffering from a severe dry season. While the village is capable of feeding itself during the wet season, the recent dry period had drastically limited harvest yields and the villagers’ ability to maintain the school feeding program. Many school children in Naitolia were not eating during the school day, affecting their ability to concentrate and learn. The Tanzania Partnership Program participants were deeply troubled by the children’s hunger and made a commitment to help the village raise enough money to support the school feeding program through two dry seasons. After returning to MSU, the scholars worked with MSU Crowdpower and successfully raised the needed $5,000. Their ability to identify a local need and their dedication to their host community will ensure school children in Naitolia receive a proper school lunch for the next two years. For more information on the scholars’ fundraising effort, see givingto.msu.edu/crowdpower/naitolia-feeding-program.cfm.

Jan Ahlborn and Clare O'Kane take water samples. Photo by Kristen Gmerek.



Wall diagrams on the Naitolia primary school building. Photo by Kristen Gmerek.


A 2015 Tanzania Partnership Project participant with students at the Naitolia primary school. Photo by Kristen Gmerek.



Longer versions of these stories originally appeared in the 2016 CASID Update, and were republished here with permission. 

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