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May 3, 2023

MSU receives $17M from USAID to improve STEM education in Malawi

Michigan State University has received a five-year, $17 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, to build capacity within Malawi’s higher education ecosystem to promote sustainable economic prosperity and self-reliance for Malawians.

“The program extends MSU’s long history of partnership with African universities and reflects our own focus on supporting the success of all students by addressing disparities in access and closing achievement gaps,” said MSU Interim President Teresa K. Woodruff, Ph.D. “We are grateful for USAID’s support to help broaden the reach of science, technology, engineering and mathematics education in Malawi.”

Through the USAID Transforming Higher Education Systems project, MSU will partner with Malawi’s higher education system to increase access to and completion of STEM courses and programs to enhance youth education.  

“Our project imagines an educational system recognizing the contributions all Malawians can make to fulfilling the goals described in the nation’s Malawi 2063 vision document,” said project co-lead Christopher Reimann. “The project will support Malawi’s evolution and growth by increasing the number of youth able to thrive in STEM-related and entrepreneurial jobs that improve the national knowledge economy.”

While many Malawian youth have a strong desire to learn about science, technology, engineering and math, a concerning number never reach university, complete their degrees or find jobs in their desired fields. Over five years, the project team will work to fill the gap between youth aspirations and higher education institutional capacity by tracking participants’ success, scaling up what works and modifying what does not. Using a continual feedback loop, MSU program leaders will help collaborating partners develop their own internal learning processes based on data gathered during implementation.  

The project embraces USAID’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion through its higher education success programming, with a focus on marginalized student populations, such as young women and adolescent girls, students with disabilities and those from under-resourced areas.

Serving as co-principal investigators are:

  • Christopher Reimann, senior academic specialist, Office of International Studies in Education, College of Education
  • Kurt Richter, associate professor, Department of Community Sustainability, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources
  • John Bonnell, capacity development specialist, Global Innovations in Development, Engagement and Scholarship 

They will lead work to introduce STEM pedagogies and curricular design; improve students’ technical, soft and entrepreneurial skills; prepare STEM faculty to incorporate students in research; and lead a multisector stakeholder engagement process to improve STEM-related higher education policy and linkages between STEM education and economic growth. 

“Lives are changed through collaboration, which is at the heart of MSU’s international engagement,” said Richter. “Projects like USAID Transforming Higher Education Systems tackle problems that are larger than any one person or academic discipline — problems that require radical collaboration. Our team believes in and has seen firsthand the broad impact of following the lead of local actors to innovate local solutions never before imagined.”

In close collaboration with the Ministry of Education, the project will build upon existing partnerships and forge new ones with public and private institutions, including Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Malawi University of Science and Technology, Mzuzu University and World Learning, a global education and exchange nonprofit.

“Our success in winning the award was fueled by equitable partnerships, robust networks in Malawi, and proven approaches in higher education capacity-strengthening programs,” said Bonnell. “These aspects, especially the ingenuity and grit of our Malawian partners, will be the foundation for our success in the future.”

“The USAID Transforming Higher Education Systems project is an opportunity for growth and change for so many in Malawi who aspire to improve their community,” said Jerlando F.L. Jackson, dean of the MSU College of Education and MSU Foundation Professor of Education. “The project outcomes will go on to have long-term positive impacts across generations and around the world.”

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