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Academics without borders

Volunteers will have the opportunity to help developing countries build higher education
By: Emerald Bensadoun
March 02, 2017
Students in the Student Learning Centre

Photo: Academics Without Borders will be collaborating with Ryerson University to help strengthen education in developing countries.

Ryerson University recently joined external,Academics Without Borders, an organization that helps academic institutions in developing countries.

A Canadian bilingual non-governmental organization based in Montreal, Academics Without Borders-Universitaires sans frontières (AWB-USF) supports academic institutions in developing countries that are building capacity in higher education. Volunteers – working and retired professionals, academics, administrators and staff – help academic institutions to train their own experts and conduct research to assist in their development. AWB-USF fulfills its mission by sending volunteers on projects that originate in and are owned by developing world institutions.

Ryerson philosophy professor David Checkland represents the organization at Ryerson. He explains that the need for an organization like AWB-USF arises in part, as a result of the “brain drain” problem in developing countries.

“The people that go off to get educated are going to places like Europe or Asia or North America or Australia, and then there are always temptations for them to stay,” said Checkland. “There’s been a brain drain out of those countries. In the long run, you’re helping them develop their own education systems.”

Volunteering with AWB-USF, said Checkland, is an opportunity for faculty and staff members to make international connections and help support developing countries trying to build higher education. Checkland added that Ryerson’s membership in AWB-USF gives members of the organization’s network access to more opportunities and resources.

His primary role with AWB-USF is to share information. The first step, he said, is “getting the word out there, making sure people know what [AWB-USF] is in the event that they might want to help.”

Checkland shares volunteer opportunities through emails to faculty and encourages Ryerson faculty to watch for AWB-USF projects that relate to their expertise. Interested professors can also contribute to AWB-USF by promoting the organization through public outreach.

In the past, AWB-USF has helped bring together seven institutions to establish the University of Rwanda, and aided in the creation of the Centre for Disability Studies and Services at the State Islamic University Sunan Kalijaga, in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

Since its creation in 2007, AWB-USF has had more than 75 projects in 17 countries.

Find out more at an Academics Without Borders info session in April.