Involvement with Academics Without Borders a natural fit for UWOFA

Vanessa Frank

Mindful that UWOFA members care deeply about quality education, UWOFA considers a partnership with Academics Without Borders a natural fit.

Earlier this year, the UWOFA Board of Directors unanimously approved partnering with Western’s Academics Without Borders committee to raise awareness about future opportunities to volunteer with the organization. The initiative provides funded opportunities for faculty members (particularly those on sabbatical leave or recently retired), staff, and administrators to volunteer at universities in low resourced areas of the global south in teaching, curriculum development, and program development.

“When we were approached to participate in Academics Without Borders, what pleased me greatly was the fact that the entire Board of Directors was so enthusiastic to be involved,” said Dan Belliveau, UWOFA president. “And I think that stems from our current involvement with Scholars at Risk. They align well and represent UWOFA’s continuing concern for higher education broadly.”

Founded in 2006 by Steven Davis, a retired Canadian philosophy professor, Academics Without Borders works to help improve universities in the developing world. It is driven by the belief that higher education is a key ingredient in a prosperous, just, sustainable society and is focused on building local capacity at universities that need a bit of help from time to time.

It is this focus on answering the call when universities in the developing world reach out for assistance that makes the organization’s work special and meaningful, according to Andrew Botterell, a UWOFA member who travelled to Bahir Dar, Ethiopia, with Academics Without Borders earlier this year.

“I think what’s interesting about AWB is that the projects tend to come from the institutions themselves,” Botterell explained. “It’s not people in North America saying, ‘We think this is what you should do,’ it’s those institutions there saying, ‘This is what we need. This is a project we think is valuable. This is the support we think that AWB could provide for us.’ It’s the sort of expertise that academics are uniquely placed to provide.”

Botterell in January completed his second two-week stint teaching a course in philosophy of law and contemporary legal problems at Bahir Dar University, which is working to create a new PhD program in Law. Making connections with students and scholars in other areas of the world is indicative of meaningful internationalization in higher education. Mobilizing academic expertise to be used to share with other cultures is precisely the type of international outreach efforts Botterell would like to see Western University involved with.

While he answered a call for volunteers at Bahir Dar University, faculty members are also encouraged to submit proposals to Academics Without Borders in cases where they already have contacts or ongoing projects with universities in the global south or other low resource countries, said Amanda Grzyb, chair of Western’s AWB committee.

All UWOFA members – limited duties, limited term, tenure track and emeritus – are eligible to apply for volunteer positions. Academics Without Borders pays for all travel and subsistence costs for volunteers, as well as necessary vaccinations, visas, etc. Stay tuned for announcements about future opportunities, and please email Grzyb at agrzyb [at] uwo [dot] ca if you have any questions.