Cornell to offer two classes with Congolese university

Congo classroom
Lazare Rukundwa Sebitereko, left, provides an overview of studies at Eben-Ezer University of Minembwe to visitors, including Cornell's Christine Leuenberger and Stefan Einarson, right.

Cornell University will form a partnership with the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Eben-Ezer University of Minembwe to offer two courses beginning this fall – one on building peace in conflicted regions and the other on understanding disease patterns in sub-Saharan Africa.

With video links and Skype lectures coupling two classrooms on two continents for two years, the collaboration between Cornell and Eben-Ezer will be virtual. But once the course becomes established, students likely will exchange visits.

“Science diplomacy uses science and education to break down cultural and national barriers and is also a tool for peace-building. This approach also underlies these initiatives,” said Christine Leuenberger, Cornell senior lecturer in science and technology studies. “To bring Eben-Ezer and Cornell students together in the same classroom could help build capacity on both sides of the Atlantic and enable students to better understand each other and analyze global issues. As Nelson Mandela once pointed out, education is the most powerfulweapon you can use to change the world,” she said.

Leuenberger will be joined by Lazare Rukundwa Sebitereko, professor and founder of the Eben-Ezer University. The school’s curriculum is based on fostering entrepreneurship, development and reconciliation, as well as teaching skills.

The courses will be “Sustainable Land Management, Reconciliation and Peace-building in Conflict Regions: The Case of Eastern Africa’s Great Lakes Region” and “Clinical Disease Patterns in Sub-Saharan Africa and their Social Epidemiology.”

Stefan Einarson, director of transnational learning and the head of information technology for International Programs in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, will help with infrastructure and Internet access.

The most recent special envoy to the Congo region – aimed to promote political stability, economic prosperity, reconciliation and peace efforts in the long-troubled region. Cornell’s engagement fosters those ideals and advances its own commitment to enhance transnational learning, research and engagement.

Leuenberger believes it will help educate globally competent and culturally sensitive students and contribute to Cornell President David Skorton’s vision to “bring the world to Cornell and Cornell to the world.”

Very few roads – if any – lead to Eben-Ezer University, which is in a remote part of the Congo. It’s easier to reach by helicopter. The area was ravaged by conflict and students spend hours, if not days, trying to reach school buildings. Eben-Ezer has become the region’s center of activities and educates people for whom education was once out of reach – especially women and girls.

Said Eben-Ezer’s founder, Sebitereko, “We are building hope.”

This project was funded by an Internationalizing the Curriculum grant awarded by the Vice Provost for International Affairs as part of the Global Cornell initiative.

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Joe Schwartz