UMass Amherst Partnership with Cape Town community emerges from summer course and project in South Africa

Ania Dos Reis and other students in SBS in Cape Town program

The SBS in Cape Town program brought together students from UMass Amherst and the community organization Ikhaya le Langa, in a unique partnership to create community connections and participation in experiential intercultural dialogue in South Africa.

Ikhaya le Langa and the UMass partnership was born out of the course “Empowering Communities through Civic Engagement,” offered by the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences (SBS) and the International Programs Office (IPO), and hosted at the University of Cape Town (UCT). The partnership focused on community-based learning, social entrepreneurship, and reciprocity as an effort to increase leadership skills and agency for community change, especially in the Langa Quarter. Many of the students who participated in the program also received generous scholarships from SBS and IPO.

UMass Communication senior Ania Dos Reis ’20, is one of ten students who participated, including one student from University of North Carolina Wilmington. Dos Reis took advantage of the opportunity to study abroad in Cape Town because she says it connects with her life goal of doing humanitarian work.

“Professionally I had the chance to learn different life skills that could be applied globally and I think that is the beauty of traveling to South Africa or anywhere not in the west,” Dos Reis said.

The engagement course was taught by Mari Castañeda, SBS associate dean for equity and inclusion and professor of Communication, and Joseph Krupczynski, director of civic engagement and service learning and associate professor of Architecture.

As a UMass transfer student, Dos Reis gained academic credits that will keep her on her graduation timeline, and she was also thrilled about the chance to discover and learn about a different location than the popular European study abroad destinations.

“We have been presented with so many stereotypical images of Africa that as foreigners we don’t see what else Africa has to offer,” said Dos Reis. “But what’s important to note is that Africa is a continent not a city, or country, thus changing that narrative of generalizing will help influence more people to travel to places outside of their comfort zones.”

Through the community partnership, university students including Dos Reis, partnered with Ikhaya le Langa’s Ambassadors program in order to produce a collaborative civic engagement project that involved asset mapping, story captures, intercultural dialogue, reflection narratives and visioning activities about the future of Langa, the oldest historically Black township in the Western Cape.

The asset mapping activity involved five teams, each comprising of two university students and two ambassadors, and each team covered five specific areas within Langa. The goal was to map all the assets of the community (people, institutions, associations, and businesses) and highlight the assets that best reflect the areas. More than 130 community assets were identified and highlighted.

Dos Reis says the program taught her a great deal about herself and she learned that she can overcome anything.

“I have the power, knowledge and resources to be a better me. Not only that, but I also learned the importance of being a global citizen and my responsibilities as one,” said Dos Reis.

The SBS in Cape Town program will once again take place in summer 2020. For more information please contact Professor Castañeda (


--Omadelle Nelson Bowser, Manager of Academic Programs