UMass Amherst-led Global Teams Win Funds for Educational Diversity, Electricity in Developing Countries Research

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AMHERST, Mass. – Two teams of international researchers led by University of Massachusetts Amherst faculty have been awarded funding from the Worldwide Universities Network (WUN) to initiate global projects designed to impact millions of people in the developing world. Four other UMass researchers are collaborating on projects led by other universities.

One team will research diversity, inclusion and student success in a global setting. It includes lead principal investigator (PI) Chrystal George Mwangi, assistant professor of higher education in the department of educational policy, research and administration, and co-PIs Sangeeta Kamat, education professor; Enobong (Anna) Branch, UMass associate chancellor for equity and inclusion and chief diversity officer; and Jonique Childs, assistant professor of student development. They will lead researchers from the University of Bristol, the University of Ghana, the University of Cape Town and University College Dublin.

The project will establish a network of scholars to engage in comparative research and develop conceptual models and approaches to study inclusion, equity and diversity in higher education in diverse countries. The rapid expansion of higher education globally and increased pressure on institutions to serve diverse student populations has placed inclusion and equity in the forefront.

The group will develop a multi-country scholar network to advance research on student diversity and success in higher education by establishing a shared set of concepts, theories and methodologies that is informed by a comparative approach.

Erin Baker, the Armstrong Professional Development Professor in the mechanical and industrial engineering department and director of the IGERT Offshore Wind Energy Program, and recently appointed associate dean in the College of Engineering, will work with co-PI Leonce Ndikumana, professor of economics. Their project is designed to bring sustainability and electricity access to developing countries. They will work with partner universities the University of Ghana, the University of Nairobi and the University of Cape Town.

The long-term objective of the project is to establish the Sustainable Energy Access for Africa Network (SEAFAN) and provide a process for stakeholder-informed modeling and decision frameworks to support solutions to sustainable electricity access across sub-Saharan Africa. The group proposes targeted workshops in Ghana to engage university colleagues from the U.S. and Africa and a range of stakeholders to develop energy modeling aimed at better serving communities in African nations.

Four UMass Amherst researchers also are working on projects led by other universities:

  • Elizabeth Brabec, professor of landscape architecture and regional planning, will work with a team led by the University of Bristol on a global project that examines memorials to people who have died and to those who have gone missing during migration. Brabec is a scientific expert on cultural landscapes for the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and an expert on loss and damage for the committee writing new guidelines for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage sites. She will use the project as a special topic for the design studio course open to students in landscape architecture, regional planning, architecture, materials technology, public policy, anthropology and other arts, humanities and social science programs.
  • Miliann Kang, associate professor in women, gender, sexuality studies, will work on a team led by The Chinese University of Hong Kong that examines women’s mobility in work and family spheres in Asia. The project builds upon Kang’s current research on gender, migration and labor in the U.S. and South Korea, and will connect scholars researched gendered processes of mobility in work and family in mainland China, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong and other regions of Asia. This will include the supports or barriers women confront and emerging patterns that provide both individual and social benefits as well as increasing inequalities and risks.
  • Lindiwe Sibeko, extension assistant professor of nutrition, will work with a team led by the University of Alberta on African child and youth wellbeing in the context of migration and displacement. Her participation will aid her research by providing the opportunity to test and evaluate cross-disciplinary interventions that result in healthy outcomes among migrant and internally displaced youth, which will include youth in their child-bearing years.
  • John Staudenmayer, mathematics professor and expert in developing statistical techniques to analyze health data, will work with a team led by Maastricht University in the Netherlands to develop a state-of-the-art platform in which accelerometer data from three major epidemiological studies on the health effects of light intensity physical activity, sedentary behavior and sleep can be shared with the scientific community for future analyses.

The WUN Research Development Fund provides seed funding to undertake globally-collaborative, innovative, high-quality research that addresses selected global challenges. UMass Amherst has been an active member of WUN since 2015.