UMass to Sign Memo of Understanding with University of South Africa

UMass Amherst

A significant memo of understanding (MOU) between UMass Amherst and the University of South Africa (UNISA) will be signed on Tuesday, April 2, by Provost and Senior Chancellor for Academic Affairs John McCarthy and Bhekie Mamba, executive dean of the College of Science, Engineering and Technology (CSET) at UNISA.

At 4 p.m. that day, Mamba will give a public presentation titled “UNISA and UMass Collaborating in Shaping the Future of Humanity in Science, Engineering and Technology” in the Elab II Auditorium. 

The MOU, the first UNISA has with a North American university, will establish a framework for future research, faculty and student exchanges between UMass and UNISA, the largest university system in Africa. The MOU and relationship between the two university systems has been nurtured by David Reckhow, professor of civil and environmental engineering, who spent a 2011 sabbatical in South Africa with Mamba and his colleagues, and supported by John Tobiason, also a professor in civil and environmental engineering. Both Reckhow and Tobiason have visited South Africa many times to research water-related issues.

After recently taking on the executive dean role at UNISA, Mamba has made it his priority to position the College of Science, Engineering and Technology as a world-class college. “We would like to have strategic collaborations with other universities in the world—top-class universities that will actually challenge us and stimulate our research agenda,” he said. 

Reckhow said one of UNISA’s research interests is water resources, especially in the face of the severe drought conditions the country has experienced in recent years. “We want to partner with UNISA so we can participate in helping them tackle a global problem,” Reckhow said. 

“Africa is an area where there is a lot of focus on not only resource-based needs, but social issues as well,” Reckhow said. “It is exciting to have this new agreement to provide multi-disciplinary opportunities for our faculty and students to work in partnership with a leading African university on global issues.”

Mamba’s visit to UMass is supported by the International Programs Office, the College of Engineering and the civil and environmental engineering department. Mamba and two colleagues from UNISA will spend the week on campus learning more about UMass and meeting with faculty and students. 

Mamba was appointed as the executive dean of CSET in 2016. Prior to this position he was the director for the Nanotechnology and Water Sustainability (NanoWS) research unit at UNISA. As an executive dean he is responsible for the strategic direction of three schools under the college (Science, Engineering and Technology).  Previous to his work at UNISA, Mamba was a professor, head of the department of chemistry and executive dean of science faculty at the University of Johannesburg; director of the DST/Mintek Nanotechnology Innovation Centre– Water Research Node; and director of the Institute of Nanotechnology and Water Research at the University of Johannesburg. His general research interest involves developing advanced technologies for water treatment, which include nanotechnology and membrane technology. His main interest is the removal of organic micro pollutants in water and improving the efficiency of conventional technologies in dealing with new emerging pollutants through integrating existing technologies with nanotechnology.