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April 5, 2015

Week 10: University Action

In reflecting on the challenges of global development, we put this question to the group: what new actions can universities take to advance the field of development? What are a university's specific strengths and responsibilities in this field? This could involve a focus on student orientation, core curricula, potential new research, alumni and leadership outreach, etc.

  • Felix Obi's reflection puts forward a strong case for a significantly expanded role and, by implication, partnership between development institutions and research universities. Notably he sees a need to address the current artificial separation between scholarship and practice in many U.S. universities, as it limits the real appreciation and impact of scholars on development.
  • Alejandra Aponte addresses the challenges that hamper interdisciplinary thinking, highlighting the diversity of disciplines that at a practical level contribute innovations in development, as in other fields. She argues that universities are particularly well-placed to address this problem and should identify strategies for teaching, practicing, and ensuring that interdisciplinary thinking is a central pillar of all students’ education.
  • Wilmot Allen turns to Africa in his reflection on the roles that universities can and should play. He underscores the vital importance of higher education there and points to several ways in which American universities could support the development of African universities.
  • Jonas Bergmann makes a case for ethics as an explicit and presumably mandatory element of university programs that address development issues. The interdisciplinary nature of programs and their impact call for this focus.