GOOD NEWS: South Africa trip seeks to expand Sul Ross international student possibilities

ALPINE South Africa may become the next site for Sul Ross State University’s international presence. A recent visit by five administrators and faculty members produced possibilities for cooperative ventures in a number of disciplines.
From Jan. 23-Feb. 2, the Sul Ross contingent visited the University of Pretoria and with several government agencies.
The group included Jimmy Case, Executive Vice President and Provost; Deans Hamin Shabazz (College of Education and Professional Studies); Jay Downing (College of Arts and Sciences); and Rob Kinucan (College of Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences); and Esther Rumsey, professor of Communication and director of International Studies.
The trip also offered some sights and sounds of South Africa, including a game drive (photo safari) of the Mdekewe Wildlife Preserve. A choir comprised of members of the Tshwane Metropolitan Police serenaded the group.
Shabazz had previously established connections for criminal justice studies and exchange programs with several government agencies while heading that program at Clayton and Stevenson universities. When he began his new duties at Sul Ross, he approached Case and Rumsey about arranging an exploratory trip.
“This (trip) would introduce them to the connections I established (previously),” said Shabazz, who has made 17 trips to South Africa. “My position has changed at Sul Ross, so I am looking to hopefully help establish a vibrant study abroad program where this college and the whole university can benefit…not only for criminal justice, but to make opportunities available for every other major.”
The Sul Ross group met with Eddie Webb, deputy dean of the University of Pretoria’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Kinucan expressed optimism in establishing student exchanges, as well as classes in range management for livestock. Sul Ross has a sustainable ranch management program in Brazil, and one of Kinucan’s former students, Raymond Kwerepe (M.S. 1989), recently retired as director of Forestry and Range Resources with the Botswana Ministry of Agriculture.
“Raymond’s networking in Botswana offers real possibilities for us for developing classes, and I am hopeful we can pursue a similar relationship with the University of Pretoria,” he said.
Rumsey sees potential for a broad spectrum of exchange options. “I think (the trip) opens the door to a number of different opportunities with South Africa,” she said.
“In terms of our students traveling abroad, South Africa provides opportunities for internships and service learning for a variety of our majors. As a developing nation, South Africa offers a very different type of travel experience for our students from the educational tours to Europe that have made up most of our study abroad opportunities in the past. There is also a very strong possibility that we will get a few international students from the area we visited.”
Shabazz indicated that a formalized partnership would offer a number of opportunities for student and faculty exchanges, use of facilities in South Africa for international study classes and interaction between Sul Ross students and South African students, as well as the general population.
He also noted the potential for online and in-class courses in the U.S. for members of the Tshwane Metropolitan Police Department, a 4,000-officer force, and the 400,000-member national police force. Shabazz said that a memorandum of understanding was established (but later discontinued) between the law enforcement agencies and Stevenson University to provide coursework and instruction depending on departmental needs.
“We (Sul Ross) met with them to complete at Sul Ross what was started at Stevenson,” Shabazz said. “We want to pick up where we left off…and the opportunities are here.” Shabazz is presently working to draft proposals for tuition costs,
“I see big potential for educating officers here,” he said. “I know of no other university in the U.S. where these officers are coming to study.”
Downing noted that there is interest for additional courses from the South African contingent of law enforcement, court services and the National Prosecuting Authority.
“There is significant interest in training in psychology and professional development,” Downing said. He added that courses in de-escalation techniques, group encounter, emotional intelligence and ethics were prominent possibilities.
Case said Sul Ross also hopes to work closely with the University of Fort Hare, a historically African institution whose graduates include the late South African President Nelson Mandela.
“There are similarities in structure to Hispanic-serving universities (of which Sul Ross is one),” he said.
“The deans are working with Esther (Rumsey) to develop specific programs,” Case said. “A U.S. college degree carries a lot of clout.”
“Overall, this trip can lead to many possibilities and has the potential to give Sul Ross a more visible international presence.”