Summer School alumni stories

'Creating greener narratives through the environmental arts and humanities' was the theme for the 2017 ACU Summer School. The event saw over 40 students from 27 member universities – including Chevening and Commonwealth Scholars – take part in an action-packed week of workshops, lectures, field trips, and group work projects at Bath Spa University, UK. 

Here are some of their stories.

Olufemi Joseph Akinnifesi – Nigeria

Olufemi Joseph Akinnifesi'The ACU Summer School was an amazing experience for me and continues to shape my career path and personal development. The expert lectures were a source of diverse knowledge on how to communicate intricate scientific research to wider audiences, and encouraged me to combine elements of the sciences, culture, and communication to drive sustainable development in my community.

As well as giving me the chance to travel beyond Nigeria for the first time, it was also an opportunity to meet and connect with many uniquely brilliant people from different countries, boosting my multicultural networks and global perspectives. The international experience has also helped me to win funding to attend other conferences and events.

And how could I ever forget the host university? Highly creative, colourful, techy, and beautiful! Thank you, Bath Spa University!'

Olufemi took part in the 2017 ACU Summer School at Bath Spa University, UK, while studying for an MSc in Environmental Biology and Public Health at the Federal University of Technology, Akure, in Nigeria.

He is currently working for a district vaccine facility in Nigeria and applying for PhD study.

Dr Margaret Cook – Australia

Margaret Cook'The ACU Summer School exposed me to many different ideas and people that challenged my thinking. The writing sessions pushed me beyond my comfort zone, giving me the confidence to write articles and publish a book, to be released in September 2019. I developed intellectually through fabulous discussions with other students, which brought a global perspective to my work as an environmental historian, and learned much from the expert presenters and field trips.

I often remember the Summer School experience and delight in keeping in touch through social media with the many friends I now have throughout the Commonwealth.'

Margaret took part in the 2017 ACU Summer School at Bath Spa University, UK, while studying for a PhD at the University of Queensland, Australia.

She has since completed her PhD and is now a research assistant for an Australian Research Council project on the histories of urban water in Australian cities.

Ruth Omani – Kenya

 Ruth Omani'I acquired valuable lessons that have shaped how I think through various situations, especially those that require multidisciplinary and sustainable solutions.

The Summer School helped me come to a realisation that, as a scientist and veterinarian, I should collaborate with colleagues in the humanities and arts to foster inclusivity and, most importantly, to ensure that I communicate effectively with the various stakeholders in my industry.'

Ruth took part in the 2017 ACU Summer School at Bath Spa University, UK, while studying for an MSc in Conservation Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, UK, supported by a Commonwealth Distance Learning Scholarship.

She is now a Research Fellow for the One Health Regional Network for the Horn of Africa, an initiative to increase research capability in the region, with a focus on the interactions between people and animals.

Olivia Parris Bowen – Guyana

Olivia Parris-Bowen'The ACU Summer School opened my eyes to just how diverse cultures can be and how every person regards the world, the environment and space differently. It is one thing to imagine how others may view the world, but to actually sit among people of different backgrounds and understand their perspectives on environmental issues was mind-blowing.

I made lasting friendships through the experience and I am so grateful to still be in contact with many of my fellow students today.'

Olivia took part in the 2017 ACU Summer School at Bath Spa University, UK, while studying for a BSc in Environmental Health at the University of Guyana.

She is now studying for an MSc in Occupational and Environmental Safety and Health at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad and Tobago. Her research focuses on water quality around landfill sites and their surrounding communities in Guyana.

Asha Sitati – Kenya

Asha Sitati'I drew a lot from the enriching lectures, field trips, and interactions at the ACU Summer School. The session on research skills was instrumental to my Master's research, for which I received a distinction and very good feedback from my professors.

I found the session on sustainable development in Africa, with a focus on SDG 4, to be particularly enriching. Education is at the heart of sustainability and will be crucial if we are to address climate change in sufficient time to reduce its impact. By creating greener narratives, society is better able to humanise and relay the suffering caused by climate change. Thanks to the Summer School, I now apply this concept in my daily work.

I look forward to engaging more with Bath Spa University – a breathtakingly beautiful environment with enviable resources.'

Asha Sitati took part in the 2017 ACU Summer School at Bath Spa University, UK, while studying for an MSc in Climate Change at University College London, UK, supported by a Chevening Scholarship.She has since returned to Kenya where she works as a technical adviser for C40 Cities – a network of the world's megacities committed to addressing climate change.

Samantha Williams – South Africa

Samantha Williams'The insights I gained on the ACU Summer School enabled me to explore and engage with the interrelationships between humans, cultural practices, and environmental issues. This has enabled me to approach my research and professional work from a different perspective.

It was also an opportunity to learn about UK's rich history, particularly by visiting cities such as Bath, Oxford and London. I am still in contact with students I met on the Summer School and I hope to visit the UK again.'

Samantha took part in the 2017 ACU Summer School at Bath Spa University, UK, while studying for an MA in Geography and Environment Studies at the University of the Western Cape, South Africa.

She is now an intern at ICLEI Africa – a global network of cities, towns and regions committed to building a sustainable future.

In 2016, 40 students from 17 countries travelled to the University of Rwanda for the ACU Summer School. Guided by the theme 'The Sustainable Development Goals: what role for universities?', these students took part in a week of intensive group work, research, field trips and much more.

Here are some of their stories.

Deborah Akong – Uganda

Deborah Akong - Summer School 2016

'The 2016 Summer School increased my knowledge and passion for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and also challenged me to contribute to the goals. I am excited that in my work I am contributing to SDG goal six: safe water and sanitation for all.

'I reach out to communities – especially slums – where latrines are abandoned because they are filled up or in a poor state to provide sanitation services. as well as educate communities on proper sanitation practices.

'Also, as an African, I was amazed (to learn about) the policies that Rwanda is implementing; for example, the polythene bag ban, helmet use by all motorcyclists, and the health care system is also mind blowing. This left me desiring the same for my mother country, Uganda.'

Deborah graduated from Makerere University in 2017 with a BSc in Environmental Health Sciences. She now works as a Public Relations Officer for Sanitation Solutions Group – a social enterprise in Kampala, which markets affordable sanitation products and services to households and communities in Uganda.

Dr Naa Adjeley Alakija Sekyi – Ghana

Naa SekyiWhen she participated in the Summer School, Naa was completing a PhD at the University of Cape Coast, where she is now a lecturer in Sociology and Anthropology. Her research and teaching focuses on gender and sexuality, family studies, peace and global studies.

Here, Naa reveals how attending the Summer School has positively impacted her career:

'The impact of this brilliant opportunity is so phenomenal that I can never forget it in my life! The Summer School has been beneficial to me in many ways, including adding a commendable touch to my teaching and research activities, and linking me with students and professors from other parts of the world who have become part of my social and academic network.

'Regarding teaching, I have become very conscious of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and thus talk about them in all my classes especially goals 5 and 16. These two goals have become a common factor in my teaching because of their focus on gender and peace. This is widening knowledge on the SDGs among my undergraduate students who hitherto were quite ignorant about the global goals.

'I still talk about Rwanda to my family and friends especially because of the special interest I developed in Rwandese culture. I cherish and wear the traditional outfit I bought during our visit and I actually have plans of going back there with my family for a vacation.'

Dr Muhammed Asaduzzaman – Bangladesh

Asad Summer School 2016In 2016, Asad was completing a Master's in Biosecurity by distance learning at Massey University, New Zealand. He is now a Global Health Equity Scholars (GHES) Fellow at UC Berkeley, USA, and an Assistant Scientist at icddr,b in Bangladesh. His current research focuses on the environmental dimension of antimicrobial resistance.

Asad shares why the Summer School was such a positive experience: 'I am grateful to the organisers for this opportunity through which I realised the strength of multidisciplinarity – working with students from diverse backgrounds, we developed a research project on malaria. I was really thrilled to meet the extraordinary young people from around the world, find out about their voluntary initiatives, dedication and the true sense of multicultural, multidisciplinary potential in the summer school.

'Rwanda was the first African country I stepped in and this maiden visit to Africa was a special occasion in my life. The well organised programme schedule was sufficient enough to find the rhythm of "Pays des Mille Collines". The visits to FABLAB (ICT Lab), the King's Palace, Ethnographic museum, and export processing zone were eye opening – showing how a nation advances keeping its core values in place.

'I loved each hour of my existence in Rwanda, its culture, landscape, people, Lake Kivu... everything. Now I love the whole of Africa. I am thankful to the ACU, University of Rwanda and to my luck.'

Scott Flutey – New Zealand

Scott Flutey Summer School 2016Scott graduated from Victoria University of Wellington in 2017 with a BA (Hons) History and International Relations, and went on to complete a Master's in Museum and Heritage Practice. He is now a Collections Assistant at Whanganui Regional Museum.

Since attending the Summer School, Scott has been able to put the experience to good use - he shares how it has benefitted both his studies and career:

'Being selected for the Summer School was a tremendous boost for my studies, as well as my personal and professional development. The immersion into high-level, cross-disciplinary academic discussion in a vastly different part of the world was hugely exciting.

'The delegates came from all over the world with diverse interests – and we all became fast friends! We had so many laughs and awesome experiences. I remain in touch with many of them, and we continue to discuss themes covered at the Summer School, and Rwanda in general. Last year, I wrote an extended essay on the place, management, and importance of cultural sites in Rwanda for a Heritage Practices paper, and was able to use my experiences and contacts from during Summer School.

'I now feel better equipped to participate in academia and the professional world as a direct result of my Summer School experience, and strongly encourage other students thinking of applying to do so.'

Dr Lentsu Nchabeleng – South Africa

Dr Lentsu Nchabeleng Summer School 2016When she accepted her place on the Summer School, Lentsu was a PhD student at Durban University of Technology. She is now a postdoctoral research fellow in the HIV and AIDS Research Unit at Nelson Mandela University. Her current research project aims to address the structural factors that impede young women and adolescent girls from accessing comprehensive HIV and AIDS and Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH) services within their local health facilities in the rural Eastern Cape.

Lentsu explains how attending the Summer School has boosted her research:

'I can confidently say that the ACU Summer School has contributed positively to my studies, career and personal development. The insights that were shared particularly on SDG Goal 3: Good health and well-being have informed my PhD research study on the tenets of universal health coverage and shaped my thoughts on multiple facets of Africa's HIV and AIDS epidemic.

'In addition, the ACU Summer School afforded me an opportunity to learn and engage in the diverse culture of Rwanda. I can vividly remember the warmth and cleanness of Kigali, the scrumptious plantain we had for lunch and the meaningful conversations I had with fellow recipients during our stay in Rwanda.'

Dr Chuck Chuan Ng  – Malaysia

Dr Chuck Chuan Ng Summer School 2016

In 2016, Chuck was completing a PhD in Applied Environmental Sciences at the University of Malaya. Now, he is a Senior Lecturer and Programme Coordinator at the School of Biological Sciences, Quest International University Perak (QIUP), Malaysia.

For Chuck, it was an opportunity to develop personally:

'Through the 2016 ACU Summer School experience, I have managed to expand my horizons and it has allowed me to step out of my personal comfort zone. It allowed me to always strive for greater heights and excellence in whatever fields I am pursuing.

It has been a positive stepping stone for me to think and act outside the box for tasks in both my work and personal life.'

Seun Oladipupo – Nigeria

Seun Oladipupo  Summer School 2016When he travelled to Rwanda for the Summer School in 2016, Seun was completing a MSc Environmental Biology & Public Health at the Federal University of Technology, Akure. He is now a PhD candidate and Graduate Assistant at Auburn University, USA. His research focuses on the use of essential oils as natural, non-toxic insecticides.

Seun had never travelled outside his home country before, here he explains the profound impact attending the Summer School has had on him personally and professionally:

'In the introductory remarks of my group's Summer School presentation, I used the old African adage; "If you want to go fast; go alone. If you want to go far; go together". Professor Mammo Muchie, one of the judges of the presentation, corrected me and said there is nothing wrong with going fast and far. That comment changed my perception of life. In that regard, I have continued to lead by going fast and far.

'As a firm believer of education as a tool to make better life choices (SDG Goal 4: Quality Education), I have continued to use this, through my research, to improve the quality of life and contribute my tiny drops to make the ocean of life a better place.

'The journey to Rwanda was my first ever international travel. Again, thank you ACU for the opportunity. It wasn't just an eye opener for me, it made me want more in life. Visiting Rwanda, a country once besieged by a dark cloud of war and genocide, and seeing how the people have turned the darkness around to make things better for themselves, was a new light that made me understood the importance of resolve and hard work in getting things done. It added purpose to my life.'