Campus mourns loss of Robin Mittenthal

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Robin Mittenthal, who touched hundreds of student lives as manager, advisor, mentor and field course leader for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Undergraduate Certificate in Global Health, died suddenly this weekend following an accident at his farm.

“Robin was a very thoughtful, passionate family man,” says Sherry Tanumihardjo, professor of Nutritional Sciences and director of the undergraduate certificate. “His family was the most important thing to him. Some of this passion rubbed off in his mentoring of hundreds of students.”

Mittenthal managed the certificate program from just after its inception in 2011 to spring 2017, when he became center coordinator at the Upper Midwestern Regional Center of Excellence for Vector-Borne Disease.

Employed by the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS), he was a central contributor to the development and coordination of the undergraduate certificate. The program is co-sponsored by GHI and CALS.

As an administrative manager, Mittenthal dedicated countless hours organizing the program and advising students. “Robin was involved right from the start of the undergraduate certificate in global health,” says Jonathan Patz, director of the Global Health Institute. “The early success of the new program was due, in no small part, to his unfailing dedication and caring for the experience of each and every student.”

“Robin was an intelligent, caring and loved advisor by hundreds of students,” says Lori DiPrete Brown, associate director for education and engagement at the Global Health Institute and an undergraduate certificate leader. “He cared deeply about education, the environment and the way food systems related to health, but most importantly, his family was the center of his life.”

Mittenthal’s vibrant spirit as an advisor and educator predated his engagement with the certificate program. He served as an agricultural advisor with the Peace Corps in The Gambia during the mid 1990s and worked as a librarian and teacher for K-12 students.

At the Upper Midwestern Regional Center of Excellence for Vector-Borne Disease, Mittenthal was responsible for coordinating partners in five states and tracking the center’s progress in addressing vector-borne disease challenges. Susan Paskewitz and Lyric Bartholomay, co-directors of the Center, admired the radiance Mittenthal brought with him.

“People have said so many amazing things about him — his passion for what he did, caring for students, sense of humor and intelligence,” Paskewitz says. “One of our students said he was like a perfect human being.”

In a GoFundMe campaign to contribute to the education savings accounts for Mittenthal’s children, Bartholomay wrote: “Robin Mittenthal had a rare gift for connecting to other people. He gave us his time, his undivided attention, his radiant smile, his stories that spanned an unbelievable repertoire of life experiences, his infectious enthusiasm, his thanks and his encouragement. In so doing, he touched lives of countless colleagues in entomology and CALS, of hundreds of undergraduate advisees in the Global Health certificate, and of the students, staff and colleagues in and surrounding a new center on campus for mosquito and tick-borne disease.”

UW senior KM Barnett met with Mittenthal last week about plans for next semester’s work at the center. The short meeting became two hours to visit about her long- and short-term career goals. She remembers: “At the end of the meeting, he said to me, ‘I am so excited for all the things you’ll do.’ His words warmed me with comfort and confidence. … I am grateful for Robin’s keen ability to listen and say the right thing at just the right time.”

Sweta Shrestha, program manager for the Wisconsin Population Health Service Fellowship Program at the Population Health Institute, worked closely with Mittenthal during her time as GHI’s assistant director for education, especially in the early stages of the certificate program. “He was larger than life, and he cared so deeply,” she says. “There are so many students he’s impacted. He wanted to nurture every student, and he did — he put everyone else ahead of himself. If a student needed a recommendation letter and he was up to his ears in work, he wouldn’t hesitate to say yes.”

Across campus, students mourn. Samuel Park, a senior with a Certificate in Global Health, remembers Mittenthal as a kind-hearted, passionate advisor. “He will forever be remembered as a shining light in the campus community who inspired many, many students to pursue careers in support of our collective health,” says Catherine Goslin (’17), who earned her undergraduate certificate.

During Mittenthal’s tenure, the certificate expanded to reach hundreds of students. It has become the largest undergraduate certificate on campus. “The connections he made across campus were incredible,” says Devika Suri, who worked with Mittenthal as an undergraduate certificate advisor. “Everyone knew him and respected him. He was able to bridge different areas of campus to bring people together and collaborate.”

Mitthenthal’s impact resounded across campus. Prior to working for the certificate, he served as chairman of the board overseeing the Eagle Heights Community Gardens while pursuing his Ph.D. in entomology, studying how organic fertilizer affected insect pests.

“He tried to infuse his love of the land and earth with his job,” Suri says. “Farming was his love and passion, and his dream was always to have a farm.”

A dream that came to life in Little Mammoth Berry Farm, LLC, a farm on a beautiful plot in Belleville, Wisconsin, that will reflect the energy and compassion of Mittenthal, it’s builder, for years to come.

Mittenthal was 43. He is survived by his wife, Daniella Molle, and their two children.

“He was a salt of the earth kind of guy,” Shrestha says. “He was so good, and so honest. The spaces he made for students were his way of showing how much he cared about global health, and the spaces the land makes for us.”

Mittenthal was remembered at grief sessions for faculty and staff, and students, Tuesday.

His funeral will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at Cress Funeral Home, 6021 University Avenue. Visitation for family and close friends begins at 10 a.m. His obituary has been posted.

To contribute to the GoFundMe campaign, click here.

By Yusra Murad/ December 6, 2017

Photo by George Hesselberg/Wisconsin State Journal

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Health access program bridges micro-finance, health for Uganda’s poor

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This story appeared first at news.wisc.edu.

Patients, mostly mothers and children, outside a clinic along Lake Victoria, Uganda. As the sign indicates, the clinic relies on health workers from the government Ministry of Health, transported by Health Access Connect (HAC). KEVIN GIBBONS/HEALTH ACCESS CONNECT

In 2008, Kevin Gibbons began research in Uganda’s fishing communities. His goal, as a student at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, was to understand how efforts to promote sustainable fisheries affected family income.

And then a series of “smack yourself on the forehead” moments caused him to switch gears from fishery management to the problem of access to health care.

Today, Gibbons is executive director of Health Access Connect (HAC), a non-profit that merges microfinance and health-care access in Uganda. HAC lends to taxi drivers wanting to buy a motorcycle. In return, the driver agrees to spend three days a month transporting government health workers to nearby villages for a monthly clinic.

Gibbons received his Master’s degree from UW–Madison in 2012 in conservation biology and sustainable development.

The first head-smack occurred during interviews at a fishing community on the shore of Lake Victoria, when he learned that villagers were still dying of HIV/AIDS, even though the government was offering free, effective medicine just three miles away.

Children fetch water at sunset at a fishing community on Lake Victoria, where many residents have difficulty reaching the health system. KEVIN GIBBONS/HEALTH ACCESS CONNECT

A second bit of enlightenment occurred at a remote island on Lake Victoria. “It was a very exotic trip, and I was enjoying myself,” Gibbons recalls. “When I asked about life on the island, my source said, ‘If I could leave, I would leave tomorrow. If I get sick, if a mother is in labor, or a child breaks an arm, it’s an eight-hour boat trip’” to the nearest clinic. Gibbons adds, “Afterwards, I didn’t see those hours-long motorcycle and boat rides in the same way.”

As Gibbons and HAC co-founder Carolyne Ariokot were incubating ideas to bridge the gap, a friend asked Gibbons for a loan to buy a motorcycle to use as a taxi, which is a standard way to get around in rural Uganda. “Mike Nsubuga walked me through the business,” Gibbons says. “Motorcycles cost $1,300, so most guys rent, which makes for an expensive, unstable livelihood.”

By 2014, he and Ariokot began to see a solution in micro-finance loans that would provide income and health transport.

HAC program director Carolyne Ariokot and borrower Mike Nsubuga discuss logistics. Mike paid off the first motorcycle loan in February, 2017, and now owns this cycle. KEVIN GIBBONS/HEALTH ACCESS CONNECT

Although treating HIV/AIDS had been the initial impetus for thinking about expanding the reach of existing health services, the goal has broadened.

“There are issues of privacy,” says Gibbons. “If that’s all we did, you would know that patients were HIV-positive. Also, there is demand for other services.”

Frequent clinic services include HIV and malaria testing, vaccines for children, family planning and perinatal care.

All care is delivered by government employees, Gibbons emphasizes, with HAC simply providing transport to and from the villages.

Lisa Naughton, who is chair of the department of geography at UW–Madison, says Gibbons was “a great communicator and a force for good in the world.” Naughton, who has studied the links between poverty and the environment in Uganda, says “you find people in the poorest remote areas, languishing, ill at home, because they can’t even get $3 to get to a clinic in a nearby town.”

With HAC’s win-win approach, she says, “A lot of young men are helping their homes and families by becoming motorcycle taxi drivers.”

HAC motorcycle loan recipient Steven Ssenkubuge delivers medical supplies to a mobile clinic in Uganda. KEVIN GIBBONS/HEALTH ACCESS CONNECT

Health Access Connect now has three full-time and three part-time employees. Motorcycle loans are just the start. HAC has bought four ambulance trailers that can trail behind a motorcycle, is surveying health access in Uganda, and it’s hiring. “The common thread is that we are always trying to serve the health needs of those in remote areas,” Gibbons says.

At present, HAC’s bread and butter is the micro-finance enabled transport of health workers. For the 18-month term of the loan, one motorcycle and its driver serve three villages with a monthly clinic. Then, if the driver has paid the loan every week, “he owns the motorcycle and is not obligated to drive for us,” Gibbons says. “At that point, we may keep them on retainer, or take the money and loan it out for another motorcycle.”

Committing three days will trim the driver’s income, “but it’s a great loan and a great opportunity,” Gibbons says. Over the 18-month course of one loan, he says, that driver can enable 2,625 people to be treated. “And it’s no problem at all to find guys who want a loan.”

Health Access Connect starts its annual fund-raiser on Giving Tuesday, Nov. 28.

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The President of Botswana Visits the Washington Mandela Fellows on Campus and Sparks Conservation Discussion

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This story was originally posted by UW-Madison International Division 

For six weeks, UW–Madison has been home to 25 young Africans taking part in the Mandela Washington Fellowship—an academic and experiential learning program designed to prepare them to be future leaders in their countries. July 25, the final day of the program, was made especially significant through a visit to campus by Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama, president of Botswana.

Since assuming the presidency in 2008, Khama has worked to build Botswana into one of the continent’s most stable nations. Understanding the larger role Botswana’s national resources will play in the future, Khama has continually championed sustainable growth and responsible conservation.

President Ian Khama

President Ian Khama at Botswana spoke at a faculty round table discussion at issues surrounding conservation.

Khama met with the Mandela Washington fellows during a luncheon to conclude their program. He spoke on the importance of conservation to the future of Africa and gave the young leaders the opportunity to ask him about the challenges faced by his nation as well as their own countries.

President Ian Khama and Mandela Washington Fellows

Members of the Mandela-Washington Fellows are pictured with Ian Khama, president of the Republic of Botswana during a luncheon ceremony hosted by the International Division, where Khama was presented with a Global Citizen Award. The event was hosted in the Alumni Lounge of the Pyle Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on July 28, 2017. (Photo by Bryce Richter / UW-Madison)

“When we talk about conservation, there are three entities responsible for driving it if you are to have any success,” Khama said. “Those areas are the conservation NGOs, the private sector, and government. I have learned in government that if you have committed leadership, you can achieve more than the other two sectors combined. That is something we have been trying to set an example for by doing what we are doing in Botswana when it comes to sustainability and conservation and protecting the flora and fauna.”

Protecting resources

The protection of fauna is an ongoing battle given the prominence of poachers on the African continent. However, policies established in Botswana have greatly reduced the number of animals killed each year from poaching.

Khama stated around 160,000 of the estimated 415,000 elephants living in Africa can be found in Botswana. Thanks to strict measures against poaching, including a ban on all hunting other than on private ranches, Botswana only lost 44 elephants in 2016 to poaching. Yet on the continent, almost 100 elephants can be lost every day.

“We are not very kind to poachers, and they know it,” Khama said. “We use all of our security services. We use police, army, intelligence and correctional services.”

Khama has also led Botswana in responsible development across the nation and with neighboring countries. Mandela Washington Fellow Diénéba Deme-Diallo, a radio journalist from Mali, asked Khama about key policies Botswana has implemented to support environmental issues. Khama cited several examples, including the requirement that before any infrastructure projects begin, an environmental impact assessment must be completed. A team of dedicated experts then assess how the project might negatively impact the environment, archaeological sites, water resources, vegetation and the well-being of people.

“As we develop our countries we should do it with the natural resources in mind and ensure it is done in a sustainable way,” Khama said.

Khama also discussed efforts to roll out a sustainability agenda to the rest of the African continent at a 2012 summit in partnership with Washington, D.C. based Conservation International. The summit was attended by heads of state from 10 countries and focused on the importance of the environment and discussed the introduction of natural capital accounting into national programs and policies. According to Khama, such collaboration is crucial to ensuring a sustainable future for Africa.

Global Citizen Award

During his visit, Khama’s conservation efforts were recognized with the International Division’s Global Citizen Award. In giving the award, Guido Podestá, vice provost and dean of UW–Madison’s International Division, recognized many of Khama’s roles in promoting conservation, noting Khama’s service as a board member for Conservation International and his pivotal role in establishing the Khama Rhino Sanctuary and Kalahari Conservation Society.

Guido Podesta and Ian Khama

Guido Podesta (left), dean of International Division, presents a Global Citizen Award to Ian Khama (right), president of the Republic of Botswana during a lunch ceremony attended by members of the UW community, including the Mandela-Washington Fellows, held in the Alumni Lounge of the Pyle Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on July 28, 2017. (Photo by Bryce Richter / UW-Madison)

“President Khama’s work continues to inspire in a world where we see more and more how critical it is to preserve the natural resources all around us,” Podestá said. “The policies and actions he has taken to introduce sustainable practices to Botswana and neighboring nations will have a significant impact on the future of Africa.”

While accepting the honor, Khama reaffirmed his commitment to safeguarding the natural treasures of Botswana and working to create a culture of sustainability throughout Africa.

“I feel very honored to be presented with this distinguished award,” Khama said. “This recognition is certainly a source of encouragement and motivation.”

The Wisconsin-Botswana connection

While more than 8,400 miles separate UW–Madison from Botswana, many individuals associated with Wisconsin and the university have created significant ties with the African nation.

During a roundtable discussion between Khama, faculty and university partners, UW–Madison alumnus and International Advisory board member John Lange, who previously served as U.S. ambassador to Botswana, recalled a notable Wisconsin connection.

Ian Khama and University of Wisconsin-Madison faculty

Ian Khama, president of the Republic of Botswana, answers questions from members of a round-table discussion session hosted by the International Division at the Pyle Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on July 28, 2017. Earlier in the day, President Khama was presented with a Global Citizen Award. (Photo by Bryce Richter / UW-Madison)

“I still remember the visit of the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson, the former governor of Wisconsin, to Gaborone in 2002,” Lange said. “That visit proved to be a pivotal moment that helped spur the creation of President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).”

Khama’s visit holds additional significance in that he is not the first head of state from Botswana to visit the university. International Division Advisory Board Member and alumnus Tony Carroll, a key figure in arranging Khama’s visit in partnership with members of the Botswana government, also arranged a visit to campus from Botswana President Quett Masire in 1996.

“The fact that two presidents of a nation would choose to visit the university in a relatively short period signifies an unusually deep relationship—one that could blossom to mutual benefit from Wisconsin and Botswana,” said Carroll. “The relationship between the university and Botswana is a robust articulation of the Wisconsin idea.”

Ambassador John Lange, Ambassador David Newman, President Ian Khama, Dean Guido Podestá, and Tony Carroll.

From left to right:
Ambassador John Lange, Ambassador David Newman, President Ian Khama,
Dean Guido Podestá,
and Tony Carroll.
(Photo by Bryce Richter / UW-Madison)

UW–Madison’s student activities and programs often engage Botswana as well.

The African Studies Program also sees students, faculty and alumni involved with Botswana and the rest of Africa. Wisconsin has awarded 750 Ph.D. degrees to Africa specialists since 1961. Two students served as interns in Botswana last year, with one continuing to work with David Newman, ambassador of the Republic of Botswana to the U.S.

Several alumni from Botswana have also assumed leadership roles. Two of the vice chancellors of the University of Botswana have received degrees from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and several top leaders in government attended the university.

Given so many ties between the university and Botswana, leaders at UW–Madison are optimistic that the university and Botswana could collaborate in more ways in the future.

“I am proud that UW–Madison is serving as a stage for talks on important topics such as conservation, leadership, and the future of Africa,” said Podestá. “It also strikes me that this occasion could mark a new point in the relationship between the university and Botswana. I look forward to exploring ways the university and Botswana can connect so that we can continue to learn through each of our nations.”

– By Steven Barcus

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DOE selects Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center for next-phase funding

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Original post by UW-Madison news, July 17

Photo: Switchgrass growing in a field

A plot of switchgrass grows in the Great Lake Bioenergy Research Center’s fields at the Arlington Agricultural Research Station in Arlington, Wisconsin. MATTHEW WISNIEWSKI, GLBRC

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has selected the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) for an additional five years of funding to develop sustainable alternatives to transportation fuels and products currently derived from petroleum. Already the recipient of roughly $267 million in DOE funding, GLBRC represents the largest federal grant ever awarded to UW–Madison.

In this next phase of funding, GLBRC scientists and recently recruited experts will conduct research that enables the sustainable production of specialty biofuels and bio-products using dedicated bioenergy crops such as switchgrass, poplar trees and sorghum. These bioenergy crops will be grown on marginal — or non-agricultural — land, a shift from GLBRC’s previous mission of producing biofuels from crops grown on agricultural land.

Established by the Biological and Environmental Research program in DOE’s Office of Science in 2007, GLBRC is based at the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Wisconsin Energy Institute and includes a major partnership with Michigan State University (MSU). The cross-disciplinary center draws on the expertise of biologists, chemists, engineers and economists, and employs over 400 researchers, students and staff conducting foundational bioenergy research.

Photo: Tim Donohue

Tim Donohue, GLBRC director and UW–Madison professor of bacteriology. MATTHEW WISNIEWSKI, GLBRC

“Collaboration has been at the core of GLBRC’s efforts from day one, and it will continue to drive the goals of this new center and help us realize our vision of developing bio-based sources of fuels and chemicals,” says Tim Donohue, GLBRC director and UW–Madison professor of bacteriology. “We are in a unique position to not only address a major societal challenge, but to create new revenue sources and economic opportunities for farmers, rural communities and a new generation of bio-refineries, as well as to create new, locally produced and cost-effective products for consumers.”

Today, DOE announced four Bioenergy Research Center selections for fiscal year 2018, with plans to provide five years of funding. Specific funding amounts for 2018 and beyond will be finalized as part of future federal budget processes.

The center will conduct research that enables the sustainable production of specialty biofuels and bio-products using dedicated bioenergy crops such as switchgrass, poplar trees and sorghum.

Over GLBRC’s 10-year history, it has built academic and industrial partnerships that have yielded more than 1,000 scientific publications, 160 patent applications, 80 licenses or options, and five start-up companies.

“Transforming the results of scientific research into new commercial products is a complex process,” says Marsha Mailick, UW–Madison vice chancellor for research and graduate education. “But when universities and companies work in tandem to push the frontiers of knowledge, they become a powerful engine for innovation and economic growth. GLBRC is an excellent example of university researchers and industry working closely together to generate new knowledge and maximize the social and economic benefits of these new ideas.”

Photo: Scientist extracting bacteria sample

GLBRC assistant scientist Kim Lemmer extracts a bacteria sample in the center’s labs at the Wisconsin Energy Institute. JAMES RUNDE, WISCONSIN ENERGY INSTITUTE

“The GLBRC is prolific in its partnership, disclosing dozens of new technologies to the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) over the last few years,” says Erik Iverson, managing director of WARF. “These inventions have resulted in several licensing agreements. We are delighted this federal grant will continue this cycle of innovation.”

Building on past accomplishments, GLBRC’s next phase will focus on producing dedicated bioenergy crops on non-agricultural lands, maximizing the production of specialty fuels and bio-products from those crops, and building a comprehensive understanding of the field-to-product pipeline to maximize the sustainability and economic benefits offered by a future cellulosic bio-industry. Together, these efforts have the potential to spur a new bio-refinery industry equipped to create valuable products from as much of a crop’s biomass as possible.

As a university-based DOE Bioenergy Research Center, GLBRC will continue to benefit from the resources, strategic partnerships and world-class research programs at UW–Madison and MSU.

“We are in a unique position to … create new revenue sources and economic opportunities for farmers, rural communities and a new generation of bio-refineries, as well as to create new, locally produced and cost-effective products for consumers.”

Tim Donohue

“GLBRC’s selection demonstrates UW–Madison’s continued excellence in clean energy research,” says UW–Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank. “Our broad expertise in areas such as plant sciences, microbiology, economics and engineering is enabling the development of new and innovative technologies that can bring about American energy sustainability while also strengthening the economy right here at home.”

“MSU has driven much of the sustainability focus of the GLBRC, and we are proud of the many areas of expertise we contribute,” says MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon. “The research center provides exciting opportunities for us to collaborate across campuses and disciplines, tackling the challenge of bio-based energy solutions with an integrated approach.”

Additional university collaborators include the University of British Columbia, Texas A&M University and Michigan Technological University.

 

-By Krista Eastman

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Grant Awarded to the School of Nursing to Expand Native American Enrollment

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MADISON, Wisconsin - Two faculty members at the UW-Madison School of Nursing have received a $1.3 million federal grant to develop a comprehensive system of support services that will help admit, retain and graduate 30 Native American nursing students over the next four years.

Audrey Tluczek, an associate professor of nursing, and Mel Freitag, the school’s director of diversity initiatives, will lead the project, called “Success Through Recruitment/Retention, Engagement, and Mentorship (STREAM) for American Indian Students Pursuing Nursing Careers.” The project aligns with a Wisconsin Center for Nursing goal of expanding the diversity of the nursing workforce to mirror the diversity of the population it serves.

The goal is based on evidence showing that increasing diversity in the nursing workforce improves access to health care and leads to better health outcomes for underrepresented groups, including Native Americans. Currently, the Wisconsin nursing workforce is 94 percent white, while the Wisconsin population is only 79 percent white. About 90 percent of nurses who provide services in Wisconsin tribal health facilities are white; the vast majority of patients are American Indian.

“This project is vital for the state, as we believe it can make a real difference in improving health outcomes within American Indian populations by increasing the number of Native nurses in these communities,” says School of Nursing Dean Linda D. Scott. “This grant validates the important relationships already forged by Dr. Tluczek and Dr. Freitag with Wisconsin American Indian communities. It reflects the UW-Madison School of Nursing’s commitment to admitting, educating and graduating students from diverse backgrounds in an effort to better serve all Wisconsin residents and eliminate the health disparities that many populations experience.”

 All 12 Wisconsin tribes (11 federally recognized and one state-recognized) are federally-designated Health Professional Shortage Areas.

The grant, awarded by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, builds on a previous community-academic partnership project among the Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council, the UW-Madison School of Nursing, and UW Population Health Institute, which was funded by the Wisconsin Partnership Program. One of the objectives of that project, “Increasing Cultural Congruence Among Nurses in Wisconsin,” was to increase the number of American Indian nurses in the state. “This new grant will help us do just that,” Tluczek says.

“It’s been a privilege to be able to collaborate with and learn from tribal communities,” she says. “Working closely with our American Indian partners provided us valuable insights about the need for more Native nurses who can help develop models of health care that combine traditional American Indian healing with western medicine. Doing so holds great potential for improving the health and well-being of tribal communities. That experience also taught us much about the challenges that American Indian students and communities face and the role the University of Wisconsin-Madison can play in supporting these students interested in nursing careers.”

“We have visited tribal communities throughout the state to develop relationships and identify ways the School of Nursing can help expand the Native nursing workforce and access to culturally congruent health care for Native populations,” Freitag says. “We designed this program with our Wisconsin tribal partners to educate Wisconsin students to serve Wisconsin populations. We’ve been saying all along that this is the Wisconsin Idea in action, and it is. It really is.”

The STREAM grant specifically calls for recruiting more students with the help of a nursing-specific online recruitment tool, and yet recruitment is only part of the challenge, Freitag says. The STREAM program will also focus on retention and graduation. This involves providing structured support designed to address the specific challenges and barriers Native students encounter when attending UW-Madison.

Freitag says Native Americans, like many students from underrepresented populations, are more likely to face barriers and challenges on a large, predominantly white campus. Geographic factors also come into play for Native students, as Madison can seem like a very isolating place to them.

“The desire for a sense of belonging, or the lack of a sense of belonging, comes up with our Native students as it does for other underrepresented groups,” Freitag says. “Underrepresented groups are small groups in Madison, and Native Americans are the smallest of the small. It can be difficult for them to find and forge peer groups on campus and certainly within the school.”

To foster community within the school and on campus, STREAM will use traditional American Indian talking circles to provide student peer support. The program will also work to foster confidence by connecting American Indian students with mentors who are Native nurses currently practicing in Wisconsin. The grant proposal also calls for continued efforts to strengthen relationships with tribal communities through yearly Native Nations Nursing Summits, which Tluczek and Freitag have organized since 2015.

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Celebrating Independence Across Africa: YALI Fellows Emerencia Nguarambuka, Marcio Brito, and Omari Mahiza reflect on the meaning of Independence

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This story was originally posted July 10 by the African Studies Program 

Over the 4th of July holiday our 2017 Mandela Washington Fellows joined in the celebration of American independence with a bit of BBQ, baseball, and fireworks. Afterwards, three fellows took a moment to reflect on the commemorations of independence in their home countries and to explain the meaning of these celebrations.

Emerencia Nguarambuka: Celebrating freedom in Namibia on March 21st

Independence is freedom, democracy and growth. It means being able to live peacefully, and coexist in harmony, respect for fellow human beings and fighting for equal rights for all humanity, regardless of sex, creed, race, color, religion, etc. It also means having equal access to resources, closing the inequality and poverty gap.

Independence means a second chance and making use of all opportunities the right way. This is especially important to me because prior to an independent Namibia, we were not allowed education, work, free movement, and so much other social stuff. Now we have a chance to redefine our future, and let our children grow up in a better environment with greater opportunities.

Image submitted by Emerencia Nguarambuka

In Namibia, independence is celebrated on the 21st of March. Namibia gained independence from South Africa in 1990. We were colonized since the late 19th century. From 1884, Namibia was a German colony known as German South West Africa. After the First World War, South Africa was mandated to administer Namibia as a colony/territory.

To celebrate the holiday, traditional performances and artists provide music and dance throughout the day and after the main event. There are parades by the Defense Force (army), Air Force and the marines, which are inspected by the President and given honors. Previous heroes and heroines are also honored and receive special badges in honor of their role for the fight of independence.

School children also have plays and parades at the Independence Day, which adds more color to the event. At times we also have parachutes as part of the celebrations. The Government will provide small promotional materials such as paper flags and t-shirts to the public for free. Each five year independence (I.e. 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 years) is always a bigger celebration held in the capital city Windhoek and the President invites dignitaries and international friends from countries which helped Namibia attain independence.

Image submitted by Emerencia Nguarambuka

WINDHOEK, 22 March 2015 – Young Namibians celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Independence held at Independence Stadium. (Photo by: Joseph Nekaya) NAMPA

After the big event, other regions can also hold delayed independence celebrations for those people who could not travel all the way to the capital city. Food and entertainment is provided. Normally various Ministers will be assigned to these regions to deliver the President’s independence message.

Free Transport is normally provided to all who want to attend the celebrations in order to attract as many people as possible.

Prior to independence celebrations, all media normally carries news and video articles related to independence, focusing on development in the country, as well as interviewing heroes and heroines who can tell their stories of their time fighting for independence.

 

Marcio Brito: An independent Cape Verde honors Amilcar Cabral on July 5

Cape Verde received its independence from Portugal on the 5th of July in 1975. On the 4th of July, young people host parties in anticipation of the July 5th holiday, people meet up with family and share meals. There’s also a festival and military parade where the president gives medals to officers. Independence celebrations in Cape Verde are about commemorating the birth of a liberated country. They’re also about celebrating the father of Cape Verde – Amilcar Cabral.

Wall painting honoring Amilcar Cabral

Cabral was born on the 12th of September (another national holiday) in Bafata, Guinea-Bissau and was assassinated in 1973, two years before Cape Verde gained independence. His efforts, along with members of the African Party of Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (P.A.I.G.C.) helped instill dignity in a population who recognized the evident discrimination against them by Portugal, despite the country’s claims that its colonies could “never be separate.”

After the 1974 death of the Portuguese president and dictator and a military coup, the years 1974-1976 marked the independence of the former Portuguese colonies, with Guinea-Bissau being the first nation to receive its independence.

Since its independence, Cape Verde has grown from having a population where 80% of its citizens were unschooled to its current place as a nation with an educated population of 95% gaining access to a basic right that had been denied by the imperial Portuguese powers.

UN Mission in the Cape Verde Islands

Omari Mahiza: From two countries to one independent Tanzania on December 9th

I am from Tanzania. My independence day is on the 9th of December. Before Independence day – before Tanzania – there were two different counties. One is an island, that is Zanzibar and the other one is the mainland, that was called Tanganyika. So these two places came together and together (in 1964) they formed the country now that is known as Tanzania. So, that day these two countries came together – that’s called Union Day. It’s usually on the 26th of April. But, there is another date that is known as Revolution Day, which is celebrated in Zanzibar. They went through a revolution before their independence. This is known as Revolution Day which is on the 12th of January.

Cloth commemorating the life of Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere. African Studies Collection.

Starting with Independence day, usually there’s a big parade, usually there is an announcement of where the year’s celebration is going to take place so we all know where we need to gather. Usually, it takes place in the National Stadium in Dar el Salaam. Recently it’s been moved around so it can be anywhere, really. People go dressed in flags. You find that all the armed forces are there – the police, army, the navy – everyone will be there. There’ll be a parade, where all those forces pass in front of the president. They salute the president and put on a show for everyone. It’s free, so everyone can attend.

There’s a speech from the president who might wait a whole year to say something specifically for Independence day with regards to workers rights or something which is big. Usually it’s just a celebration of where we’ve been, so we remind ourselves where we were – we got our independence in 1961 from the British. So usually we remind ourselves where we were, where we are right now, and where we want to go.

Fifty-something years after independence I think we’re still struggling with the same things that we were struggling with like fifty years ago. Some of the issues have actually become worse than they were fifty years ago, if you can imagine that. So, what independence means to me, is at least, more freedom of expression these days. I think mostly it means the freedom of expression – people can say I am this – and most of the time not being persecuted. It’s still a challenge, there are certain issues where we are not there yet, but you can see that we are trying. Freedom of speech, freedom of expression is what independence should be.

4th of July Mallards game. Photo by Meagan Doll

Emerencia Nguarambuka (Namibia) is an Executive Assistant to the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of ICT and does her own charity work in her community by assisting poor, young vulnerable women and children through donations of basic items.

Márcio Brito (Cabo Verde) works in the ‘Rádio e Tecnologias Educativas ‘ RTE’ where he produces and presents a daily program from 8 to 11 o’clock in the morning from Monday to Friday.

Omari Mahiza (Tanzania) is a doctor employed by the government to work at Amana Hospital in the pediatrics department.

-by Hiwot Adilow

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