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

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

UW Hmong: American Nurse Brings her Community to the Doctor’s Office

Originally posted in WiscNews

MADISON – Nursing student Maichou Lor wanted to bring her fellow Hmong community members out of the shadows and into the doctor’s office.
Lor, who recently received her Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Nursing, was born in a refugee camp in Thailand before her family immigrated to Madison. As she pursued nursing, starting in high school, Lor discovered that the Hmong immigrant community lacked access to major medical care because low rates of literacy and English proficiency kept their health status murky. In an interdisciplinary research program, Lor developed new survey tools that respond to the needs of the Hmong, which she hopes can help close gaps in access to care among her own community and other underserved populations.

Along the way, she became the first Hmong-American nurse to earn a Ph.D. in the United States.

“Throughout my whole life, I saw a lot of inequalities and injustice in issues surrounding health care,” says Lor, “not just among the Hmong population. It’s the Cambodian population, the Laotian population, a lot of Southeast Asian populations who have gone through the same kind of history that we have are also struggling.”

Following the Vietnam War, Wisconsin became a hub for displaced Hmong from Southeast Asia immigrating to the United States. The Hmong community is the largest Asian population in Wisconsin, which has the third-largest Hmong population, behind California and Minnesota. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 54,000 Hmong lived in Wisconsin in 2015, nearly 20 percent of all Hmong in the country.

As an undergraduate nursing student at the UW, Lor partnered with three other Hmong students to try to survey the local Hmong population about cancer screening. But the group found that written surveys, even if they only asked for true-false answers, resulted in mostly blank responses.

“We ended up just reading the questions and having people raise their hands to respond, but we realized there’s contamination, because they just looked around at how others were responding,” says Lor. “That was an ‘aha’ moment for me, to realize we can’t collect data from this population, and I’m sure there are other populations experiencing the same thing.”

Lor saw that without an effective way to ask Hmong about their health, there was no way to fully integrate them into the health care system. In graduate school, she worked with an interdisciplinary group of mentors to create a data collection tool that responded to the needs of the Hmong community.

She adapted a survey system from sociology that combines prerecorded oral translations in the Hmong language, written text in English and color-coded responses to facilitate communication and to accommodate any level of language proficiency. In addition, a family helper was included to assist with the survey completion process. The tool allowed Lor to successfully survey all of her study participants on their health status, without missing responses.

One concern was that respondents might be reluctant to answer a question that may be sensitive or potentially embarrassing in the presence of family members. To test this, Lor included a question about frequent urination.

“What I realized is because I translated the question in a culturally sensitive way, people were fine answering it, and they didn’t see any question as being too sensitive or embarrassing to answer,” says Lor.

“She’s just tenacious. She’s the most curious student I’ve ever had,” says Barbara Bowers, the associate dean for research at the School of Nursing and Lor’s advisor. “She ends up being a cultural broker for a lot of people in the Hmong community.”

“I’m hoping she comes back here and establishes her own center for Hmong health at the university,” says Bowers.

Lor is leaving Madison in August to train in informatics and data visualization at Columbia University. She wants to find ways to communicate with her patients about their health that bypass linguistic and cultural barriers. But Wisconsin remains her home.

“My family threw me a graduation party back in May, and I had some of my research participants come — they were sad I’m leaving. They’re often forgotten in research, in health, in everything, and they felt like I was a voice for them,” says Lor.

“I told people I will come back; I just have to go get another kind of tool to help me develop as a researcher and make a greater impact.”

The 4W Initiative is hiring an Assistant Director

ABOUT THE POSITION: The 4W Initiative seeks administrative and programmatic support for the 4W Women and Wellbeing Initiative at UW-Madison. The position offers early career leadership opportunities, which includes all aspects of administrative support for programs and a lot of growth opportunities related to non-porfitt administration, management, leadership, networking, facilitation and development.

Required:  At least two years of professional experience required. Requires excellent organizational skills, problem solving ability and ability to work independently. Also requires strong interpersonal communication and writing skills.

The successful candidate will demonstrate experience with and appreciation of the value of diversity. Study or experience related to gender equity and the wellbeing of women and girls, including an intersectional understanding of the issues. Strong office and web-based computer skills are essential. 

Applications are due August 15th with a desired start date of September 5th.

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