Visiting African delegation hopes to create ties with Pacific and other U.S. universities

African delegation tours Pacific campus

Sheila Olivia Niinye (right) was one of 25 higher education leaders from eight countries in Africa who toured Pacific as part of a three-week trip to the United States.

Sheila Olivia Niinye, a college administrator from Uganda, stared into the sky at the outline of University of the Pacific’s dominant edifice.

“Simply amazing, your Burns Tower,” she said.

Niinye was part of an eight-nation African delegation, sponsored by the State Department, that visited the United States for three weeks recently to study best educational practices and build partnerships.

Global Ties, the business that organized the trip, reached out to Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Mary Lomax-Ghirarduzzi to invite Pacific to host. Organizers said they were looking for a West Coast private school to visit.

The delegation of approximately 25 was comprised of higher education leaders from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Mali, Nigeria, Somalia, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

“I am in charge of international relations for my university,” said Niinye, of Mbarara University of Science and Technology.My purposes on this trip are creating networks, exploring partnerships and studying the practices that we might be able to apply back in our home countries.”

Pacific’s enrollment has soared to record numbers largely behind an influx of international students–872 in total, from 67 countries and six continents. However, there are only 13 students on the Stockton Campus from Africa, said Patrick Wolak, director of international student and scholar services.

“More scholarships that are targeted toward different African communities would help,” said Divine Atah ’25, a third-year computer science student from Nigeria. He was one of five students to take part in a panel discussion at the Bechtel International Center. “Advertisements would work, too. I learned about Pacific through an advertisement.”

Added Emmanuel Oladeinbo ’23, an international relations student from Nigeria, who also was in the panel discussion: “There are not many of us, but I have created ties with other African students here at Pacific. I would love to see the African enrollment increase.”

Participants were treated to a tour of campus, a meeting with Pacific faculty and staff and lunch.

“This program is one of the oldest of its kind, going back to World War II,” said Rachel Russell, a native of Burkina Faso and international visitor liaison for the State Department. “We also have trips that focus on science, engineering, culture and more.”

Provost and Executive Vice President Gretchen Edwalds-Gilbert is hopeful the visit will lead to dialogue and collaboration.

“We learned about priorities at the different universities and how Pacific could partner with them,” she said. “For example, one university has faculty interested in studying climate change, which is a global problem, and would like to find partners with expertise. Pharmaceutical development and regulation was also mentioned as a potential area of shared interest.

“We look forward to following up with virtual meetings with Pacific faculty and potential partner institutions.”