Mason to Collaborate with Sierra Leone to Create Community College System

Posted: September 29, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Catherine Ferraro

Mason has a history of creating strong alliances with other institutions, businesses and communities nationally and internationally. In keeping with that tradition, the university signed a memorandum of understanding on Sept. 27 with Ernest Bai Koroma, president of the Republic of Sierra Leone, to help create a system of international community college town centers (ICCTC) in that country.

The ICCTCs are expected to promote growth and modernization in the developing West African country. They are also intended to provide opportunities for current students and graduates to join the modern workforce and develop leadership skills in their communities.

Mason and Sierra Leone officials at MOU signing
Mason and Sierra Leone officials at the signing of a memorandum of understanding on Sept. 27. From left, Mason President Alan Merten, Sierra Leone President Ernest Koroma, Mason Provost Peter Stearns and Sierra Leone Minister of Education Minkailu Bah.
Photo by Hilary Schwab

Eight hundred acres of land have been donated for a community college system at four sites – Kono, Lunsar, Makeni and Pujehun. The project will cost an estimated $40 million for buildings and initial operations.

The ICCTC model was developed by Gail Kettlewell, principal in the International Center for Arts Culture and Education in the College of Visual and Performing Arts.

“As Mason is the first university to be using the ICCTC model to develop a community college system, I am very excited to be a part of this project,” says Kettlewell. “Mason’s goal is to help the government of Sierra Leone build the system, hire personnel and develop degree programs and anything else that is necessary.”

Kettlewell and two study teams first began an exploratory project in 2005. One study team was composed of Sierra Leone natives in the Northern Virginia area, and the second team was led by education, business and community leaders in Sierra Leone. Kettlewell traveled to the country in 2006 to visit towns interested in setting up community colleges and begin planning sponsorship and funding of the project.

Mason has been working since then with the Sierra Leone government and local communities to determine what degree programs are needed at each college.

The community college system there will mirror a community college system in the United States. It will collaborate with and develop centers that provide assistance in the fields of health and safety, technologies in agriculture and mining, tourism and culture and small business development. Each of these areas depends on the commitment and participation of new and existing businesses and agencies in the community.

When construction begins on the community college complex, students will have an opportunity initially to learn construction and environmental trades as they help build the country’s infrastructure.

Once the community college system is built, Kettlewell hopes to establish transfer agreements with the community colleges for faculty and student exchanges.

For more information, e-mail Kettlewell or call 703-993-8482.

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