Exploring Academic Alliances: University of Ghana and Cornell University Engage in Transformative Panel Discussions

The University of Ghana and the visiting delegation from Cornell University have held a number of events to mark the official visit by the Ivy League university to Ghana, to bolster its partnership with Ghana’s premier University.

The Joint Leadership Discussion was held at the Great Hall of the University of Ghana on the theme "The Future of Collaboration: Global Higher Education and Making a Difference at Home and in the World", while the academic panel discussion held at the ISSER Conference Facility was under the theme, ‘Transdisciplinary Approaches: Climate Change and Adaptation.’

At the Joint Leadership Discussion, Prof. Nana Aba Appiah Amfo, UG’s Vice-Chancellor, in opening remarks, expressed her excitement for hosting such an important forum which explores a critical topic. She acknowledged Cornell University's support in faculty collaborations, student exchanges, alumni engagements and interactions with policy makers, non-governmental organisations, private sector actors, and local communities.

Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Nana Aba Appiah Amfo

She further disclosed that the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI), a world-renowned Centre of Excellence hosted by the University of Ghana, has been closely collaborating with Cornell University on research and studies in the areas of plant breeding and genetics since 2007.

According to her, globalisation has enabled organisations to establish stronger connections and work towards a common goal regardless of their geographical location.

She mentioned that academic collaborations and strategic alliances are crucial for achieving the overall objectives of higher learning institutions. Such partnerships she believes enable researchers to leverage their unique strengths and competencies to undertake multi-disciplinary research, establish and enhance the institution's reputation, attract substantial funding from state and donor agencies, provide excellent cross-cultural learning experiences, offer various opportunities for faculty development through fellowships, and facilitate access to improved networks and support systems.

Prof. Michael Kotlikoff, Provost of Cornell University, praised UG as one of the best universities in the world and a valuable partner to Cornell University. Prof. Kotlikoff expressed his hope for collaboration between the two institutions based on mutual respect, exchange and innovation. He expressed the belief that global education is a fundamental component of this partnership. Prof. Kotlikoff also pointed out that higher education has historically been a one-way flow, with the brightest students leaving countries in Africa, Asia, and North America to attend schools in the United States and Europe and remaining there.

Provost of Cornell University, Prof. Michael Kotlikoff

“In the last two decades, many universities around the world have established a strong presence in developing areas, with expertise in innovation relevant to their home countries”, Prof. Kotlikoff noted.

He disclosed that the population of Ghanaians at Cornell University has doubled over the past decade, and he hoped to see more in the future.

Hon. Rev. Ntim Fordjour, Deputy Minister of Education and MP for Assin South, delivered an address on behalf of the Special Guest of honour, President of the Republic of Ghana, H.E. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.

He stressed that education is a powerful tool to turn around the fortunes of a country, but it becomes even more impactful when significant ties are formed.

Hon. Rev. Ntim Fordjour, Deputy Minister of Education and MP for Assin South

He noted that when collaborations are formed, the expectation is for research to result in solutions and innovations that will drive the socio-economic development of the world.

As a panel member, Prof. Gordon A. Awandare, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs at the University of Ghana, shared challenges and opportunities of global collaboration. According to him, the challenges faced by advanced countries have indirect effects on African countries due to their academic ties. He also noted that every partner should bring value to the table in any collaboration.

Emily Fertik, Acting Deputy Chief of Mission, U.S Embassy in Ghana, added that many Ghanaian students go to the United States to further their education but do not return afterward. She, therefore, urged Ghanaian students to come back to Ghana after their studies and use the knowledge they have gained to contribute to the country's development. She noted that there are many opportunities in Ghana that can be leveraged to make a significant impact.

Prof. Rachel Beatty Riedl, Director of Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, Cornell University, underscored that higher education collaboration is not only necessary but crucial for addressing global challenges both today and in the future. She noted that these challenges require solutions that are locally sourced and globally applicable. She further explained that expertise, cultural awareness and perspectives can drive research questions and ultimately lead to innovative solutions.

The panel discussion was moderated by Prof. Wendy Wolford, Vice Provost of International Affairs at Cornell University.

In her closing remarks, Prof. Nana Aba Appiah Amfo expressed her satisfaction with the fruitful and productive event that looked at the future of partnerships and global higher education with the goal of making a difference both at home and abroad. She shared some key takeaways from the panel discussions, noting that collaborations are more useful when they are bottom-up rather than top-down, and it is important to create an environment that can sustain partnerships.

The Academic Panel Discussions on Day 2, engaged highly proficient experts in exploring and addressing questions related to public health and policy, as well as climate change, and adaptation.

In a brief statement as moderator of the first panel, Professor Paula Cohen, a Genetics Professor and Associate Vice Provost for Life Sciences at Cornell University, highlighted the University's commitment to training future public health leaders. She stated the need to go beyond traditional classroom teaching and engage students in small groups with leaders and thought leaders globally.

Professor Paula Cohen, a Genetics Professor and Associate Vice Provost for Life Sciences at Cornell University

Professor Cohen underscored Cornell's holistic approach to public health challenges through innovative programmes, such as the launch of a Master’s in Public Health programme in the Department of Public and Ecosystem Health. By prioritising sustainability, equity, and engagement, Cornell aims to address critical issues like pandemics and food systems from a comprehensive one health perspective, departing from a focus on single issues or disciplines.

She adds “This forward-thinking strategy has the potential to serve as a model for other universities”.

The panel presented on diverse approaches to public health envisioned broadly from zoonotic disease and emerging pandemics to mental health to new technologies for distributed diagnostics and the application of AI, facial recognition, smart technologies for improved wellbeing at multiple scales and in different contexts.

Panelists for the first panel session 

Professor Kwasi Torpey, the Dean of the School of Public Health at the University of Ghana, highlighted the nation's commitment to achieving universal health coverage. He discussed the implementation of the "network of practice" model to strengthen primary healthcare delivery, emphasising the potential for enhanced service quality, timeliness, and cost reduction. He however underscored the need for adequate policy support for effective implementation and desired health outcomes.

Professor Kwasi Torpey, the Dean of the School of Public Health

Dr. Genevieve C. Aryeetey, a Senior Lecturer at the School of Public Health, provided insights into Ghana's progress towards universal health coverage through the National Health Insurance Scheme, noting a coverage index of 47%, but acknowledging disparities in enrollment across regions.

The presentation by Mr. Osei Boateng, Founder of the OKB Hope Foundation, shed light on the foundation's work, underlining the importance of local training and social infrastructure in leveraging technology for public health. He highlighted the crucial role played by community health workers in delivering life-saving medicine and preventing diseases, despite their limited formal education and low pay.

Dr. Dela Nai, Acting Ghana Country Representative at the Population Council, discussed innovative research projects, including those addressing the health impacts of heat waves and salinity risks in Bangladesh. Dr. Nai echoed the need for increased research and programming to bridge evidence gaps in understanding the impacts of climate change and developing effective solutions.

In her role as the Moderator for the second panel, Professor Rachel Bezner Kerr, Professor of Global Development and the Director of the Institute for African Development at Cornell University, emphasised key discoveries from their research. As a coordinating lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report addressing the impacts of climate change on food systems, she highlighted findings that include heightened risks to marginalised groups and the advantages of employing ecosystem-based adaptation approaches.

Panelists for the second panel session 

Professor Eric Yirenkyi Danquah, Director, West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI), University of Ghana, in his presentation, emphasised WACCI's contribution to global food security. He urged all to harness global collaboration for building climate-resilient agricultural systems. Prof. Danquah used the occasion to advocate for partnerships for the establishment of an African Academy of Agricultural Sciences.

Dr. Niilante Amissah, Lecturer, Family and Consumer Sciences, University of Ghana, echoed the necessity of training young individuals in ideation and concept development for food products. This training, he argued, would empower them to conceptualise ideas and create prototypes, fostering hope for the future.

Mr. Gottfried Odamtten-Sowah, Programme Lead, Agribusiness, Mastercard Foundation, outlined the initiatives being undertaken by his outfit and highlighted existing opportunities for youth engagement in Agriculture.

Dr. Dolapo Enaharo, Senior Agricultural Economist, International Livestock Research Institute, underscored the crucial role of livestock research in addressing climate change challenges.

In closing remarks, the Pro Vice-Chancellor, Academic and Students Affairs, Prof. Gordon Awandare, thanked the Provost of Cornell University and his team, for the productive visit as well as officials and units at the University of Ghana for their key role in the programmes. He expressed hope that the outputs from the meetings would lead to closer and deepened collaboration between the two universities.

Pro Vice-Chancellor, Academic and Students Affairs, Prof. Gordon Awandare

As part of their visit, the Cornell University delegation was taken on a tour of UG’s scenic landscapes and iconic buildings.


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Please click on the following link to watch a playback of the leadership panel discussions.

Please click on the following link to watch a playback of the academic panel discussions.