U.S. Universities and Global Poverty


SEATTLE — Every three to six seconds a child dies from lack of clean water, hunger or a preventable disease. And right now, nearly a billion people around the world are going to bed or waking up hungry. In response to the reality of global poverty, some U.S. colleges are now more committed than ever to making a difference. Notable programs at UCLA and SNHU are making a positive impact both on and off campus.

The Blum Center at UCLA is one program leading the way for U.S. universities and global poverty. Thanks to the generous contributions from its benefactor, Richard C. Blum, in 2012, UCLA Blum Center on Poverty and Health in Latin America opened to begin researching poverty and social factors affecting health in Latin America.

Researchers and students at the Blum Center analyze community action, socioeconomic factors, government policy and familial restraints. With a goal to improve health conditions in Latin America’s rural and urban communities, the center regularly informs policy-making committees and establishes research standards to guide leaders.

Recently, a team of investigators has been working to determine the impact the Affordable Care Act has had on health centers in California, New York, Texas and Georgia. With research focused on the health centers that care mostly for immigrant patients, the work being done at the Blum Center will enable deeper insight into community health center policy. Eventually, this research could make healthcare more accessible to patients in the U.S. and abroad.

Traditionally, in terms of U.S. universities and global poverty, efforts have been focused more on awareness than on grassroots action. But now, the College for America at Southern New Hampshire University has revolutionized the way U.S. universities can affect global change.

Southern New Hampshire University has been offering online learning for 22 years, making it one of the longest-running online education programs in the country. Now, through a partnership with Kepler, the College for America has become the first university to offer U.S. accredited Bachelor’s degrees to residents of refugee camps. Specifically, these undergraduate programs are available to residents living in the Kiziba Refugee Camp in Kigali, Rwanda.

Tackling challenges like unreliable electricity and political instability proved more than challenging for organizers of the program. But despite these obstacles, in 2013, SNHU successfully established its first refugee camp campus. And, perhaps unintentionally, the campus adjusted the educational gender gap in Rwanda. Whereas historically at public schools in the area only nine percent of female students graduate, at SNHU’s College for America, 98 percent of the women currently enrolled are on track to graduate in four years.

In less than four years, SNHU’s Kiziba Refugee Camp campus has already impacted countless students and their families. In June of this year, on World Refugee Day, SNHU shared Innocent Ndayambage’s personal experience with the program on its website. A 25-year-old student at the Kiziba Refugee Camp campus, Ndayambage has spent the past 17 years, the majority of his young life, living as a refugee in Rwanda.

Ndayambage’s entire family is deceased, except for his elderly grandmother, who said, “He’ll be an amazing businessman. And we’ll leave this camp. Like I carried him on my back from the Congo, I know he’ll carry me out of this place once he has his degree. Our future has been bleak for many years. But that’s all changed now.”

Other programs setting the standard for U.S. universities and global poverty include The Sorenson Impact Center at the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business, The Earth Institute at Columbia University and the Center for International Development at Harvard University. With the increasing prevalence of these kinds of centers, future generations in the U.S. and in developing nations will be able to help others and help themselves.

Ashley Henyan

Photo: Flickr


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