2016 Ronald Ulrich Summer research in Ghana

Synopsis of Ronald J. Ulrich Intern’s Experience in Ghana, Summer 2016

The Africana Studies Program’s ongoing work across disciplines facilitates innovative faculty scholarship, unique opportunities for student research and powerful experiences for career and professional development. Teaching and researching in partnership with Lehigh students through overseas programs is becoming a regular feature of the Africana Studies program’s efforts at the university, One of the program’s objective is to provide avenues for students to become global and interdisciplinary thinkers both at home and abroad. 

Since 2012, the Africana Studies Program has been involved in various global initiatives and international programs in order to help realize Lehigh University’s global vision. In May 2014, three Africana Studies faculty participated in a fact-finding delegation initiated by the Office of International Affairs to establish partnerships between Lehigh University and universities in Ghana, West Africa. However, attaining the important goal of connecting our students with the global community has been hindered by limited funding opportunities for students. To increase students’ participation in international programs –specifically the “Sites of Memory” program in Ghana, Ronald J. Ulrich 67 donated funds to expand Africana Studies’ global summer initiatives in Ghana for underrepresented students. This fund covers a four-year period (12-16 students). The Ulrich recipients are expected to use study abroad to extend classroom learning into the world and to design research projects that enhance their academic work and future careers. In summer 2016, through Ulrich’s generous gift, four students from different academic and geographical backgrounds were selected in a competitive application process to participate in individual research and professional development projects in Ghana-West Africa. These research projects coordinated by Professors Kwame Essien and James B. Peterson included solar energy systems, government management, microfinance, and the digitizing Africa project. The Ronald J. Ulrich interns shared their experiences in Ghana with Emily Groff, Director of Communications and Marketing-Office of International Affairs at Lehigh University and Christa Neu, Photographer / Lehigh University Communications and Public Affairs.

Mpho Bowie-Molefe ’17

Major: Mechanical engineering with minors in Africana studies and Energy

Hometown: Gaborone, Botswana

Bowie-Molefe examined why low-income groups don’t use renewable energy like rooftop solar systems, even though the price of these systems has declined. Through surveys of residents of Accra, Medina, Makola and Ampomah village, he found that the biggest barrier to adoption is education specifically about how the technology can improve lives. Bowie-Molefe met with a representative from the Ghana Energy Commission and learned that while the government does promote renewable energy, it has not targeted low-income people.

“The trip for me was an opportunity to add to what I had learned in classrooms here at Lehigh. After studying the production of power in my Clean Coal Technology and Renewable Energy classes, I was fortunate enough to be able to look at how it could benefit people of lower income, and study barriers that limited their access to it. I was also able to tie this in with various factors that historically influenced the development of Ghana, which I learned about in my African Civilizations class. I hope this experience will inform my future career, continuing to make connections between my various fields of study and bridging the gaps between them.”

Kendall Wilkins ’16 ’17G

Major: M.S. in Economics, B.A. in Global Studies

Hometown: Bethlehem, PA

Wilkins (Left) used the trip to lay the foundation for her research on the microfinance industry in Ghana. She met with market vendors who use microfinance services. Wilkins followed a loan officer around her village as she collected payments and met with the department head of microfinance at the Bank of Ghana.

“This experience greatly enriched my Lehigh experience because it added a new dimension to my education. I studied microfinance in the classroom, and I even worked for a microfinance organization in Bethlehem, but I didn't have any hands-on experience with microfinance outside of the U.S. Getting to travel to Ghana and understand its microfinance industry gave me an entirely new perspective on the benefits and challenges of this growing financial industry.”


Frederick Coleman ’17

Major: Business information systems with minors in Africana studies and Engineering

Hometown: Easton, PA

Coleman traveled to Cape Coast and Kumasi in addition to spending time in Accra. He participated in the National Society of Black Engineers' Ghanaian national conference and organized a workshop to prepare students interested in studying engineering to apply to U.S. colleges. In Kumasi, he continued work on his Digitizing Africa Project, which studies issues like quality of service and power consumption in Ghana. He surveyed residents about smartphones and social media. He also met with engineering department chairs at the University of Ghana in Accra and staff from the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation.”

“This has added to my experience as a Lehigh student in many ways. I have gained professional experience in knowing how to broker meetings with national leaders of organizations and governments. I have gained more appreciation of traveling and opening my mind to global understanding. I have also gained a likening to being an expat for abbreviated times to achieve the goals I have set for my initiatives.”


Fortunate Tshirangwana ’18

Major: Industrial engineering

Hometown: Johannesburg, South Africa

Tshirangwana analyzed the efficiency of government services, including the Fire Department, Passport Services Office, National Health Insurance Department and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority. She conducted interviews with government employees and customers. Tshirangwana recommended ways to increase efficiency while factoring in available resources. For example, she suggested improving the naming of streets and neighborhoods so fire trucks can respond to emergencies more quickly.

“This research is important to my career and to me personally because after I graduate I would love to work within the government sector optimizing systems and helping developing countries like mine run more efficiently and be able to contend on a global scale. This experience has helped me to plan and execute my individual research, and this will help me with my senior capstone as well as future research endeavors.”