Stony Brook University not only offers academics and opportunities for its students and faculty on its Long Island campus, but it also offers a trans-continental education through the university’s research facilities in Africa. On his ten-day journey to the African continent this past July, President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. visited SBU’s facilities in Madagascar and Kenya, where he witnessed the far-reaching effect the university is having.
“Not many universities have a hand in Africa like this,” Stanley said. “The purpose of my visit was to take a look and figure out what more we should be doing there.”
Stanley began his trip by spending time in Madagascar with Patricia Wright, professor of anthropology at SBU, at the Centre ValBio campus, where Wright is conducting research to help preserve the rain forest. While there, Stanley attended the inauguration of NamanaBe Hall, a new research, arts and community outreach building that is designed to support and grow the abilities of the CVB campus.
From there, Stanley traveled north in Madagascar to visit paleontologist David Krause, a distinguished service professor of anatomical sciences at SBU, who has been spending his time improving the lives of the Malagasy people by establishing the Madagascar Ankizy Fund. This fund helps build schools and provide dental and medical services to families living in remote areas of the country.
It’s not just SBU professors who are dedicating their time in Africa, but also students. President Stanley met a group of dental students from SBU’s School of Dental Medicine who were on a three-week trip providing dental care to the villagers in Mahajanga, one of the poorest regions in Madagascar.
Stanley ended his trip in Kenya by visiting the Turkana Basin Institute, a collaborative, multidisciplinary research project in the Turkana Basin by the shores of Lake Turkana.
The research and effect SBU professors and students are conducting
conducting and having on the surrounding communities is what makes Stanley the proudest, he said.
“It’s nice to see again the opportunity we’re providing for students, seeing how they’re making a difference, committed to the long term, I’m so impressed by it,” Stanley said. “My concern would be to make sure that what we are doing is something that is benefitting the local population. The answer for Africa is a resounding yes.”
Stanley also said his trip to Africa was time well spent. “It’s one thing to read about what people are doing, another thing to experience it first hand.”
The type of research that professors are conducting in Africa is exactly what Stanley feels the university should be doing and something he would like the university to expand on, he said.
“If you’re going to be one of the top research universities in the country, which is one of our goals of Stony Brook, you have to be international,” Stanley said. “I think you have to be international because students today want international opportunities because problems are global. Faculty need to be able to get to the areas where research is happening, where the findings can be made.”
Now that he has visited the facilities in Africa, Stanley said he can be “a more informed advocate of what is happening out there.”
As an example of how to expand SBU’s impact in Africa, Stanley said he would like to bring scientists and engineering students out to Turkana to focus on the problem of getting clean water to a village. He also said he would “love to get mechanical engineers and people interested in energy out there to these areas.”
Stanley said that he definitely plans on returning to Africa, but his trip depends on fundraising abilities. “There are so many projects and exciting things there that I will want the opportunity to go back,” he said. “I will go back if I can fundraise for it.”
“Africa is part of mission overall, what a university can and should do,” Stanley said.