Southern Africa Chapter of the Penn State Alumni Association launched

December 28, 2011

The first chapter of the Penn State Alumni Association in Sub-Saharan Africa was launched in Soweto, the world-famous township near Johannesburg, South Africa earlier this month. It was organized by the alumni and launched as the Southern Africa Chapter of the Penn State Alumni Association at a reception in the Soweto Hotel on Freedom Square.

Attendees travelled from all over South Africa and some from Botswana to be part of this historic event. Following the announcement of the event, the organizers were contacted by more than 100 alumni currently in the Southern African region and two dozen were able to travel to Johannesburg for the reception. The event also was attended by Michael Adewumi, Penn State's vice provost for global programs; Robert Crane, professor of geography and director of Penn State's Alliance for Education, Science, Engineering and Development in Africa (AESEDA); and Collins Airhihenbuwa, professor and head of the University's Department of Biobehavioral Health.

A keynote address was delivered by Sizwe Mabizela, a Penn State alumnus and currently deputy vice chancellor (provost) of Rhodes University, one of the premier institutions in South Africa. Mabizela spoke of how Southern African alumni can use their clout to make life better for the citizenry. Others who spoke included co-organizers of the event, Lindiwe Sangweni-Siddo and Salifou Siddo -- both are Penn State alumni and part-owners of the Soweto Hotel. Alumni-attendees Included leaders in business, government and the academy.

In impromptu remarks by attendees, everyone talked about how much Penn State has meant to them in their career and personal development, as well as how they view their place in the world. They spoke of the respect they enjoy from peers and colleagues because of the knowledge base they brought to their work place, due in no small part to their academic preparation at Penn State. They all attributed their success and rapid climb in their professions to the academic preparation and the work ethics imparted on them by Penn State faculty. Their enthusiastic support of the University and what it stands for was palpable.

They promised to follow up with a concrete set of programs, including scholarships to enable less fortunate compatriots to attend Penn State. They were equally proud of their involvement with African Students Association (ASA), a student-run organization at Penn State. In fact, many believed that it is this association that their sense of identity as Africans was nurtured and reinforced since many were engaged in leadership capacities in the association.

Adewumi reminded them that an important focus of Penn State's global engagement strategy is instilling the ideals of global citizenship in all students, to ensure that they cultivate the habit of thinking globally while acting locally. Airhihenbuwa and Robert Crane struck a similar theme and spoke about the immersion programs they are involved in running, such as the Global Health Minor in the College of Health and Human Development and the Parks and People Program administered by AESEDA.

Penn State's global network of alumni is a valuable resource, providing local and regional knowledge and professional expertise in support of Penn State research and educational programs. Groups such as the new Southern Africa Alumni chapter are heavily engaged in improving life in their local and regional communities. Through their various professional and community engagements, they are Penn State's best ambassadors, bringing the very best of the University to the world.

Last Updated January 05, 2012