As one of the pre events of the Annual General Meeting (AGM), the Michigan State University (MSU) and the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) on the Innovation Scholar Program. The 15 month innovative capacity building program, is a creative collaboration between LUANAR and the Global Centre for Food Systems Innovation (GCFSI) under MSU.
The ISP was developed by the two institutions based on the needs of the university community. The major gaps within the university related to low innovations in the learning process and institutional leadership. Thus the program has two tracks tailored to the different needs of the university staff.
Firstly, there is the academic track for the faculty staff. Here, the faculty members learn techniques for bringing innovative thinking into the classroom and academic research. Each scholar proposes a research project aimed at solving a particular food security problem, and forms a design team composed of relevant partners from within, as well as outside LUANAR.
The second track is aimed at administrative leaders such as Deans and Department Heads. The aim of this track is to build the capacity of university leaders to embrace a culture of innovation and find new ways to accomplish processes and tasks such as faculty assessments.
The ISP had 20 program fellows; 10 of whom developed innovative agricultural projects to practice novel problem solving approaches.
During the session, a couple of Program fellows were brought in to share their stories of transformation through their participation in the ISP. Dr Sera Gondwe, a member of the Agribusiness Department at LUANAR, and a faculty scholar, highlighted her innovation project that aimed to solve youth unemployment.
Zione Kalumikiza, the Deputy Head of the Food Science and Nutrition Department under LUANAR also indicated how the program made a difference in her leadership skills.
The session also included a panel discussion on ‘Developing transformative leadership in Africa.
It is programs such as these that make a difference to African Universities. While one of the major mandate of the university is to impart knowledge, there is need for continuous capacity building of those that impart knowledge- lecturers- because the world is constantly changing. It is the hope of LUANAR and other universities that programs such as these will be scaled out to other institutions of higher learning.
Written by Catherine Mloza-Banda, Onsite Reporter for the RUFORUM AGM 2017.