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Sister Cities Collaboration With Gondar, Ethiopia, Drives Educational Excellence And Cultural Growth

Fostering educational innovation and cultural exchange across 6,000 miles, MC representatives participated in a Montgomery County Sister Cities delegation visit to Ethiopia earlier this year. Led by Councilmember Craig Rice, the delegation visited Gondar, Ethiopia, and the University of Gondar.

Montgomery County established the Sister Cities Ethiopia Program in 2012 to enhance connections and cultural exchange between the county’s Ethiopian community and Ethiopia. Daejeon, South Korea; Xian, China; Morazan, El Salvador; and Hyderabad, India are also part of the Sister Cities program.

Students from the University of Gondar celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Gondar

“With the large number of Ethiopian students attending MC, we wanted to strengthen our focus on connecting faculty and students from both institutions,” said Dr. Michael Mills, vice president, Office of E-Learning, Innovation, and Teaching Excellence (ELITE). “The relationship allows students at both institutions to understand their global connectedness. We want students to work on joint projects and for faculty to participate in joint professional development.”

In addition to Dr. Mills, Dr. Clemmie Solomon, collegewide dean of student engagement and Takoma Park/Silver Spring (TP/SS) dean of student affairs, and Dr. Mary Robinson, chair, English and Reading, Germantown Campus, served as the official MC representatives for the county’s delegation. Rolf Barber, job opportunity and development specialist, student development at the TP/SS Campus, also joined the trip.

MC’s Academic Master Plan includes an initiative for expanding global partnerships and international opportunities to “provide a twenty-first century education for our students and much-needed services and expertise to our colleagues abroad.” The Gondar visit in January offered an opportunity for MC to reaffirm the relationship it created with the University of Gondar in 2012.

The relationship allows students at both institutions to understand their global connectedness. We want students to work on joint projects and for faculty to participate in joint professional development

Established in 1954, the University of Gondar has 42,000 undergraduate students, with 2,500 academic staff. The university’s motto: “Committed to serve our country.”

Montgomery College and the University of Gondar enjoy a strong partnership, with MC hosting several delegations from the university to share educational practices and conducting professional development webinars for Gondar faculty. Additionally, MC has conducted fundraisers to buy books for Gondar-area elementary schools and led a study abroad program for College faculty and students to Gondar.

Montgomery College ranks as the most diverse community college in the continental U.S., and having a strong study abroad program naturally aligns with MC’s international culture.

Dr. Michael Mills speaks with students at a primary school in Gondar, Ethiopia

“Promoting the development of globally competent students is an important goal of the college,” said Solomon. “I cannot think of a more powerful mechanism to develop globally competent students than through the College’s study abroad program. As a leader of the study abroad program to Ethiopia, I witnessed how the experience changed students’ lives for the better.”

Robinson adds that one of the most important benefits of the Sister Cities relationship is “…the opportunity for our students to engage learning about the historical churches, mosques, and museums in a global community.” She says it can also help learners to live and work successfully in an increasingly diverse society.

“In the era of Open Educational Resources (OERs,) [educational materials that are in the public domain or otherwise available at no cost], faculty can develop OER teaching materials to exchange,” said Robinson. “In addition, there are implications for teaching courses in learning community. Though, the concept of OER and learning community does not impact our approach to teaching and learning, the concepts will increase knowledge for Ethiopian and American students’ culture, respectively.”

The meetings at the University of Gondar included a celebration of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the federal holiday. The university’s theater arts faculty and students wrote and performed a play about Dr. King and Tewordros II, the emperor of Ethiopia from 1855 to 1868. The performance underscored Dr. King’s pivotal impact on the U.S. and the world. “The day was very exciting, insightful and meaningful, said Robinson, adding that both Dr. King and the emperor advocated for equality and justice for all.

MC’s team is already making plans to work with administrators and faculty from the University of Gondar on the next steps for enhancing the Sister Cities collaboration. “I look forward to meaningful partnerships developing as a result of this most recent trip,” said Mills. “The people in Gondar and at the university opened their hearts to us.”


Caption for banner photo: Councilman Craig Rice, Dr. Michael Mills, Dr. Clemmie Solomon, Neftali Benitez and Rolf Barber wear traditional Ethiopian clothing during their visit to Gondar, Ethiopia, in January

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