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DSU’s global presence to expand with USAID deal

Katie Tabeling

USAID Ambassador Samantha Power told DSU students that the agency needs them to expand their mission of delivering aid to developing countries. | DBT PHOTO BY KATIE TABELING

DOVER — Delaware State University and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) have entered into a four-year agreement that grants students and researchers the opportunity to solve the world’s problems through innovation.

Through harnessing the knowledge and the connections of historically Black colleges and universities, USAID aims to diversify its ranks of 10,000 employees around the globe. In exchange, DSU students and staff will be exposed to programs focused on humanitarian efforts, like supporting agriculture-led economic growth in developing countries, climate change adaptation and strengthening water security.

“I don’t know any faculty, staff or student at DSU, or any other HBCU in the county that can say ‘We don’t already do the work.’ But we always don’t get the light,” DSU President Tony Allen said during Monday’s ceremony. “This is a moment to get the light, to lift up that significant work. To recognize that when you invest in an institution dedicated to bringing folks from different backgrounds to be better citizens, there is no better investment than HBCUs.”

It is the first time USAID — one of the largest foreign aid offices with an operating budget of $30 billion — has struck an agreement with a HBCU. But it may not be the last, as the memorandum of understanding also designates DSU as a partner as the agency works to collaborate with other HBCUs on future forums, workshops, conferences and other initiatives.

A 2020 study from the independent agency showed that while USAID’s workforce diversity rose from 33% to 37% in 16 years, the disparity became more stark in higher-ranked positions. At the mid-level civil ranks, minorities make up 75% of the workforce and at the executive level it is 32%. That study caught DSU leadership’s attention, prompting the university to form a relationship with USAID which formalized into a hard agreement signed this week.

USAID Administrator Samantha Power told DSU students and faculty Monday that, “Unless we commit ourselves to tapping into the wisdom, intellect and generosity of spirit of all the American people, we’re not going to live up to our mission.”

She also pointed to DSU’s Center for Global Africa as a shining example of the excellent work the university has created as a foundation. The center is the only contracted American partner with the African Peer Review Mechanism of the African Union, so under the agreement DSU could mobilize all other HBCUs nationwide through its work.

USAID Ambassador Samantha Power and DSU President Tony Allen signed a memorandum of understanding, cementing a four-year relationship between the two institutions. U.S Senator Chris Coons, center, joined the ceremony. | PHOTO COURTESY OF DSU

In addition, the memorandum of understanding sets the Center for Global Africa as a hub for education and career development opportunities to create a strong talent pipeline for USAID.

“I want to be clear about this: DSU does not need USAID to make a difference on a global stage. Your center is already harnessing the expertise of the African diaspora to benefit African nations. You are already leading in research in water quality and developing drought-resistant strains of crops,” Power said. “But we need your expertise, your cutting-edge research and willingness to anchor our engagement with other HBSUs. Help us usher in this new age of promise.”

Under the memorandum of understanding, USAID will host at least quarterly webinars and promotions of fellowship opportunities and advise on at least two development courses in the areas of agriculture, nutrition, climate adaption, water security, sanitation, food systems policy and sustainability. The agency will also connect DSU with opportunities in research, the Farmer-to-Farmer international volunteer program and other opportunities.

In return, DSU will coordinate research meetings between USAID and other HBCUs on international approaches on solving global issues. The university will also invest in training for researchers, practitioners and educators.

DSU officials also told the Delaware Business Times it was working on establishing certifications in skills for rural development and related areas. The university also looks to establish at least two research centers in water and food insecurity with USAID support, which will expand on the 23 international partnerships that exist today.

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