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TU-USAID Agreement: Fostering New Collaborations in International Development

Administrator Power joins Prof. Collier (center) and Dean Prakash (right) in visiting the campus

On January 31st, 2022 Tuskegee University was visited by Samantha Power, Administrator for The U.S Agency for International Development (USAID),  for the signing of a new memorandum of understanding (MOU) titled “Memorandum of Understanding for collaborative leadership, partnership, and recruitment activities between The United States Agency for International Development’s Bureau for Resilience and Food Security and Tuskegee University.” 

This MOU will foster new collaborations between the two parties over the next four years, promoting international development and assistance while advancing diversity and inclusion, by providing access to learning and employment opportunities for TU students and faculty. This new collaboration will build upon previous collaborations between TU and USAID. Dr. Rhonda Collier, Professor of English and Head of Tuskegee University’s Global Office, has spearheaded this initiative. 

During the signing ceremony Administrator Power stated: “Today’s MOU signing is about expanding access to opportunities that can connect your [TU] love of learning, research, and service to our [USAID] shared mission of ending global water insecurity, hunger, malnutrition, and poverty.” Specifically, the MOU works to raise awareness and understanding of international development issues while emphasizing the importance of U.S-based research in making advancements in international issues. 

This MOU commits to offering more collaborative opportunities for TU Faculty, and more learning programs for TU students, on issues related to agriculture, nutrition, climate adaptation, and water security, sanitation, and hygiene in developing nations. This agreement also serves USAID’s goal of advancing diversity and inclusion by diversifying their partnerships with various universities. 

In this agreement, specific action items and goals will facilitate outcomes in line with the purpose and mission of the MOU. For example, USAID has committed to: 

  • Promoting research and project collaboration opportunities for TU faculty
  • Advising students on employment, internship, and educational opportunities
  • Advise TU faculty on curriculum and research topics on the subjects of agriculture, resilience, natural resource management, food security, and food systems policy
  • Facilitating learning opportunities for students on the topics listed above 

USAID is already fulfilling their commitment to providing opportunities for TU students by promoting programs such as Jefferson Science Fellowship, AAAS, and Payne Fellowship. 

On the other hand, TU has committed to:

  • Promote student participation in USAID programs
  • Partner with USAID during webinars to inform TU staff and students on USAID careers, programming, and other opportunities
  • Dedicate faculty to learning from and conducting research with USAID on various environmental/agricultural Issues 
  • Assist USAID in its initiatives for diversity, equity, and inclusion

Collaboration is an essential pillar of this agreement, a means to ensure that both USAID and TU have due representation in all topics and research opportunities. As Alexious Butler, Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Bureau of Resilience and Food Security, stated “the idea behind the MOU is that everything will be done collaboratively.” Administrator Butler went on to cite the process of topic selection for various information sessions as an example of this representation. She stated, “we have a list of things we would love to talk about, but we also want to hear from Tuskegee… .” 

During Administrator Power’s opening remarks she acknowledged the rich agricultural history of Tuskegee University, specifically citing George Washington Carver’s advancements in soil repair. Administrator Power expressed her confidence in Tuskegee University faculty and students to make advancements in international agricultural advancement due to the history of agricultural excellence in our University. In the same remarks, Administrator Power referenced the history of HBCU exclusion from the “work of global agriculture” in favor of collaboration with predominantly white institutions (PWIs), but assured that this MOU is just the first step in committing to the inclusion that HBCUs deserve. For more information regarding the MOU and related USAID opportunities please visit Tuskegee University Website.