Assistant Dean Jim Lucas and many APUE colleagues hosted the University of Pretoria’s Kgadi Clarrie Mathabathe and Hestie Byles for a week on MSU’s campus for a week of reciprocal learning.

Assistant Dean of Global Education and Curriculum Jim Lucas was awarded a Transforming Institutions Strategic Funding Grant from the Alliance for African Partnership (AAP) in late 2021 for his proposed partnership with the University of Pretoria, A reciprocal knowledge exchange partnership to strengthen student success through academic advising and student support.

As a result, Lucas and many APUE colleagues hosted the University of Pretoria’s Kgadi Clarrie Mathabathe and Hestie Byles for a week on MSU’s campus for a week of reciprocal learning. 

Founded by Michigan State University in 2016 in collaboration with African colleagues, the Alliance for African Partnership is a consortium comprising MSU, ten leading African universities, and a distinguished network for African research institutes. AAP members are committed to working in equitable partnership to transform lives and address global challenges, according to AAP’s website. 

“I’m thankful that AAP’s efforts allow for collaborations between institutions beyond research,” says Lucas. “This opportunity allows for engagement of new participants in international work, and it allows MSU to explore international dimensions of academic and student affairs practice. The dialogue that occurred on campus between our guests and the MSU community helped us think about our work in new, innovative ways.”

Mathabathe and Byles are experts in various spheres of student success at UP: Mathabathe is the deputy director of academic development in UP’s Department for Education Innovation. Byles is the manager of academic advising for the university. 

During the course of their visit to MSU, Mathabathe and Byles met with faculty and staff from Student Success Assessment and Data, RISE, James Madison College, New Student Orientation, and Academic Advising. 

Byles highlighted MSU’s focus on professional development for advisors as a point of inspiration. 

“In my initial discussions with Jonelle Golding, interim director of university advising, I heard her team talking about professional development for advisors quite a lot,” says Byles. “I’ve been able to get some things started just based on those conversations.”

Byles says her perspective on what constitutes valuable training has shifted a bit as a result of her visit. 

“I think I felt that professional development opportunities need to be big, expensive trainings. But something I learned from my MSU colleagues is that they harvest from the institution itself.” Byles says that she plans to draw on what she learned about committee and workgroup-based professional development MSU.

Throughout the knowledge exchange, Byles was repeatedly struck by the similarity of the challenges faced MSU and UP. 

“There were so many similarities,” she says. “Especially in terms of challenges with first-year students being underprepared and the feeling that we need more advisors.” She is optimistic about establishing a mutually beneficial ongoing dialogue between the advising personnel of the universities. 

Lucas echoes that sentiment.

“As the week went on, I was consistently surprised about the commonalities between the two institutions in terms of our work,” says Lucas. “Despite being from two different countries on two different continents, many of the goals, challenges, and efforts we discussed were very similar. I look forward to continued shared learning between the two schools.”