June 8, 2015

Graduate School Partners with Ugandan Universities to Design Collaborative Virtual Classes

Georgetown’s Graduate School is developing interactive virtual courses with Makerere University and Martyrs University of Uganda to be piloted in fall 2016.

Participating professors and students will use video conferencing to conduct classes around pressing issues in Uganda and endeavor to advance solutions.

One of the pilot classes will address the challenges of healthcare delivery in rural Ugandan communities.

Advancing Medical Solutions

“In remote areas of Uganda, they don’t have all of the tools to treat patients,” explained Dean of the Graduate School Norberto Grzywacz, who joined Georgetown in January 2015 after serving as chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering and the director of the Neuroscience Graduate Program at University of Southern California.

Local medical practitioners need inexpensive, portable medical technologies to deliver care, such as a smartphone that can conduct an ultrasound.

Georgetown and its partners aim to create such devices, drawing on the universities’ respective expertise in medicine and biomedical engineering, as well as Martyrs’ existing relationships with hospitals throughout Uganda. 

Government Support

The Ugandan government supports the collaboration between universities and is helping to synergize course content with its national priorities.

In a meeting with Georgetown leaders in spring 2015, the minister of planning shared blueprints of the country’s five and 20-year plans.

“Part of what we’re going to do is match the courses that we create to the government’s big plan for Uganda,” said Dean Grzywacz.

Grzywacz added that future courses may focus on access to clean water or infectious diseases, which are key research topics for Georgetown faculty and students.

The Student Experience

Georgetown plans to embed the virtual courses in two new graduate programs, one on science, technology, and international affairs, and another on infectious diseases.

Select undergraduates may also be invited to register for the courses.

“These courses are like a classroom without borders,” said Shauntell Pinckney (C’15), who traveled with Dean Grzywacz and Professor Mark Giordano to Uganda in April 2015 for planning meetings.

“I believe that course participants will feel more humane in their understanding of how the other lives,” she added.