University Community Comes Together for Work in Africa
June 1, 2009 –The goal of the Georgetown Africa Interest Network (GAIN), according to one of its co-convenors, is a simple one.
“The mission is modest,” says Scott Taylor, director of African studies in the School of Foreign Service. “It’s to get people out and aware of each other’s presence” and the Africa-focused efforts at Georgetown.
While GAIN’s mission may be modest, the diverse work being done by its members is anything but. More than 300 faculty, staff and students from 75 different departments across all of Georgetown’s campuses are involved in research, teaching and programming with an African emphasis, and the work they are doing spans 24 different countries on the continent.
GAIN’s efforts help coalesce many Africa-focused initiatives at Georgetown. One such effort is an art immersion program in Kenya, developed by Charles DeSantis, associate vice president and chief benefits officer.
He was surprised to learn at GAIN’s opening event that Taylor had been paying close attention to his efforts.
“Scott read from a blog of my trip, which I just did to share with friends,” DeSantis, a GAIN co-convener, says. “To realize someone like Scott, who I respect very much, found that worth sharing with this group of people – I was a little astounded.”
Collaboration Is Key
DeSantis points out that GAIN is simply about bringing to light work that’s been around for quite a while.
“We’re spreading the word about it, not introducing anything new,” he says. “We’re engaging the university on important contributions that Georgetown makes to Africa and that people are just not aware of.”
But both DeSantis and Taylor are quick to deflect any notion of leadership in the network, saying the key to success is collaboration and input from everyone.
“The life of the network is the individual connections we can foster,” Taylor says. “Someone doing legal work might find what someone else is doing in international health to be valuable, so this helps make them aware of that.”
Speaking to Georgetown’s Mission
GAIN reflects Georgetown’s ethos as more than an institution of learning, Taylor says. “There is so much of what people are doing that transcends academics and speaks to the larger mission of Georgetown University – about service and care for others – and it also transcends the categories of faculty, staff or student,” he says.
DeSantis and Taylor encourage alumni to get involved with the project and help to expand the network. “Support can come in many ways, not just monetary,” Taylor says. “Our alumni have reservoirs of expertise across so many fields that their contributions couldn’t help but be of value.”