Want to See the Potential of Undergraduate Education? Go to Ghana.
Winthrop Carty is the Executive Director of the Melton Foundation, and has helped expand its worldwide network of partners and collaborators committed to promoting the practice of global citizenship.
As scores of students across the world begin university this fall, we must ask ourselves how these institutions can best serve society’s pressing needs. In my 30 years of work in higher education, I’ve formed some strong opinions on their successes and failures. Unfortunately, what works best for undergraduates has often been available only to the privileged few: the best being individualized, interdisciplinary education that stimulates critical thinking as it teaches young people skills that satisfy both human and economic needs.
Recently, as the Executive Director of the Melton Foundation, I went on a long search for a new partner university in Sub-Saharan Africa, and found a place that manages to embody all these traits and values. The discovery was made all the more special by the university’s emphasis in a rare competency: ethical leadership. This liberal arts college was not Harvard College in Cambridge, MA, but Ashesi University College, near a small farming town outside of Accra, Ghana. While few institutions dare to qualify leadership, Ashesi’s mission is to instill ethical leadership and critical thinking through quality, interdisciplinary education, discussion-oriented small-sized classes and service learning.
While countries like the United States struggle with their ivory towers, Ashesi’s “elite” education is not for a ruling elite — thanks to support from MasterCard Foundation and others, most Ashesi students, not just from Ghana but from throughout Africa, enjoy full-to-partial scholarships. Ashesi’s dedication to ethical leadership is epecially suited to this promising partnership with the Melton Foundation’s role in creating global citizens.
We support over 450 Melton Fellows from universities in Chile, China, Germany, India,and the US to develop active citizens who move beyond simple talk and into the creation of tangible solutions. Global citizenship is a way of working across national and cultural boundaries to forge win-win solutions for all. This approach has global, regional, and local dimensions: global collaboration is necessary to face global challenges such as climate change, while also lending solutions to common local problems such as domestic violence.
In Ghana and with Ashesi, it is clear we didn’t only find a model undergraduate education — we also found the local and regional application in Ghana and Africa for global citizenship and the pathway for Ashesi’s ethical leaders to become global citizens.