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UT and University of Rwanda Unite for Collaborative Academic Endeavors

Earlier this fall, following the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UT)’s summer exploratory partnership program in Kigali, Rwanda, a delegation from the University of Rwanda (UR) visited UT to forge educational ties and collaborative initiatives.

Led by UT’s Center for Global Engagement, the summer visit was aimed at deepening the partnership between UT and UR, as well as engaging the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) in discussions about future collaborations.

UR is a leading higher education institution in Rwanda, known for its commitment to academic excellence, research and fostering innovation. With a diverse range of programs and a strong emphasis on community engagement, it plays a pivotal role in shaping the country’s intellectual landscape.

RDB is a government agency in Rwanda dedicated to driving economic growth and attracting investments to the country. It serves as a one-stop center for business registration, investment promotion, tourism development and entrepreneurship support, playing a pivotal role in Rwanda’s sustainable development and global competitiveness.

Exploring Synergies with the University of Rwanda

Led by Muganga Didas Kayihura, acting vice chancellor, the UR delegation consisted of Emmanuel Ufiteyezu, Ignace Gatare, Nsengimana Venuste and Oliva Bazirete, among others.

Their visit held multifaceted objectives, with a primary focus on fostering collaborations in areas such as sustainable development, energy, biodiversity, hospitality and tourism, healthcare and technological advancements.

UR’s interest in these areas aligns seamlessly with Rwanda’s Vision 2050 plan, which aims to transform the country into a high-income economy driven by knowledge, innovation and sustainability.

During the visit, delegates spent time with faculty, staff and students from Environmental Studies, Geography, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Africana Studies, Access and Engagement, and the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences, to name a few.

Their aspirations were also focused on exploring opportunities for collaboration with the UT Space Institute (UTSI) in aerospace and biomedical engineering. Jackie Johnson, professor at the UTSI and the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Biomedical Engineering, met with Ignace Gatare, principal of the UR College of Science and Technology, to discuss collaborative efforts the two universities will consider.

A notable highlight was the proposition of various partnership models. Among these proposals were plans for PhD exchange programs, enabling scholars to engage in cross-institutional studies without coursework, potentially hosted by UT with a structured financial arrangement.

Additionally, discussions revolved around fostering research collaborations between faculty members of both institutions, particularly within the Africa Centers of Excellence, drawing parallels to successful international partnerships like the UT-NIMS partnership in Japan.

During the visit, the two universities worked to identify and build joint research, find scholarships for students and faculty to travel and develop avenues for faculty exchange.

The envisioned partnership signifies a significant step towards fostering a robust academic alliance aimed at knowledge exchange, collaborative research endeavors and capacity building.

A Focus on Healthcare

Dr. Oliva Bazirete, Dean of UR’s School of Nursing and Midwifery, aimed to bolster their institution’s educational framework and research capabilities by working with UT’s College of Nursing.

The visit featured insightful sessions led by Dean Victoria Niederhauser and Associate Dean Nan Gaylord among others that included live demonstrations of psychomotor skill acquisition, strategic planning for research models and immersive experiences in large class management. Faculty development workshops, discussions on standardized patient programs and synchronous online simulations enriched the knowledge exchange.

The visit culminated in a comprehensive tour of the UT Medical Center, providing invaluable insights into nursing practices and clinical teaching models.

Engagements with UT faculty and leaders in the nursing and healthcare fields further fortified the bond between these institutions, signaling a promising collaborative future in healthcare education.

Community Collaborations with Rwandan Development Board

The RDB, as a crucial entity mandated to drive Rwanda’s economic growth, is heavily focused on developing a skilled tourism and hospitality workforce, with a specific emphasis on conservation and sustainability.

Dr. Junehee Kwon, Head for UT’s Department of Retail, Hospitality and Tourism Management, met with Amos Mfitundinda, from RDB’s Strategic Capacity Development Department, to share best practices in tourism and hospitality training and discuss partnerships that can advance student learning opportunities and faculty exchange for both universities.

The local community, including the Knoxville Chamber of Commerce, City of Knoxville and Visit Knoxville met with the RDB and offered learning opportunities for economic development and tourism growth.

With help from Paul Jennings, the Executive Director of UTCIS, the RDB explored plans to establish a Center of Excellence for public and private organizations focused on tourism and hospitality.

Gretchen Neisler, UT’s Vice Provost for International Affairs commented that “the shared vision to harness academic strengths for societal progress and the commitment to exploring innovative avenues of collaboration will create a deeper relationship between the three organizations.”

About the Center for Global Engagement

The Center for Global Engagement works to lead, coordinate and support the university’s strategies for global education, research and engagement. Initiatives include developing and managing international partnerships, welcoming and assisting international students and scholars, providing education abroad opportunities to students and creating international and inter-cultural programming for campus and the broader community.


Christina Gerdes (865-974-4435,