Why UIS students and faculty spent part of the summer in The Gambia
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Each year, dozens of students take part in study-abroad experiences. UIS donors have caught the vision of how study-abroad enriches a student’s education and prepares them for professional and volunteer service following graduation.
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One such program took place this past summer in The Gambia. The trip was a joint effort of public health, undergraduate research, teacher education and global studies.
Four students and three faculty members from UIS are spent a month studying abroad in The Gambia, a small country in Western Africa. The group left Springfield on May 24, 2016, and returned at the end of June.
Studying water quality in The Gambia
Biology major Shyleen Studley worked with Associate Professor of Chemistry Keenan Dungey and Associate Professor of Public Health Josiah Alamu to conduct water quality assessments in the country.
“In terms of water quality, we measured parameters for human health and environmental health, including nitrates, chromium (VI), and coliforms,” said Dr. Alamu. “We measured water from wells, a city dump, and The Gambia River. We collected bacterial samples which will be analyzed and compared with samples from the Illinois River.”
According to Dr. Keenan Dungey, the team had two purposes for their water study: “In sampling the well water in villages and near the city dump, we were following up on community health surveys conducted by Dr. Alamu and his students in prior years. By relating the people’s health to that of their water, we hope to help the local governments change policies about access to drinking water in the country.
“The other purpose was to survey the environmental water quality of the Gambia River. By comparing it with that of the Illinois River, we will be contributing to the international discussion on Conservation vs. Restoration. Again, our long-term goal is to influence the government to change policies on agriculture, for example, in ways that will preserve the quality of the river for all (including the animals, etc.).”
Shyleen’s response to the trip:
During the first few weeks, we worked through the challenges of heat, Ramadan, and no electricity, and everything turned out okay. Because we tested at many points along the (Gambia) river that ran through the country, I got to see quite a bit of it. The Gambia is so different from the other places I have visited and lived, but just as important are all the similarities. The biggest surprise was the sheep running and screaming through campus. I don’t know how the other students stayed so focused!
Extending the reach of a UIS education
In The Gambia, UIS faculty members also trained six undergraduates and one faculty member from The University of The Gambia in field techniques and lab chemical procedures.
Global Studies/Accounting major Jessica Villegas, Sociology/Anthropology major Tyshianna Bankhead and graduate student Jacqualine Williams worked with the Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children (GAMCOTRAP) to gain socio and cultural experience. The students were assisted by UIS Associate Professor of African-American Studies Kamau Kemayo.
Williams is also working with Gambia Food and Nutrition Association to gain experience on food processing/preparation and its effect on the health of the Gambians.
The group traveled to many locations in The Gambia, including Banjul, Brikama, Serrekunda, Kembujeh, Tanji and Kartung.
UIS students and faculty have been traveling to The Gambia on study abroad trips since 2011.