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For and with the community: AWB helps a new university in Uganda chart a course for success

As the demand for higher education in Africa grows, new universities are struggling to operate more efficiently in a bid to attract top students and faculty. A newly founded university in Uganda approached Academics Without Borders (AWB) to update its strategic plan to establish itself as a leader in high-quality, values-based education.

Located in a fast-growing city in southwestern Uganda, the University of Saint Joseph Mbarara (USJM), opened its doors in August 2018. The university approached AWB for assistance finding an experienced administrator who could help breathe life into the school’s mission and mandate.

Of the many qualified AWB volunteers, USJM selected Dr. Joy Mighty of Carleton University for a one-month assignment. A bold thinker with a Ph.D. in Organizational Development and more than 46 years in teaching, management and consulting roles, Dr. Mighty was well suited to advise USJM. Her task was to review the university’s five-year strategic plan and recommend an implementation strategy to chart the way forward.

“Strategic planning in higher education typically has a powerful impact on a university’s future,” said Dr. Mighty. “It helps to define the university’s strategic position in comparison with its competitors and articulates the choices the university has made with regard to its vision, goals, priorities, and future direction.”

In the past two decades, Uganda has seen enrolment in higher education double, driven by the increasing number of students completing secondary education. Meanwhile, new universities and institutes of higher education have mushroomed, raising concerns over the quality of teaching and learning they promise. The best students are likely to select well-established universities in Kampala or abroad.

To stand out in a crowded field, Dr. Mighty helped USJM articulate its vision, rooted in the school’s community orientation. “For and with the community”—the university’s slogan and rallying cry—sums up USJM’s aspiration to nurture graduates who will be leaders and role models in their personal and professional communities.

Programs are tailored to fill a pressing need for qualified professionals in government and industry, including Business and Management Sciences; Computing Sciences; Education, and Humanities and Social Sciences. The offerings will soon expand to include faculties of Health Sciences and Agriculture, among others—growth that will depend on setting and maintaining high academic and administrative standards.

Dr. Mighty and her colleagues at UJSM met with faculty, staff, students, and community representatives to build consensus around the inaugural strategic plan. The final document proposed five strategic priorities anchored in fostering excellence and integrity.

With the strategy in place, USJM now has a critical point of reference to guide decision-making on everything from faculty recruitment to donor relations.

“In the short period that she spent at our university, Dr. Mighty aligned our strategic plan to local, national and international realities,” said USJM Vice Chancellor, Rev. Deus Karemire.

Thanks to AWB’s support, the university is well-placed to become a beacon of learning and scholarship in Uganda and beyond.

Date: 2018

Volunteer: Joy Mighty, PhD, Associate Vice-President (Teaching and Learning), Carleton University