NC State College of Education Associate Professor Cameron Denson, Ph.D., spent several days in July sharing insight about STEM education with leaders in Botswana as representatives from North Carolina collaborate to help the country reimagine its economy.
Denson was part of a National Guard-sponsored trip that included representatives from the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, N.C. Department of Transportation, N.C. Department of Agriculture, Emergency Management Division, State Capitol Police and N.C. Department of Military and Veteran Affairs.
The purpose of the trip was for representatives from the state to discuss with Botswana leaders ways in which they could assist the country as it reinvents their resource-based economy, which is largely reliant on diamond mining, to a knowledge-based economy reliant on innovation and intellectual property.
“Their goal is to become the Silicon Valley of Africa,” Denson said. “One of the ways they want to do that is through their education system and looking at their STEM educators. They want to be able to spark and influence the next cadre of inventors, innovators and entrepreneurs.”
During the trip, Denson met with government personnel, representatives of the STEM mentorship program at the Botswana Innovation Lab, university department heads and classroom instructors to discuss plans for future collaboration.
Denson said he believes that the College of Education’s commitment to research puts it in a position to assist with the implementation of evidence-based best practices in the country’s schools, as well as to help in Botswana’s approach to teacher education and preparing teachers to be successful in the classroom.
“One of my goals was to really highlight the efforts from our STEM department and from the College of Education. Part of that was to talk about our unrivaled ability to produce STEM educators and how NC State is uniquely positioned to assist them because of our think and do mentality,” he said. “We’re somebody who’s able to take it from the theoretical into a very pragmatic space, so that was one of the things I promoted in looking to bring about sustainable change.”
Following the trip, Denson said leaders in Botswana are amending a memorandum of understanding that exists between the country and North Carolina to reflect new goals they have for the relationship.
Going forward, Denson said he hopes a visiting professional initiative and bilateral student exchange program could be established to help train preservice teachers and assist practicing educators in developing a curriculum that addresses the country’s needs. Additionally, university faculty in Botswana expressed interest in future collaborative research, he said.
“This was a large cadre of people who were friendly, open and really wanted to learn from NC State and they are eager for these collaborations,” Denson said. “I think we have the intellectual property, we have the faculty and we have the resources to help them really be effective in molding their future.”