Florida State University

College of Social Sciences & Public Policy

For the latest information related to COVID-19, visit fsu.edu/coronavirus

Africa Network Launches Colloquium Series

After returning from teaching in Malawi on the Fulbright Scholar program in 2019, Associate Professor of Urban and Regional Planning Chris Coutts wanted to dedicate more time to raising the profile of African scholarship at FSU and create stronger bonds between FSU and African institutions.

One of his first steps, along with Claudius Mundoma, director of the Physical Biochemistry Facility in the Institute of Molecular Biophysics, was to explore potential collaboration with universities and institutes in Botswana.

Carrying those efforts forward led to the establishment last fall of the FSU Africa Interest Group (AIG) with the support of the Provost’s Office. Along with faculty members Joseph Hellweg (Religion) and Stephanie Simmons Zuilkowski (Education), Coutts is a member of the steering committee leading AIG, which brings together more than 40 faculty at FSU who either do work in Africa or have an interest in doing so. The group seeks to share ideas and identify ways the university can strengthen its research, teaching and service by connecting with each other and with partners in Africa.

“There is already an impressive array of faculty from the humanities to the STEM disciplines working in Africa,” Coutts said. “The expertise of faculty from the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy could contribute greatly to interdisciplinary teams of FSU faculty conducting research in Africa.”

AIG has now launched the Africa Network Colloquium Series to serve as a forum to highlight the group’s research and projects and to advance different proposals. For its first event, Zuilkowski will give a talk addressing the question, “Are low-cost private schools worth the investment? Evidence on parent preferences and student performance in Nairobi.”

Low-cost private schools (LCPSs) enroll more than half of school-age children in parts of Nairobi, Kenya. However, based on Zuilkowski’s research, widespread investment in LCPSs may be a questionable prospect. Her research shows that public schools ensure student growth as much as LCPSs, except where structural improvement interventions occur.

Zuilkowski’s research aims to improve basic education in sub-Saharan Africa, focusing on school quality, early literacy outcomes and teacher implementation of policies. She works in Nigeria and Zambia, with previous fieldwork in Kenya, Tanzania, Madagascar, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone and Indonesia.

The talk takes place from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. on Friday, January 24, in room 2500 of the Center for Global Engagement, 110 S. Woodward St.

AIG is undertaking a number of initiatives on campus. One that Coutts has been charged with is working with Professor of Economics Patrick Mason to explore how AIG can collaborate with the college’s African-American Studies program. Mason is director of that program .

Amy Farnum-Patronis of University Communications, contributed to this article.