A blossoming partnership with a Ghana university is opening the doors to increased cross-cultural learning opportunities for Concordia’s School of Nursing and helping the African institution carve its notch as the premier nursing school in its country.


International, Ghana
From left: AVP of International Affairs David Birner, Vice Chancellor of WIUC-G Obeng Mireku, Provost Bil Cario, WIUC-G Registrar Frank Yeboah, and COO Jacob Fynn

Concordia University Ann Arbor began in summer 2017 to explore opportunities for international teaching and learning with Wisconsin International University College-Ghana (WIUC-G) when Associate Professor of Nursing Peggy McLaughlin, PhD, RN, and AVP of International Affairs Rev. Dr. David Birner first traveled overseas to meet with WIUC-G professors and leaders.

A visit made this week by Birner and Concordia Provost Dr. Bill Cario puts Concordia one step closer to solidifying a formal partnership with the overseas university. Within the past few days Birner and Cario worked with WIUC-G leaders to develop a comprehensive memorandum of understanding that paves the way for the eventual development of curriculum and programs that will be open to Ghana and Concordia students alike.

Concordia’s relationship with WIUC-G dates back to the late 1990s when retired Rev. Dr. R. John Buuck, previous president of Concordia University Wisconsin, worked closely with WIUC-G chancellor and recently retired president of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana, Rev. Dr. Paul Fynn, to lay the groundwork to found the school.

Cario and Birner’s trip is part of a deliberate effort within the past few years to expand the university’s global reach and open up strategic learning “highways” throughout the world (i.e. mutually beneficial partnerships with global universities that will allow a more seamless exchange of professors, students, and resources, as well as more robust academic offerings).

These international highways have already begun to form and are having a profound effect on Concordia students’ educational experience, says Birner. Ultimately, they support Concordia’s mission to “develop students in mind, body, and spirit for service to Christ in the Church and world.”

“Today, it’s more important than ever that we train our students to engage people throughout the world from a Christian worldview,” Birner says. “This partnership builds upon a long-standing relationship with WIUC-G, as well as the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana and its educational ministries, and is a model for expanding Lutheran higher education.”

CUAA's Chief Simulation Specialist Ben Oliver demonstrates a simulated birth with WIUC-G's new high-fidelity mannequins.
CUAA’s Chief Simulation Specialist Ben Oliver demonstrates a simulated birth with WIUC-G’s new high-fidelity mannequins.

This will be the first formal international highway for Concordia’s Ann Arbor campus. CUAA’s School of Nursing will look to begin as early as 2019 to offer virtual conference calls and joint lectures between the two campuses.

Concordia already contributed to WIUC-G’s educational experience in a significant way last spring, when Chief Simulation Specialist Ben Oliver helped the university set up a brand new simulation room. Oliver, who has decades of experience as a simulation specialist, used his professional connections with Gaumard, a major U.S. distributor of mannequins used in health care settings, to procure a discount on three high-fidelity mannequins.

High-fidelity mannequins on average can range in price from $65,000 to $110,000. WIUC-G was able to purchase theirs for about half the price, says Oliver.

Additionally, Concordia allocated close to a month of Oliver’s professional time to travel to Ghana and help WIUC-G set up their simulation experience. Today, WIUC-G’s sim lab is the most sophisticated in all of Africa.

Research shows that simulation is an incredibly valuable learning tool within the health care field. While it does not replace the live, hands-on learning that takes place during clinical rotations, it provides a low risk, controllable setting for students to develop muscle memory and practice necessary skills.

“Anytime I can help an institution increase the educational experience for students, that’s what I do. That’s something that drives me,” Oliver says. “If I see there’s a need for something, especially around simulation, I put all my energy towards it.”

Learn more about Concordia’s School of Nursing here and Concordia’s international efforts here.

— Kali Thiel is director of university communications for Concordia University Wisconsin and Ann Arbor. She may be reached at kali.thiel@cuw.edu or 262-243-2149.

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