A major international initiative


For more than 50 years, Michigan State University has been a leader in international education, both as a global research partner and as a host to and source of students pursuing study abroad. Following his World War II service in Washington, D.C., Michigan State’s president, John Hannah, foresaw a more connected postwar world and, with his own connections, made this university an early mover in overseas scholarship and service.

Africa was where this pioneer land-grant university really began to put down world-grant roots, notably its work to help start the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, in 1960 and the related establishment of its own African Studies Center.

Fast-forward to today, when MSU can claim 2,500 African alumni. And talk about fast forward, several important megatrends have begun to wash rapidly over Africa, making this a pivotal time in that continent’s development. These include increasing urbanization; mobile connectivity, with 600 million cell phones now in use; and democracy. In 1989, there were three democracies in Sub-Saharan Africa. Today, you can count more than 20.

Africa also is the world’s youngest continent demographically, so the world increasingly will find itself seeking innovation and talent there. Africa is poised at an inflection point, and we at Michigan State are optimistic about its future—but we’re also keenly aware of lingering issues of access to education. So today we announce a new platform to leverage our experience, relationships, and networks to help Africans achieve their vast potential. 

We’re partnering with The MasterCard Foundation and several other universities on a $500 million education initiative to provide talented yet financially disadvantaged youth—especially those from Africa—with access to high-quality education.

MSU is receiving $45 million from the Foundation over nine years to serve as an educational partner and network coordinator for The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program. It’s the biggest single-source cash commitment in the university’s history, and with it MSU will host 100 four-year undergraduates and 85 master’s-degree students. We welcomed the first cohort of Scholars already this fall—four graduate students and two undergraduates.

The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program will provide students with a supportive environment from comprehensive scholarships, mentoring, and services for experiential learning to transitional support into higher education or the workforce in Africa. One thing we like about the Program is its “go back to give back” orientation, ensuring scholarship recipients transition from beneficiaries to benefactors in Africa and form a network of next-generation leaders committed to service.

We know that collaboration is the key to solving the world’s most challenging problems, so we look forward to working with an exceptional network of high-quality schools and universities with which we share a set of core values. We and our partners will collaborate in new ways to help ensure African youth have the competencies to contribute to economic growth and social development in their countries.

The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program complements MSU’s commitment to serve as an engine of prosperity for the common good at home and around the world. We are confident the Program will also demonstrate that Africa is a place where big problems can be solved and big dreams can be made real.


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