Senators Kennedy, Kerry and Rep. McGovern Announce Nearly $200,000 for Worcester Polytechnic Institute

WPI Lands Grant to Build Education and Business Links to South Africa

Contact: WPI Media Relations, +1-508-831-5706

WORCESTER, Mass. -- April 26, 2005 -- Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Senator John Kerry, and U.S. Representative Jim McGovern announced earlier this month that Worcester Polytechnic Institute will receive a $197,000 grant under the "Business and International Education" program of the U.S. Department of Education. WPI will use the funds for a three-part project on South Africa to improve understanding of South Africa and its economy, to enable WPI students to study in South Africa, and to strengthen New England companies' involvement in that country.

The project will be led by WPI professor of management Arthur Gerstenfeld and includes components dedicated to increasing the knowledge of area faculty, students, and the business community about business and culture in South Africa. Over the course of the two-year grant, Gerstenfeld and his team will lead two groups of 25 students each to South Africa; produce case studies and modules about South African business to disseminate to universities around the U.S.; and conduct conferences at WPI for New England companies interested in doing work in South Africa. Gerstenfeld also received federal funds for the past three years under the Business and International Education program for projects focusing on Namibia and other parts of Africa.

"One of the principle challenges facing our country and our economy today is globalization," said Senator Kennedy. "This grant will enable WPI to work with the South African business community and the Corporate Council on Africa to develop closer ties between America and this critical part of the global economy. I commend WPI for its commitment to increasing the business knowledge and experience of its students and faculty in the nations of Africa."

"This grant provides a great opportunity for the students and faculty of WPI to build a greater understanding of the economic activity developing in Africa," noted Senator Kerry. "I congratulate WPI for providing its students the chance to study this emerging economy and encourage industrial exchange between South Africa and Massachusetts."

"In the next decade, Africa will require strong partnerships among educational, business, and governmental organizations. Dr. Gerstenfeld, as co-director of the WPI-Africa Project Center, and as recipient of a new federal grant to focus on South Africa, is helping to meet the vital need for stronger ties between South Africa and New England," Rep. McGovern added. "This new grant not only will improve international education, but also help the business community by providing conferences and potential employment opportunities between Massachusetts and South Africa."

The first part of the project aims to strengthen the appreciation and understanding by WPI faculty as well as the Worcester Consortium of Colleges faculty, of the importance of South Africa and potential for U.S. markets. Cases and teaching modules will be written by Gerstenfeld, WPI adjunct faculty member Raphael J. Njoroge, and others on their team, to be used as teaching tools at WPI and other universities for educating students about the enormous potential of South Africa.

The second part will introduce WPI and Consortium students to the economy of South Africa so that they may grasp the scope of business opportunities offered by South Africa. The students will learn the importance of using the country of South Africa as an entry point and commercial engine to the entire African continent.

The third part will develop business linkages by introducing facts about the economy of South Africa to New England companies, and strengthening the involvement of the U.S. business community with South Africa. This will be done through breakfast roundtable meetings and international conferences -- providing an opportunity for business professionals and faculty from across the U.S. to build ties between U.S. businesses and South Africa needs.

Gerstenfeld has formed numerous academic and business ties to Africa. He co-founded the WPI project center in the southern African nation of Namibia, and he and WPI Director of Academic Programs and Planning Susan Vernon-Gerstenfeld led student projects in Namibia last year and expect to do so again in the future. He helped broker academic relationships and agreements between WPI and several African universities. He is the author of numerous articles on business and education in Africa, as well as the forthcoming book, Africa: The Next Decade.