Logman Arja sent us the following report after his September 2017 trip with Associate Professor Ronald Rael to Sudan.
My name is Logman Arja, a second-year Master of Architecture(link is external) student at the University of California, Berkeley and a MasterCard Foundation Scholar(link is external) from Sudan. As a passionate architecture student, I see art and architecture as a powerful statement to connect and communicate. Being the only Sudanese student at Cal at the moment (probably!), triggers me to think of ways in which I could give back to my country while I am a student.
My academic objectives stem from and are shaped by life experience and the wonderful people I meet along the way. Over the summer this year, I had the happy opportunity to work, as a Graduate Student Researcher, with professor Ronald Rael(link is external). I have been inspired by his innovative work, intellectualism, activism and most of all, his humane character. Professor Rael helped me to materialize the vision of giving back and joined me in a mission to shatter the glass of inextricable indecision [in a] situation shaped by complicated, political uncertainty pertaining to the relationship between Sudan and the United States. There have not been any direct and formal collaborations between U.S. academic institutions and their counterparts from Sudan for almost two decades. Ronald generously agreed and managed to travel with me to Sudan in an academic endeavor that aims to share knowledge, assess academic performance, and inspire young scholars to reach their maximum potentials, although the biggest goal was to plant a seed for future collaborations.
At the University of Khartoum, Faculty of Architecture(link is external), Professor Rael’s role centered on serving as an external examiner, where he reviewed and critiqued graduation theses of nearly 90 undergraduate architecture students. He followed by [delivering] a public lecture that sparked intellectual curiosity among those young avid minds. During this one productive week, Professor Rael also engaged in intensive meetings with faculty members, and briefly met the Vice-Chancellor(link is external) of the same university and the Minister of Housing.
I believe that this historic visit opens doors for future collaboration between institutions in Sudan and UC Berkeley. Currently, we are working on efforts to host Sudanese students at UC Berkeley for a field trip and possibly exchange programs in the coming years.
My take away from this endeavor is that we, as young African scholars, are ambassadors for our peoples and countries. We should live up to our individual and collective expectations. In this great country at this particular university, we have the extraordinary opportunity and network that we should invest in to give back to our larger constituencies, inspire others to follow our path and ultimately build a better continent.