Professor Richard Onyancha Promoting STEM Education in Africa as Fulbright Scholar

Tuesday, April 07, 2015
Richard Onyancha

Fulbright Scholar: Mechanical engineering professor Richard Onyancha, PhD, is spending this school year expanding educational horizons at Copperbelt University in Zambia. (Photo by Shawn Spence)

Rose-Hulman's global outreach continues to expand, with mechanical engineering professor Richard Onyancha, PhD, advancing engineering education in southern Africa during a year-long adventure as a Fulbright Scholar.

Onyancha, a native of Kenya, has returned to his home region to work at the Copperbelt University (CBU) in Zambia. He is helping the university review its engineering curricula, mentoring younger faculty members, assisting with the writing of several research proposals, and developing relationships with local industries.

Along the way, Onyancha is learning about Zambian culture, expanding American culture to Zambians, and establishing valuable relationships for Rose-Hulman in the region-significant parts of the Fulbright Scholar experience. He delivered the 2015 Martin Luther King Jr. talk at CBU in January.

"It's going very well so far," says Onyancha in an email update from Kitwe, a city with approximately 500,000 residents located in the north-central part of Zambia. "My visit has been eye-opening in terms of the challenges and the opportunities that I have seen," he adds.

In May, Onyancha will take part in the 59th annual conference of the Engineering Institution of Zambia, established to promote and regulate the engineering profession within the country.

Onyancha is working with computer software suppliers to obtain complementary software licenses, and forming a partnership with an international business to establish a programmable logic controller training facility at CBU. He adds that the university's faculty members have a strong dedication to developing research proposals.

"I am also impressed by the willingness of the faculty to spend long hours working on curriculum review issues," Onyancha notes.

Challenges facing Onyancha's work include a lack of teaching resources and a limited number of senior members on CBU's faculty.

Onyancha, a member of the Rose-Hulman faculty since 2007, formerly was a managing consultant for MEACEOM Consultants in Kenya, and a design engineer for the Kenyan government's Ministry of Public Works, Housing and Physical Planning. He has helped organize summer field studies adventures throughout Kenya, and a Faculty Without Borders visit to Kenya to promote the development of alternative light sources.

Onyancha joins mathematics professor Yosi Shibberu (at Ethiopia's Jimma University) in sharing the Fulbright Scholar experience with 1,100 U.S. faculty and professionals on behalf of the U.S. Department of State. Seven current Rose-Hulman faculty members have been Fulbright Scholars since 1975, in addition to six emeriti, retired, or former professors.

The Fulbright program is the flagship international exchange program sponsored by the United States government. It is designed to increase mutual understanding between Americans and people around the globe.