Van Leeuwen, a School of Public Affairs doctoral graduate, leads nonprofit that seeks to solve problems in Africa
The Global Livingston Institute celebrated a big year of problem solving in East Africa and much of the spotlight shined on the School of Public Affairs, which has partnered with the nonprofit since its launch three years ago.
The Tuesday morning celebration drew more than 100 guests to RedLine Gallery in downtown Denver. The event featured GLI Executive Director Jamie Van Leeuwen, who received his SPA doctorate in 2007, as well as Ugandan dignitaries and University of Colorado Denver students who have participated in GLI efforts in sub-sahara Africa.
SPA Dean Paul Teske (right) introduced a video that documented a recent University of Colorado Denver trip that immersed eight students and three faculty members in Uganda. They participated in health, education and research programs at the newly opened Entusi Resort and Retreat Center at Lake Bunyonyi.
“I’m very proud that my school and CU Denver have been able to build this relationship with Jamie and John (Pirkopf, GLI director),” Teske said. “It’s a great experience for the students, but it’s also fostering research.”
Teske said CU Denver students are conducting longitudinal research of programs put in place in Uganda, measuring them for effectiveness. “We’re delighted with the partnership around the students, around research and around the relationship at the Posner Center (for International Development) and the great things going on there.”
Brian Gerber, Ph.D., an associate professor in SPA, joined the recent trip and Associate Professor Christine Martell, Ph.D., is headed to Entusi Retreat Center next week to help facilitate a meeting of Ugandan Fulbright Scholars.
The seeds for GLI were planted when Van Leeuwen, who became policy director for Gov. John Hickenlooper, earned a Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Livingston Fellowship in 2006. “John Livingston didn’t care what I did with it as long as I grew my leadership skills and found a way to give back and impact change.”
Van Leeuwen, who has has a strong interest in poverty and Third World issues. He teaches urban poverty and international poverty classes as a Buechner Institute for Governance fellow in SPA.
“The next year is probably the most exciting year that we’ve had at the GLI,” Van Leeuwen said. “The next year is when we’re actually going to activate it. When we’re going to take this poor man’s Aspen Institute and breathe life into it.”
More than 60 donors have contributed to GLI. Partnerships with the University of Colorado Denver and the University of Colorado-Boulder are sending students to Africa to learn about international development and Third World issues.
Rose Namayanja, Uganda’s cabinet minister for information and national guidance, spoke at Tuesday’s celebration. She said young people are the “most important” aspect of her country’s future. “When you bring students from the universities and they learn about other countries … it really makes partnerships and relationships very strong and we learn from each other,” Namayanja said. “Those exchanges are very welcome to us, and we want you to keep the fire burning to ensure that we reduce poverty.”
Donalyn White (right), a CU Denver sophomore majoring in English, embodies the mission statement of GLI: Listen. Think. Act. White went to Uganda on her second trip last summer hoping to teach children, but she didn’t what subject. When she got there, she learned that during the rainy season, waves frequently tipped over the canoes that children used at Lake Bunyonyi to get to school.
“That’s when I decided … I just wanted to start teaching kids how to swim,” White told the audience. So she launched a swim and CPR school and she plans to continue the effort on upcoming trips.
Van Leeuwen noted that GLI’s work in East Africa ranges from collaborations on health care, poverty and women’s leadership forums. “We have everything from swim schools to longitudinal research,” he said. “I truly believe that we have been part of something that has ignited a fire between Colorado and East Africa.”
(Photo at top: Global Livingston Institute Executive Director Jamie Van Leeuwen, who earned his doctorate degree from CU Denver’s School of Public Affairs in 2007, talks about the success of GLI at a celebration in downtown Denver.)