Ohio Legislature Celebrates Kent State South African Exchange Students

Alumnus legislator tells students: ‘We go to college to change the world’

A group of Kent State University exchange students from the University of Fort Hare in Alice, Eastern Cape, South Africa, were welcomed by the Ohio state legislature on a recent visit to Columbus. 

The students were at Kent State for a 10-day exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Embassy in South Africa. During their visit, the Fort Hare students spent time on the Kent Campus, and visiting Cleveland and Columbus.  

Felix Kumah-Abiwu, Ph.D., associate professor of Africana Studies and director of the Center for African Studies at Kent State, organized the exchange program with Nomzamo Dube, Ph.D., academic coordinator for the Centre for Transdisciplinary Studies at Fort Hare. 

Kent State exchange students from South Africa meet with Ohio Senator Vernon Sykes at the statehouse in Columbus.
Kent State exchange students from South Africa meet with Ohio Senator Vernon Sykes at the statehouse in Columbus.

Kumah-Abiwu said the idea behind the exchange is for students to gain a better understanding of the two countries’ shared histories, with Jim Crow segregation laws in the U.S., and apartheid in South Africa, as well as contemporary issues such as women’s rights and LGBTQ rights. 

“We were honored to be introduced in both houses at the state capitol in Columbus putting Kent State on the map,” Kumah-Abiwu said. 

He said the visit to the state capitol was particularly successful, as the students met with Sen. Vernon Sykes of Akron, Ohio, who introduced them on the senate floor and noted that Fort Hare is the university attended by the late Nelson Mandela, anti-apartheid activist and first democratically elected president of South Africa. 

The students were introduced in the house by Rep. Elgin Rogers Jr. of Toledo, who is a graduate of Kent State.  

“One thing that I learned at Kent State, is that we don’t go to college just to learn, but we go to college to change the world,” Rogers told his fellow House members.  

In May, seven Kent State students traveled to Fort Hare and spent 15 days in South Africa. The exchange program was funded by a grant from the U.S. Embassy in South Africa through its Heritage Ubuntu Student Research Project, which provides opportunities for collaboration and knowledge exchange across borders. Students from both institutions met virtually throughout the Fall 2022 and Spring 2023 Semesters. 

Kent State offers a vibrant international environment rooted in a long tradition of hosting thousands of students from more than 100 countries around the world. Kent State offers more than 200 study-abroad opportunities in more than 60 countries, allowing students to take part in transformational academic and career-preparation experiences across the globe.

Learn more about Kent State’s education-abroad programs.  



POSTED: Wednesday, December 13, 2023 02:57 PM
Updated: Thursday, December 14, 2023 11:59 AM
Lisa Abraham