Insights From Ghana: Day 1 ​​​​

Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton dispatches from Ghana

By Mark S. Wrighton

This week, Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton travels to Ghana to meet with officials from the University of Ghana and sign official papers making the university the 28th partner — and the first in Africa — in the McDonnell International Scholars Academy.

Traveling with Wrighton are James V. Wertsch, PhD, vice chancellor for international affairs, director of the McDonnell International Scholars Academy and the Marshall S. Snow Professor in Arts and Sciences, and Jean Allman, PhD, chair of the Department of History and the J.H. Hexter Professor in the Humanities in Arts & Sciences. Allman has had a long relationship with the University of Ghana.

The University of Ghana is located in the capital city of Accra and, as an English-speaking country, has a long history of interaction with WUSTL researchers, especially those in medicine and social work. In fact, students from Ghana represent the second-largest group of international students at the Brown School, second only to Korea.

In addition to developing further strategic partnerships for collaborative research and study-abroad opportunities for WUSTL students and other McDonnell scholars at the University of Ghana, the university also is ideally located to serve as a home base for further collaborations in other African countries. The McDonnell Academy hopes to recruit its first scholar from Ghana this year.

Today’s post: First impressions of Ghana
This is the first of the chancellor’s Insights From Ghana.


Professor Wertsch and I boarded our nonstop flight to Accra, Ghana, in New York and in the boarding area I knew right away that we were going to Africa! Citizens of Ghana were attired in beautiful but, of course, informal African garb for a 10-hour overnight flight. I was a little out of place, as I sometimes am, in my dark, double-breasted suit fully dressed for business.

Our flight was completely full, left a bit early and arrived about 40 minutes early in Accra. Descending into the city, I noted a hazy sky, and Professor Allman later told me that the haze is dust blown to Accra from the Sahara Desert to the north. The winds also brought heat and high humidity, said to be unusual for this time of year. In any event, leaving New York at about 30 F and arriving in Accra to 90 F reminds me that the St. Louis summer is not far away.

Mark S. Wrighton

Chancellor Wrighton met and talked with these two young girls, ages 12 and 7, on the street in Accra, Ghana.

Accra is a metropolitan area of about 2 million people, and just on the drive from the airport to the hotel one sees many contrasts. 

I was particularly struck by men and women, some young, some old, who were selling items to people as they were stopped in traffic. 

Many of the women were attired in colorful clothing and were carrying their items to be sold on their head. In many cases, modern items were being carried in this traditional way. I noted that I did not see men carrying things this way, and Professor Allman indicated that men do not carry items on their head. 

The traffic was uncommonly heavy and the normal 15-minute drive to the hotel took about an hour. As it turns out, the president was moving from one official residence to another, and many streets were blocked as a consequence.

One key objective in our travel to Ghana is to strengthen our partnership with the University of Ghana and to bring this university into our McDonnell International Scholars Academy. 

Courtesy photo

Chancellor Wrighton, center, and James Wertsch, right, meet with Dr. George Asare, vice dean of the School of Allied Health Sciences of the University of Ghana.

​​With mutual interests in medicine, it was most interesting on our first day to learn about academic medicine in Ghana. 

As with other sectors in Accra, academic medicine is on the move, with the medical school being redeveloped on the main campus of the University of Ghana, including the building of a new teaching hospital. 

Construction is taking place everywhere one looks, and Accra appears to be very vibrant.

Chancellor Wrighton’s second Insights From Ghana post can be read here: http://news.wustl.edu/news/Pages/24930.aspx.

Steve Givens
Associate Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs
(314) 935-5408
Mark Wrighton
Chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis and Professor of Chemistry
(314) 935-5100