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To the Warm Heart of Africa and Back

By 2018 Malawi Practicum Cohort

The journey to get to Malawi is long: 20 hours of flying to Lilongwe and an 8-hour car ride to Maji Zuwa. The anticipation of arriving to Malawi was unmatched  - an excitement to see how our research would unfold, who we would meet and connect with, and the memories we would share together. A year ago we were in St. Joseph Hall classroom preparing for the journey to Malawi. In early spring, we traveled to South Bend, IN to share this journey with others and presented our research projects at the University of Notre Dame Human Development Conference.

This student ran conference is held annually and this year, undergraduate students from across the U.S. presented research around engaging in development work with empathy. The 2019 Human Development Conference (HDC) focused on co-creation and empathetic engagement in development, bringing students from across the country to share their work. The theme resonated heavily with the vision and mission of the Malawi Research Practicum, where community involvement and collaboration drives every step of research. Sharing our research in a student-led format gave us insight into the advanced nature of the practicum and made us proud of the work we have done in the past year. Being three months after our final papers were due, HDC allowed us to return to our projects with fresh eyes and the ability to reflect on the research process. The Malawi Practicum’s relationship with Determined to Develop creates an undergraduate research experience that’s hard to find anywhere else. The co-creation model of the practicum allows for positive contributions to the Karonga community as well as life-changing experiences for the cohort members, which is something not to be taken for granted. We feel immense gratitude toward Matt Maroon, executive director of D2D, and the UD Human Rights Center for developing a practicum that emphasizes scholarly research aligned with our Marianist charism.

A year ago, we were a group of strangers wondering how we would conduct our individual research projects. A year later, we are a group of researchers with a significant  experience in conducting qualitative and quantitative fieldwork, analyzing data, writing reports, and sharing our findings to advance the common good with peers from across the U.S. Participating at the Human Development conference provided us with a space to reflect on our journey together and how we have all gone from strangers, to a research cohort, to friends. After presenting at the conference, we all realized our abilities as individuals to conduct advanced research and translate that research into content that can be learned from and utilized to advance development projects at Determined to Develop. The mission of the University of Dayton Human Rights Center is to bridge the gap between theory and practice and we were able to experience that first hand through the Malawi Research Practicum. 

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