Staff and postgraduate students of the Department of Social Development showed themselves to be leaders in their fields when they met with peers from the State University of New York at Albany and Howard University at a postgraduate colloquium at UCT.
Hosted at the Graduate School of Business' waterfront campus, the conference - themed Social Development and Community Building: International Research and Demonstration Projects to Address 21st Century Challenges - was the first such gathering between staff and students from the three institutions. Discussions were centred on topics such as HIV/AIDS, poverty and unemployment, health and mental health disparities, diversity and reconciliation.
Over the event's five-day run, the delegates compared notes on their respective research projects, and mooted possible accords. "It emerged as people met and talked over the days of the conference that there were many opportunities that opened up for collaboration," reported Associate Professor Lionel Louw, head of the UCT Department of Social Development.
Howard and Albany delegates were also given a peek at local locales from which UCT researchers often work. The group visited Guguletu's JL Zwane Presbyterian Church (which runs an AIDS programme), the LoveLife Centre in Langa, urban renewal projects in Mitchell's Plain, and UCT's Children's Institute, among other centres.
The American visitors were thralled by the work of UCT researchers, said Louw. "They were very impressed - in many areas we're way ahead of what they're doing in the United States, particularly in caring for AIDS patients and orphans, and in the extent to which we undertake developmental work."
The visiting delegates were equally awed by the research generated by UCT staff and students, Lionel noted. "We overwhelmed them.
"The conference again demonstrated that the work we're doing here is world-class. And it showed that there is absolutely no reason for our students to be embarrassed about their work or think that they're lagging behind the rest of the world."
The colloquium will - money forthcoming - rotate between the three institutions on an annual basis.