UGA Research Magazine

Bringing It All Back Home

by Rebecca McCarthy


Intro   |   Surviving The Amin Years   |   To Give Something Back   |   Promising Products

An Oppurtunity To Help Someone




There they were, four students and their teacher from the University of Georgia, sitting in a university president’s office in Kampala and watching an attendant bring in tea—a full British-style tea, with scones, clotted cream, cakes and finger sandwiches. One young man looked at the pastries and then stared at William Kisaalita, his engineering professor, as if he were waiting for an okay.

This student had brought from home a suitcase filled with enough beef jerky, peanut butter and other American foods to sustain him during the eight weeks he would be abroad. After all, this was Uganda—the Third World!—and he thought he couldn’t be too careful.

Kisaalita (left center) and students sought permission from the village chief (right center) before begining work in Gampela, Burkino Faso.

But those cakes. They looked delicious. The teacher motioned to the student to eat. The young man took his first taste of food prepared in Africa “and there was a transformation from fear to enjoyment,” Kisaalita said. “After that, he was ready to eat anything, to try anything.”

Kisaalita loves to tell this story. It illustrates one of his main reasons for creating a hands-on international program for UGA engineering students: to expose them to the wider world. That way, they can experience other cultures, apply their engineering skills to local people’s (particularly poor people’s) needs, and come to understand that even small-scale projects can have a large impact.

“Most of these students have never seen poor people—really poor people,” said Kisaalita. “At first there’s a sense of helplessness, but after a while that tends to wear down. They see the value of what we’re doing.”

He said that students very soon gain a sense of accomplishment and possibility, and he hopes that in the long term they will work abroad as engineers to bring technological expertise to those who most need it. If his students become engineering professors themselves, perhaps they will choose to involve their own students in projects in developing countries.


Intro   |   Surviving The Amin Years   |   To Give Something Back   |   Promising Products


Research Communications, Office of the VP for Research, UGA
For comments or for information please e-mail:
To contact the webmaster please email: