Queen's Gazette | Queen's University

Search form

Teachers-turned-students

The first PhD candidates of the 10-year Mastercard Foundation partnership reflect on their first year at Queen’s, and how their experience will affect Ethiopia.

After a successful first year at Queen’s, Mulugeta Chala and Molalign Adugna are heading home to Ethiopia to conduct field research that will contribute to the foundation of an internationally accredited rehabilitation therapy program at the University of Gondar in Ethiopia. Both are doctoral students in the School of Rehabilitation Therapy and participants in the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program.

Mulugeta Chala (left) and Molalign Adugna (right), doctoral students in the School of Rehabilitation Therapy, will return to Ethiopia for a year of data collection in the fall after their first year at Queen’s. (Photo: University Communications)
Mulugeta Chala (left) and Molalign Adugna (right), doctoral students in the School of Rehabilitation Therapy, will return to Ethiopia for a year of data collection in the fall after their first year at Queen’s. (Photo: University Communications)

Mr. Adugna taught sociology and worked as the Director of Continuing and Distance Educational Programs at the University of Gondar.

“My focus has shifted to rehabilitation from sociology for my PhD, and specifically on the nexus between stigma and inclusive education among children with disabilities in rural Ethiopia,” says Mr. Adugna. “I want to learn different stigma reduction strategies that work in Canada, and find which can be applied to Ethiopia. I also want to develop an intervention strategy for disability awareness for future Ethiopian researchers to practice.”

Mr. Chala is a physiotherapist, clinical educator, and coordinated the Office of Research Linkage and Knowledge Transfer at the University of Gondar to connect researchers with the local community.

“My focus is on chronic lower back pain. I’m hoping to develop a chronic pain self-management program customized to the Ethiopian context. Most programs used in developing countries copy strategies from Europe, the United States, and Canada. Those may work for a while, but they’re not sustainable because they lack the context of the developing country,” says Mr. Chala. “While at Queen’s, I want to gain the research skills to develop a research question, and also lay the foundation for the next generation of researchers in Ethiopia. We have a responsibility to train those that follow us.”

The doctoral students had a similar experience to many international graduate students from typically warmer climates; warned about snow, both bought many heavy jackets to fend off the cold.

“We had a lot of preparation, but I found the winter wasn’t bad. I come from the mountains area of Ethiopia, and we have a cold season,” says. Mr. Chala. “Bussing into the school and library made it not so bad.”

The cultural transition has been successful for both students, thanks to the support of the Queen’s and local community.

“I’ve been to the U.S. before, so I didn’t find it too different in Kingston,” says Mr. Adugna. “I’m impressed with the whole system, from infrastructure to transportation, and the Canadian education system. I had a culture shock at first, but people are very friendly at Queen’s and Kingston, so I feel very supported.”

“When we arrived in June, it was very green and beautiful in Kingston,” says Mr. Chala. “I think Kingston is beautiful, and a friendly place to live. It’s small, compared to Toronto, but I think that’s good for students.”

The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program is a 10-year, $24 million partnership that brought Queen’s and the University of Gondar together to support the growth of rehabilitation therapy at the Ethiopian university. The partnership, now in its second year, includes:

  • Scholarships for 450 undergraduate scholars, including those with disabilities and from areas of conflict, to study at Gondar,
  • 60 faculty members from the University of Gondar to study at the graduate level at Queen’s,
  • a Community-Based Rehabilitation (CBR) certificate, and
  • an internationally recognized occupational therapy curriculum at the University of Gondar.

Mr. Chala and Adugna return to Ethiopia for a work placement, and will be back at Queen’s for their second year of graduate course work.

To find out more about the Mastercard Foundation Scholar’s Program, check out the University of Gondar and Queen’s University partnership website and stay tuned for more highlights as the second cohort of graduate students prepare for their first semester at Queen’s.