CSU partnership helps stock university library in Ethiopia

More than 20,500 up-to-date textbooks and recent scholarly journals – that’s over 33,000 pounds of materials packed into 641 boxes – are on their way to Hawassa University in Ethiopia, thanks to a dedicated group of volunteers and a generous commitment from Colorado State University.

CSU and Hawassa signed a memorandum of understanding to develop collaborative relationships between the two universities’ colleges of agriculture and natural resources in 2012.

When CSU President Tony Frank visited the natural resources college at Hawassa University three years ago, he said, “I came away from our visit to Ethiopia feeling very enthusiastic about the possibilities, large and small. So much of the credit for our strong ties in the country and with Hawassa University lies with (Natural Resource Ecology Lab research scientist) Paul Evangelista, whose personal passion and research interests have laid the groundwork for an enduring partnership around areas of real strength at CSU: wildlife management, sustainability, water resources, and more.”

However, Frank and Evangelista both noted during that visit that while Hawassa had a new library facility, it lacked sufficient library materials to fill its shelves and fully support the needs of the academic community. So Frank and Evangelista turned to CSU’s “boots on the ground” in Ethiopia to rectify the situation.

At the time, Peace Corps Volunteers Bob and Nancy Sturtevant were posted at Wondo Genet College of Forestry, a campus of Hawassa University north of the town of Shashemene (home of the Rastafarians). Although Bob had already retired from CSU, and their Peace Corps tour of service ended in December 2012, they put their two decades of experience collecting books for disadvantaged schools around the globe toward stocking the Hawassa library.

Filling a semi-trailer

Bob and Nancy Sturtevant (front row left), Ecology Ph.D. student Matt Luizza, and NREL research scientist Paul Evangelista take a break with volunteers from Alpha Phi Omega before they finish filling the shipping container with books for Hawassa University.
Bob and Nancy Sturtevant (front row left), NREL research associate Nick Young, NREL research scientist Paul Evangelista, (top row, from left), graduate student Steve Chignell, members of Alpha Phi Omega Sarah Gardner, Sady Swanson and Lexi Beuning, and NREL research associate Ryan Anderson take a break before they finish filling the shipping container with 20,000 books for Hawassa University.

Since 2013, the Sturtevants have gathered excess academic books and journals and other materials from CSU students, faculty, staff, and community members as well as from other universities around the nation and prepared them to send to Ethiopia.

On April 16, they finally packed the massive collection, which includes texts on subjects from health and psychology to computer science and statistics as well as natural resources and agriculture, into a semi-trailer container for shipment, which is expected to take from three to six months, depending on how long the boxes take to clear Ethiopian customs. Total cost of the effort is about $11,000, funded by the CSU President’s office.

“Bob and Nancy Sturtevant have a remarkable history, during their years at CSU, of conducting book drives — and they were able to use that knowledge and experience to build a collection that will really be transformative for Hawassa University,” Frank said. “I cannot say enough how grateful we are to the Sturtevants for their tireless work to make this happen in a way that will really serve the international academic community. Their leadership on this project has been exceptional.”

The Sturtevants were aided in this massive undertaking by Evangelista and a group of dedicated volunteers – both graduate students who study with Evangelista and the other NREL faculty who teach at Hawassa and members of the on-campus service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega. For three years, this group has collected, sorted, stored, and prepared books for the Ethiopia shipment, using vacant space in the old Centers for Disease Control Building on the Foothills Campus.

“Countless people across our community donated their scholarly resources to make this shipment possible,” Frank said. “This has been an important project for CSU as well as for our academic partners in Ethiopia, and it’s a wonderful demonstration of the strong bond between our institutions and the people of Hawassa and CSU. Thanks to all who have made it possible.”