Uganda Studies Program Director Transition

Authored on permalink

Related Topics:

USP Directors
Mark Bartels (right) and Rachel Robinson (center) pose with USP Social Work Coordinator Lisa Tokpa (left)

After more than 10 years of dedicated service to the Uganda Studies Program (USP), Mark Bartels will be transitioning back to the US as he accepts a new position with Uganda Christian University (UCU) as the Executive Director of the UCU Partners program.  Stepping in as Interim Director of USP beginning July 1 is Rachel Robinson, who for the past four years has served alongside Mark as USP Program Coordinator.

The Uganda Studies Program began in 2004 when BestSemester partnered with International CCCU member, Uganda Christian University, to offer a unique study-abroad experience for Council students and a networking opportunity for a new and developing Christian university in Uganda. 

“From the beginning, Mark has been instrumental in shaping the program – curriculum, learning experiences, living experiences – as well as developing a mutually beneficial partnership with UCU,” says Ken Bussema, former CCCU Vice President of Student Programs.

Over the 10 years he directed the program, it has grown in academic quality, faith-enriching experiences, breadth of curriculum, and cross-cultural engagement. The program has matured in its offerings to include a special track in social work along with opportunities for students to live with local families. USP under Mark’s leadership has also become a model for how to prepare students to engage fully in a location while minimizing health and safety risks—as well as helping students to transition in ways that encourage them to continue their cross-cultural growth and awareness at home. 

“From the onset, Mark and his wife Abby worked as a team to develop and envision the program,” said Bussema. “As the Bartels family grew, Abby continued to provide valuable service to USP in a variety of capacities during their ten-year tenure.  Now, as Mark and his family prepare to transition on to a new position, we are grateful for their leadership, commitment and dedication to faithful cross-cultural engagement and service. “

Rachel said she is looking forward to continuing the relationships USP has formed under the Bartels’ leadership.

“The roots are strong and deep with UCU and the partnership [with UCU] is very strong, so I’m excited to continue that,” she said. “It feels right. It’s right for [the Bartels] and it’s right for USP.”

Rachel, who grew up in Kenya, completed her undergraduate studies in visual art at CCCU member Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts, and her master’s in community art at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, Maryland. 

In her four years with USP, she has coordinated students’ homestay experiences and has developed and taught the cross-cultural practicum course, which helps students process their experiences living and working in Uganda.  

We hope you will join us in congratulating Mark on his new position, and welcoming Rachel as interim program director.  We are excited about the future of USP, and look forward to continuing our partnership with UCU as we work together to advance the global cause of Christ-centered higher education.