While a big part of me is nourished by fieldwork, another part of me breaks the moment I step aboard an international flight taking me away from my home, from my wife and daughter, and from the normal day-to-day life that my family and I cherish. I can’t seem to fix this ache. This is a feeling that I experience even during relatively short (1-3 weeks) trips abroad. Imagine what the emotions must be like for my African graduate students – Arthur Muneza and Tutilo Mudumba – when they elect to come to Michigan State University (MSU) to pursue graduate research training. The first time that Arthur, for instance, boarded a plane was when he came to MSU last autumn to initiate his M.S. degree. He stepped aboard that flight with the knowledge that he would not see his father or his brother again for at least 9 months. In August of this year Tutilo left Uganda, left his job, his home, his wife, and his two children to start his own graduate degree in RECaP. Try to conceptualize for a moment what Tutilo must have felt when taking off in that plane knowing that he would not hold his daughter’s hand or read a book to his son for at least 5 months.
My responsibility as the Director of the RECaP Laboratory is to find solutions to these Grand Challenges. And the quest for these solutions takes me abroad. With the power of collaborative partnerships with organizations such as Makerere University, Giraffe Conservation Foundation, and Uganda Wildlife Authority I can envision what these solutions might look like. This trip will help to refine that vision.