Meet the Global Staff: Spotlight on Shabani Muller
Did you know that the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources (IANR) has a number of globally-focused staff members and student staff that advance our triparite mission? In this series, we'll be introducing you to these individuals and exploring how they engage with and support the students, faculty, staff and partners in IANR. The next featured person is Shabani Muller, Graduate Assistant for the CASNR Global Learning Hub and current doctoral student in the School of Natural Resource Sciences.
Who is Shabani?
I am Shabani Muller, and I am a PhD student in the Natural Resources Department majoring in Ecology and One Health at the University of Nebraska Lincoln (UNL). Additionally, I work at UNL as a graduate student under the Global Learning Hub.
I grew up along Lake Tanganyika in the Kigoma region of western Tanzania (East Africa), which borders Burundi, Zambia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. I enjoy playing soccer and swimming, and my favorite dish is fish rice.
Prior to coming to Nebraska in January 2022, I was not aware of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, as many people back home are only familiar with universities located in big cities in the USA. My journey to UNL began when I developed an interest in studying a PhD in One Health, and I contacted my (now) academic supervisor Dr. Elizabeth VanWormer via the ResearchGate platform in early 2021. ResearchGate is an online platform where research scientists and academicians can share their publications and interests. I followed Dr. VanWormer's profile, as our research interests were a perfect match, and expressed my desire to study One Health under her supervision. Dr. Liz agreed to be my academic advisor and suggested that I apply for admission at UNL, where she works as an Associate Professor. And that is how my path to UNL began, leading me to where I am now as a graduate student.
What got you interested in global education or global affairs?
My interest in global education and global affairs was sparked by a combination of factors including my upbringing along a diverse border, my ability to speak multiple languages, my extensive travel history, and my academic pursuits. Growing up, I had the opportunity to interact with people from various cultures and educational systems, such as those from Burundi, the DRC, Zambia, and Rwanda. Additionally, my country, Tanzania, hosts many refugees who have fled their home countries due to war and political instability. Living alongside refugees exposed me to global affairs and the education system in refugee camps. My desire for a global education further developed during my travels to eight countries across four continents, where I was able to learn about different cultures and languages, including French. As a graduate student with a passion for academic and research work, I read scientific publications from scientists around the world who work on my research area. These experiences have fueled my interest in global education and global affairs, and I am committed to expanding my knowledge in these areas.
Why do you think global learning is important for students at UNL, the U.S. or more broadly)
Global learning is important for students at UNL, across the United States, and around the world. Our campus hosts a diverse community of students and faculty from various cultural backgrounds, providing a unique opportunity for students to engage with diverse perspectives, experiences, and cultures. By doing so, students are better equipped to tackle global challenges and contribute to a more equitable and peaceful society.
As an international student who has been involved in student affairs at UNL, I have learned valuable intercultural communication skills that have helped me thrive in a foreign country. For instance, I had to learn how to communicate with faculty and staff at UNL, which involved understanding the cultural differences in addressing professors. This experience has enhanced my ability to communicate effectively with people from different cultural backgrounds. Furthermore, global learning is crucial in addressing global challenges, such as climate change, by providing students with an understanding of how others are dealing with these challenges. For instance, I was impressed by how researchers and government officials in Nebraska monitor drought situations and provide farmers with accurate information and mitigation strategies. Additionally, through the Sustainable Development Scholar program at UNL, I learned how scientists from the University of Niger used indigenous knowledge to promote agriculture of neglected crops, which helped fight malnutrition and climate change in that part of West Africa.
Global learning also helps develop a positive attitude that is necessary to succeed at the local and international level. For example, my experience with refugees changed my perspective towards immigrants and minorities, as I provided health mentorship on malaria diagnosis in refugee camps in Tanzania from 2018 to 2020. This experience helped me understand the importance of upholding the dignity and worth of all people, including immigrants, as well as the USA government policy toward international trade. Now, I use these skills to promote diversity and inclusion at UNL.
Moreover, global learning creates lasting friendships in host countries and around the world, which can contribute to career success. At UNL, student associations link international students with American hosts, promoting cultural exchange and understanding. This relationship is beneficial as American hosts and domestic students learn about foreign cultures, and international students learn about American lifestyles. By being involved in global learning, students develop intercultural communication skills, adaptability, and empathy, which are crucial for success in today's globalized world.
What is your role/ portfolio of work?
I work as graduate assistant at the CASNR Global Learning Hub, my main role is to connect students, faculty, and staff to global opportunities; provide support to international students, promote, and advise students on global learning opportunities.
What is one accomplishment that you’re most proud of over the course of your work?
As an assistant at global learning hub, I've been fortunate to have many accomplishments. However, one achievement that I hold in high regard is the success of the international students mentored by UNL faculty members.
During the fall semester, I met a group of undergraduate students from Oman who were seeking internships. They were unsure of how to go about it, so I provided them with the guidance they needed. Thanks to the information I shared with them, they were able to secure positions as laboratory assistants at agriculture laboratories on the east campus (UNL). They worked hard and assisted UNL faculty members in completing their projects.
One student, Ansila Anwari, was especially remarkable. Despite having no prior experience in laboratory and agricultural work, she was able to excel in her role and become a laboratory supervisor. This is an achievement that I'm immensely proud of, as it demonstrates the power of mentorship and how a little guidance can go a long way in helping someone meet their need in a foreign country.
Stay tuned for our next feature on Brianne Wolf, Global Learning and Engagement Strategies Coordinator for CASNR.