Cheyney University, a historically black college in Pennsylvania’s state system, will partner with a new university in Ghana on a student, faculty, and cultural exchange program, but first it will help the university attain its accreditation by offering expertise on a program it wants to start.

The partnership with the soon-to-be-built Oboseke University of Excellence in the Asebu Kingdom of Ghana’s Central Region is Cheyney’s first international collaboration with another school, said Cheyney president Aaron A. Walton.

It’s one of several partnerships that Cheyney has begun cultivating in the last few years to strengthen the university and enrich education for students.

Cheyney will share its expertise in aquaculture and aquaponics — a food production system that combines raising aquatic animals with cultivating plants in water — with Oboseke, which wants to start tilapia fish farming and other aquaculture programs. Ghana’s accreditation board requires a mentor relationship with a university that has an established program in an area of interest, Kwa David Whitaker, Oboseke’s rector, said in a news release. Cheyney, which just a few years ago was struggling with financial and enrollment woes and fighting to keep its own accreditation, will provide that mentoring.

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“To be able to share our experience and knowledge with this emerging African university, and potentially help the people of Ghana develop a more accessible food supply, is an extremely significant opportunity for us, a tribute to our academic excellence, and an honor,” Walton said.

Oboseke in return will provide resources to Cheyney including land on the Ghana campus for projects of interest to both schools. An official from Oboseke will visit Cheyney in a couple of weeks, Walton said. He expects exchanges to begin in about a year.

“Students who may be interested in studying abroad can spend a semester at this university and learn what’s going on there and vice versa,” said Walton, who has led the 650-student university that straddles Delaware and Chester Counties for four years.

The relationship came about after officials from Oboseke contacted Steven G. Hughes, a Cheyney biology professor and director of the Aquaculture Research and Education Laboratory, who is helping Oboseke plan its program, Walton said. Cheyney grows tilapia on campus and the waste generated fertilizes basil, which is sold to local grocery store chains, he said.

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Tilapia is a major food source in Ghana, and the country currently gets much of its supply from China, according to Whitaker. The university wants to help the country develop its own source.

Cheyney also has been cultivating partnerships closer to home. Last year, it welcomed to campus the Camden-based Sure-BioChem Laboratories LLC, which provides microbial and chemistry testing services. The university signed an agreement with the company to operate a lab on campus. In January 2020, the university announced that ASI Chemicals, a start-up company that manufactures chemicals used in pharmaceuticals, would operate on campus.

Epcot Crenshaw Corp., an environmental technology solutions company; Navrogen, a bio-pharma research and development firm that works on cancer research; and Advanced Alchemy Labs, a company that grows and processes hemp for medical purposes, are among others.