Skip to main content

Doctoral student Emmanuel Owusu Amoako collaborates and connects with fellow scholars at 2024 Royster Global conference 

by Chris Hilburn-Trenkle

When Emmanuel Owusu Amoako was accepted into the doctoral program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Social Work for the fall of 2022, he didn’t realize he would soon also be nominated for an elite doctoral student fellowship.  

“I didn’t even know I was being nominated until I got an email, and I was like, ‘Oh this is exciting,’” Amoako said.  

The details of the email concerned Amoako’s admittance into the UNC Graduate School’s Royster Society of Fellows, a top doctoral recruitment program at Carolina that gives its students various benefits and opportunities, including professional development, networking possibilities and travel and funding support.  

The most recent opportunity for Amoako and a delegation of UNC Royster Fellows was a visit to London, where the students connected with individuals from universities around the world at the 2024 Royster Global Conference at King’s College London. The theme of the conference in early June was “Beyond the Research: Communities and Knowledge Equity.” 

Amoako drew on his extensive experience with economic and community development to bring a unique perspective to share with other students. A 2018 graduate of the University of Ghana, Amoako worked as a community development officer at the Volta River Authority in Ghana and was a graduate research fellow for economic and social development for HIV and AIDS studies in Ghana and Uganda. He earned his Master of Social Work degree from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis and currently works at the Health Lab at the University of Chicago while working towards his Ph.D. from the School. 

Unlike many conferences, Royster Global is student-run and student-led, giving the early-career scholars a chance to share their research and hone their presentation skills amongst peers.  

Photo courtesy Emmanuel Owusu Amoako

“You really get a chance to connect with students, connect with presenters, be able to ask questions,” Amoako said. 

The four-day conference, which began Tuesday, June 4, had a similar schedule each day. Much of the morning consisted of student research presentations hosted by a pair of moderators, with networking breaks stacked throughout the day. The afternoon sessions included student-led workshops, such as “Inspiring Actions Along the Continuum of Community Engagement in Research,” led by UNC doctoral students in the fields of pharmaceutical sciences; nutrition; and environment, ecology, and energy. Another workshop introduced the various benefits of using artificial intelligence to conduct research led by a computer science student from UNC. 

In addition to sharing his presentation, “Using a User-Centered Design to Ensure Financial Security for One Million Households in Africa,” Amoako had the opportunity to moderate a panel for the first time.  

“I thought it would be something different, but I like the fact that it was a student-led conference so there was less pressure,” Amoako said.  

Amoako heard from other students whose research projects resembled his own and built connections that he believes will last for a lifetime. One student pursuing their doctorate from UNC in communication mentioned they were doing similar research to that of Amoako, only involving the prison system in Minnesota. The two quickly made plans to collaborate in the future on a concept paper involving prison systems around the United States. 

“This is a very unique experience,” Amoako said. “Yes, you’re at a conference, but it’s not a conference where people are speaking at you. It’s a conference where people are listening to what you’re saying and doing and willing to see what they can pick up from what you’re saying and what they can do with you and how they can relate with your work.” 

Amoako didn’t just make long-term connections with his fellow UNC graduate students, but with scholars from the United Kingdom, Germany and Norway. By the last day of the conference, they were already discussing when next to meet, with Amoako promising that he would be their tour guide if the next Royster Global conference was at Carolina. 

Photo courtesy Emmanuel Owusu Amoako

“One day I want to wake up and have a proposal I’m writing about economic empowerment in Germany, and know I have a scholar in Germany who understands my work, knows my work and will collaborate with me in that space,” Amoako said. “That is something that I really, really cherish.” 

Whether it was attending a workshop that allowed students to develop frameworks for a successful graduate school journey or learning about the different social determinants of health in chronic diseases from a King’s College London student, the Royster Global conference empowered the early-career scholars and gave them a fresh set of perspectives as they move forward with their research.  

It’s an opportunity that Amoako didn’t necessarily expect, but one for which he is deeply grateful.  

“It’s an amazing fellowship,” Amoako said. “Not only for the financial benefits but also, I get a chance to interact with a multi-disciplinary team of students … Any time I sit in (Royster) conferences or presentations I’m challenged. I’m like ‘Okay, I have to look at this in a different role.’ I don’t think I would be able to have that aspect if I was not in Royster fellowship.”  

Related Stories

First-year doctoral student Ally Waters receives research grant for proposal

School of Social Work first-year doctoral student Ally Waters was recently awarded the Graduate Certificate in Participatory Research 2024 Seed Grant Award. Her proposal was titled, “Using Participatory Research Methods to Identify Assets and Opportunities for Diversion and Reentry Services in Rural North Carolina.”

Doctoral student Anderson Al Wazni awarded prestigious dissertation fellowship to study state fragility in the face of climate disasters

Doctoral student Anderson Al Wazni received a dissertation fellowship from the American Association of University Women (AAUW) for her project examining how climate disasters impact vulnerable populations in the United States through the concept of state fragility.