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SMU to Partner with the Ugandan American Partnership Organization

First Annual Uganda Trip Expands on Work Done Through Mustang Consulting

by Alissa Ireland and Whitney Bartels
While most college students spend spring break vacationing in the latest tropical hotspot, eight SMU students and three faculty members will travel to Uganda to partner with The Uganda American Partnership Organization (UAPO) for the first annual volunteer trip. The trip will offer students the opportunity to serve the impoverished Ugandan community while learning more about The UAPO.

The UAPO began when SMU alumna Brittany Merrill spent the summer of 2004 serving in Uganda. After she briefly met Sarah Kamara, a poor Ugandan mother who cared for 24 orphans, the three-month trip transformed into a lifelong mission to bring Americans and Ugandans together. Four years and more than $800,000 in donations later, Merrill’s efforts are coming full circle as the group of SMU students prepare to collaborate in a trip to advance UAPO’s mission.

SMU became involved with The UAPO in July 2009 through a student-run organization called Mustang Consulting. Since 2005, Mustang Consulting has counseled organizations and companies ranging from Southwest Airlines to the Dance Theatre of Harlem. Supervised by Dr. Maria Dixon, assistant professor in the Division of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs in the Meadows School of the Arts, the organization is dedicated to providing students with real-world experience. The UAPO became a client of Mustang Consulting when Merrill decided to contact Dr. Dixon, the first professor who inspired her to start her own nonprofit. Dr. Dixon passed the project on to seniors Carolyn Angiolillo, Whitney Bartels, and Stephanie Fedler and junior Amanda Lipscomb. The group has spent the last seven months reworking The UAPO’s messaging campaign, brainstorming fundraising efforts, formulating promotional documents and more. In a few short days, the group will finally get to see the culmination of their efforts first-hand in the villages of Uganda.

“After working with The UAPO since July, the four of us are overwhelmed with excitement to finally make the trip to Uganda,” said Angiolillo. “We hope to not only learn more about our client, but strategize and market an annual Uganda trip through The UAPO so that other college students can experience the great things The UAPO is doing.”

Mustang Consulting students will be joined by Dr. Dixon; Dr. Mark McPhail, chair of the Corporate Communications and Public Affairs Division; Susan Kress, head of SMU Study Abroad; journalism student Brooks Powell; and three members of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, Genny Weaver, Natalie Sherman and Grace Roberts.

The group will spend spring break working with the Ugandan community on three of UAPO’s current community projects, which provide hope to hundreds of Ugandan children. The students will direct the majority of their efforts to UAPO’s Akola Project, which offers economic development and relief for Ugandan widows in rural villages.

The Akola Project empowers more than 150 impoverished women in Eastern and Northern Uganda to uplift the lives of their families and community through income generating crafts. UAPO trains Akola women to make necklaces from recycled paper. The jewelry is then sold throughout the U.S. and at local Ugandan markets. The Akola Project has generated more than $100,000 of revenue for the Ugandan women since its inception in 2007.

As the first annual volunteer trip for college students approaches, SMU and The UAPO are hopeful that the experience will inspire students to make a difference in Uganda just as it did for Merrill on her first trip six years ago.


The Ugandan American Partnership Organization
The Ugandan American Partnership Organization is a 501c3 nonprofit based out of Atlanta, Georgia, which partners with women and children in Uganda. The UAPO aims to foster relationships with Ugandan women and help rebuild Ugandan communities through various projects. Its mission is to believe in the women in Uganda and to inspire them to do good for their community and to work together to transform the nation. For more information, please visit

Mustang Consulting
Mustang Consulting is a student-run organization at Southern Methodist University that offers students the opportunity to work with real-world clients. Each semester the students advise their clients using strategies grounded in research and theory. For more information contact

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