Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Memories of Augustana College

Yesterday I returned from a memorable visit to Augustana College, Illinois. The main purpose of my visit was to talk with students going on a study trip to Ghana and Senegal. This is part of the work and vision of the Africana Studies program.

In the evening of January 30, I spoke with a group of professors on cultural issues in the global village and related topics. We dwelt in particular on preparing students for life in the world they will live in.Professor John Tawiah Boateng, standing with me above, on the right, had communicated with me over a two year period about plans at Augustana College to develop the African Studies program. He has said that my visit would help that process. On January 31, I spoke with the people going to Ghana and Senegal, about 40 of them. They had all read my Africans and Americans book, and I had been invited to talk about it.
Above, Dr. Tawiah Boateng, the director of the Africana Studies program is seen introducing me to the audience, flanked by Dr. Kim Tunicliff director of International Studies. Dr. Tunicliff and I had worked together for some years in the Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM). While he was the ACM Vice President, I was a member of the board for the Zimbabwe and Tanzania progams. I am still a member of the ACM board dealing with the Tanzania and Botswana programs. It was good to be with Dr. Tunicliff again. It was during Dr. Tunicliff's tenure as ACM Vice President that I wrote my Africans and Americans book, to help us in offering cultural orientation for students and faculty going to Africa. I have mentioned this in the book. Introducing me, Dr. Tawiah Boateng described my work in teaching, research, writing, and study abroad programs. I spoke about my experience of preparing students for study in Africa, with a focus on the cultural dimension. I described my own experience with American culture, growing as person as I went along. I explained how writing my book made me discover my own biases and how, subsequently, I fought against those biases in order to produce the book they were reading. The greatest challenge, I said, is to overcome the idea that the norms of our culture are the standard other people should follow. That bias is like a trap into which we all fall, more or less. An hour and a half later, our session ended and we went out for dinner and still continued our conversations
It is certainly gratifying for a writer to know that people are actually reading his or her writings. I was touched, as usual, to be in a room with over forty people who had read my book asking incisive questions.

A small band of students stayed on, after dinner, to continue the conversation. I signed copies of the book and we took one more photo, which reflects the strength of the human spirit in the face of the kind of rigours we had put ourselves through.

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