The U.S. Department of Education’s Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad program has awarded Virginia State University (VSU) an $83,115 grant to conduct an international professional development seminar in Senegal during the summer of 2017. The four-week cultural immersion program, Gender, Tradition, and Transformation in Contemporary Senegal, will bring together a group of Virginia K-12 teachers and VSU faculty to explore cultural and historical contexts for understanding the complexities of contemporary Senegal and its position in West Africa today.
In collaboration with Boston University’s West African Research Association and in partnership with two rural Virginia school districts—Southampton County Public Schools and Sussex County Public Schools—VSU will provide participating educators with resources to globalize the curriculum and teach students in culturally responsive ways. The program will include a pre departure orientation, a four-week study tour in Senegal, and follow-up activities for resource sharing. Upon return, participants will draw upon their experience to create student-centered learning modules that enhance students’ cross-cultural understanding and global awareness.
The group of Virginia educators will include the following: Ms. Asia Gray, family and consumer science teacher at Highland Springs High School in Henrico County; Mr. Joseph Elliott, art teacher at Sussex Central Middle School; Ms. Geralyn Drayton, English teacher at Sussex Central High School; Ms. Katie O’Kennon, history teacher at Sussex Central High School; Ms. Tasha Ricks, primary teacher at Meherrin Elementary School, Southampton County; and Dr. Gwendolyn Shannon, Division Superintendent of Southampton County Public Schools.
Faculty from VSU are Dr. Joyce Edwards, chair of the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice and Project Director; Dr. Sandra Evans, director of Strategic Learning; Dr. Deborah Goodwyn, associate professor of English; Dr. Patricia Lynch, associate professor and director of the Dietetics Program; Dr. Osayimwense Osa, professor of English; Dr. Maxine Sample, professor of English and director of International Education; and Dr. Badiyyah Waajid, associate professor of Family and Consumer Sciences.
Through lectures, interactions with Senegalese educators and community groups, intensive language study of the indigenous language, and travel to historical and cultural sites, the program participants will gain a greater awareness of the culture and the region’s significance in the global community. The Group Projects Abroad program is part of the larger Fulbright-Hays Program, which dates back to 1961, when the late U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright sponsored legislation for several programs that aim to increase mutual understanding between the United States and the rest of the world. The goal of these grants is to deepen knowledge of areas of the world not generally included in U.S. educational programs and to build participants’ global expertise.
Photo caption: Virginia State University President Makola M. Abdullah, Ph.D. (center) met with the educators who will participate in the four-week cultural immersion program in Senegal.