Innovative New Course Connects Students with Peers in Ghana

Stacey Kutish

Innovative New Course
Connects Students with Peers in Ghana

by Stacey Kutish
1/25/2012

Swarthmore students meet as part of the cross-continential course, re-Envisioning Diasporas
Swarthmore students meet as part of a new cross-continential course, Re-Envisioning Diasporas.

Team-teaching and cross-curricular partnerships are a standard part of Swarthmore's learning culture. New this semester is the opportunity for students to study across continents with peers from Ashesi University in Ghana. Re-Envisioning Diasporas is a seminar-style course in which students will explore the experiences of and representations of communities living apart from their homelands.

"I love learning the ways in which people react and grow to situations, and I know that what I'll learn in this class will be no different," says Holly Kinnamount '12, an English literature and film and media studies major from Frederick, Md. "A lot of the things we'll be learning about this semester are new to me and I'm excited to learn about different cultures and how they interact with one another."

In addition to delving into questions of nationality, globalization, and what it may mean to identify from a perpetual state of "elsewhere," students will also gain skills in international cooperation and communication as they Skype, blog, and develop new and creative means of learning with and from their peers in Ghana. "I am really excited to see what opportunities a globally networked classroom will yield," says Kevin Strand, a first-year student from Berea, Ky.

"The course is cross-listed with film studies and literatures in translations because while investigating theories and historically specific contexts of individual Diasporas, it deals with questions of aural and visual representations," says Associate Professor in German Sunka Simon. Specifically, Simon cites Diaspora in film and other media in different case studies of Diasporas, such as Atlantic Slave Trade and its representations in West-African cinema and Caribbean and Cuban diasporic communities' self-representation in literature and film.

Simon developed the curriculum in partnership with Carina Yervasi, associate professor of French, and Ashesi University Professor Mikelle Antoine. Their work was supported by a collaborative online international learning grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

While this is the first course team taught between the campuses, the ties between Swarthmore and Ashesi, the first liberal arts college in Ghana, are deep. Ashesi was founded by Patrick Awuah '89, who modeled the school on Swarthmore.

Kara Stoever '12, a biology and English literature major from Pittsburgh, Pa., is looking ahead to her future as she reflects on what she hope to learn in this course. "I'm excited to launch out of Swarthmore into the bigger world at the end of this year," she says. "I'm particularly excited to connect with my Ashesi teammates as a global foray in mutual education."