S. African students on Leadership for Change Program visit Clark to discover, exchange ideas

Monday, October 14, 2013
Students from the University of the Free State (South Africa) begin their first week on campus, along with IDCE Interim Director David Bell (third from right).

Students from the University of the Free State (South Africa) begin their first week at Clark, along with IDCE Interim Director David Bell (third from right).

#UFSL4C #ufsgreatness. @ufsweb.... Clark University teaching us more than we thought possible to learn....

@UFSweb #UFSL4C Clark University - Social Justice, Freedom and Democracy. Dialogue Sessions are an investment. What a change in mindset.

The tweets, above, were posted by students from the University of the Free State (UFS) in South Africa during their two-week stay at Clark University (Sept. 21 to Oct. 3) as participants in the UFS Leadership for Change Program.

Eight first-year USF students were housed in campus residence halls and hosted by several Clark students. They shadowed peers to classes and events, observing and exchanging ideas about how to work against racism and intolerance and toward a socially just university campus and society. The visitors returned to their own campus with new perspectives and models to apply to their leadership roles at UFS and beyond.

This was Clark’s first involvement with the UFS Leadership for Change Program, whose objectives include:

- to introduce UFS students to positive models of transformational leadership, racial integration and integrated residential life that demonstrates the possibilities for learning and living together;

- to share and exchange ideas with students on various campuses abroad around issues of diversity, social justice and racial reconciliation based on similar and/or shared histories;

- and to build long-term opportunities for networking and collaboration among students and between academics, researchers and staff from host institutions, who are interested in the programmatic value and scholarly work on themes of diversity, reconciliation and social justice.

Students listen as Assistant Professor of history Ousmane Power-Greene  talks about "jazz ambassadors," a topic in the "Freedom Dreams" course.

Students listen as Assistant Professor of history Ousmane Power-Greene talks about "jazz ambassadors," a topic in the "Freedom Dreams" course he co-teaches with Assistant Professor of English Steven Levin.

Associate Professor David Bell, interim director of the International Development, Community and Environment Department (IDCE) led a team that organized activities for the visiting group, comprising Office of Intercultural Affairs (OIA) Director Amy Daly Gardner and OIA Associate Director Patty Doherty; former Student Leadership and Programming Director Michael McKenna; and Residential Life and Housing Director Kevin Forti. They developed programming and engaged various student associations and faculty to expose the UFS student leaders to Clark’s many and varied programs and opportunities for student leadership.

The group was officially welcomed to Clark on a Monday morning (Sept. 23) by Professor Bell, Dean of the College Mary-Ellen Boyle, Assistant Dean of Students Mounira Morris, the OIA’s Daly Gardner, Student Leadership & Programming Interim Director Joanne Darrigo, and a panel of Clark undergraduates that included: Awilda Reinoso ’15, Melissa Picon ’14, Cody Litchfield ’14, and Tarikwa Leveille ’15.

The Clark students described their experiences and candidly answered questions about the challenges of ethnic and racial diversity, stereotyping, respect and acceptance on campus and at home, and more.

UFS students and Clarkies enjoyed sharing the English capstone seminar class of Associate Professor of English Betsy Huang,

UFS students and Clarkies enjoyed sharing the English capstone seminar class of Associate Professor of English Betsy Huang. (Photo: Andrew Doig '14)

Along with social events, including a tour of Boston, apple picking, and yoga, the South African students participated in several classes with their Clark peers. In “Freedom Dreams,” a course taught by Assistant Professor of History Ousmane Power-Greene and Associate Professor of English Steven Levin, they discussed post-colonial literature and Cold War-era diplomacy, specifically citing “Jazz Ambassadors Play the Cold War,” by historian Penny Von Eschen. (Von Eschen will present the African American Intellectual Culture Series lecture at Clark on Oct. 23).

Several of the USF group attended the English capstone seminar class of Associate Professor of English
Betsy Huang, who is also Clark’s Chief Officer of Diversity and Inclusion. “The hour went by very quickly and we did not want them to leave,” Huang said. The South African students asked Huang’s students about their impressions and knowledge of South Africa. Discussion ranged from health care in the United States vis-a-vis South Africa to Edward Snowden and the NSA to social network information sharing.

The UFS students also sat in on classes or meetings with Professors Doug Little (history) and Kristen Williams (political science); Associate Professor Jennie Stephens (IDCE); Associate Professor Laurie Ross (IDCE); Jennifer Plante, director of the Writing Center; Micki Davis, director of the Center for Community Engagement & Volunteering; University Police Officer Mike Palermo, Eric DeMeulenaere (education); and Student Council President Rian Watt. Librarian Rachael Shea hosted an evening Sacred Fire gathering outside the Goddard Library.

Members of the USF group are listed here, with their home cities:

Jason Anton Anderson (Durban); Louzanne Coetzee (Bloemfontein); Zanri Kotze (Cape Town); S’bonginkosi Zibuyile Majola (Estcourt); Tina Mgidlana (Bloemfontein); Nhlanhla Bhekamanguni Mgobhozi (Ulundi/KwaZulu-Natal); Edward Khomotso Nkadimeng (Witbank); and Esteon Stefan Steyn (Bloemfontein). Martha Helena Miranda, of UFS Student Affairs, accompanied the group.

The UFS Leadership for Change Program description reads: The program was established in 2009 in response to a racial incident that took place on the Bloemfontein campus of the University in 2008. Each year, UFS selects a diverse cohort of 150 first-year students and sends small groups to host institutions. The Study Abroad Leaders for Change initiative was started in 2010. The impact of this initial phase of the program on human transformation is clearly evident. Exposing students to positive models of racial integration will go a long way toward changing and enriching the minds of young leaders, who have committed to building a truly non-racial community during and beyond their university years.

 

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