Thanks to a Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad grant from the U.S. Department of Education, faculty members from Oakton Community College will learn firsthand about West African culture next summer.

The school hopes the seminar will encourage development of a study abroad program in Ghana for Oakton students as well as help faculty add West African content to Oakton’s curriculum.

Eleven Oakton faculty members and five educators from Evanston Township High School, Maine West High School, Carl Sandburg College and the College of Lake County will be heading to Africa for five weeks for the “West African Anti-Colonial Imagination and Identity: Ghana and Togo” project.

Global Studies Coordinator Katherine Schuster and English Professor Donovan Braud will serve as co-leads on the grant.

Schuster says, “This is Oakton’s third Fulbright-Hays GPA grant, which is a significant accomplishment given it is not common for community colleges to be awarded. We are extremely proud and honored.”

The team will travel to Ghana and Togo for five weeks in 2022 to immerse themselves in the history, culture and arts in West Africa.

Braud says, “Our curriculum at Oakton currently offers only a few unconnected courses in African history, culture and the arts. This grant will contribute to Oakton’s ongoing efforts to develop African Studies offerings in community colleges and high schools by opening an interdisciplinary dialogue among U.S. academics and Ghanaian and Togolese academic, business, civic and cultural leaders.”

During the seminar, the cohort of instructors will become familiar with West African culture, languages and literature, visual art, mass media, politics, religion, history, philosophy, social movements and sustainability projects by connecting with a range of representatives in academia, civil society, political institutions and Indigenous cultures.

“This exciting opportunity will enhance my teaching by allowing me to expand my knowledge of Ghanaian and Togolese folklore, mythology and literature,” says Tina Fakhrid-Deen, Oakton associate professor of English, who is part of the contingent heading to Africa. “Learning from West African scholars, community members and students will enrich my understanding and growth in this area of literature.”

The total cost of the project is $148,628, and it is 65% funded by the federal grant. The remaining cost will come from non-federal sources.