Oakton receives grant to study West African culture

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

Information gathered at the international seminar will infuse West African content into Oakton's curriculum and allow for the future development of a study abroad program in Ghana for Oakton students.

Eleven Oakton 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.

The college is receiving this esteemed grant for the third time. Katherine Schuster, distinguished professor of education/coordinator of the Global Studies program, and Donovan Braud, professor of English and department chair, will serve as coleads on the grant.

"Receiving this prestigious grant speaks to the strength of the collaboration of Oakton faculty to team up with a diverse group of educators and also partner with local high schools and colleges," Schuster said.

"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.

"The selection of sub-Saharan Africa for this project was motivated by our identification of a significant interest in African Diasporic and cultural studies," Braud says.

"Our curriculum at Oakton currently offers only a few unconnected courses in African history, culture and the arts. Through an intensive, immersive faculty seminar in Ghana and Togo, participants will produce meaningful academic content to share the insights and knowledge they have gained.

"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. This seminar also will support my development of literary modules that acknowledge, create awareness of, investigate and honor contemporary and long-standing West African literary traditions and their linkages to the wider diaspora."

The total cost of the project is $148,628, and will be funded with $96,620 (65%) from the federal grant. The remaining $52,008 (35%) will be financed by nonfederal sources.

For information, contact Schuster at or Braud,

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