Students Get a Taste of Life & Learning in Africa


BOSTON - Eighteen American students will immerse themselves in the culture and environment of West Africa this summer as they share dormitory space with African students and choose from a wide range of courses at Suffolk University's Dakar, Senegal, campus.

The students, who hail from a variety of cultural and academic backgrounds, may choose from among 12 courses taught by Suffolk University professors in three-week modules over the course of the summer. While some students have enrolled in two courses, others are taking as many as five. The courses cover an assortment of topics pertinent to the area -- from French, with a focus on Senegalese media, to the Ecology of Senegal, to Women in African politics.

"We will look at women in politics at the village, local and national levels," said Judy Dushku, a Suffolk University government professor, who has an abiding academic interest in women in world politics and in African politics. She believes the students also will gain new perspective by meeting with women in a predominantly Muslim country where the population is religiously observant without being fundamentalist.

"We also hope to meet with Ambassador Harriet Elam-Thomas to learn about her experience as an American woman in Dakar," said Dushku. Elam-Thomas, the U.S. ambassador to Senegal, spoke at Suffolk University's undergraduate commencement on May 19.

Senegal is the leader in African film making, and two courses in cinema will be offered, along with courses on literature, music and dance, and art. Students studying the ecology of Senegal will spend time in the classroom on the basics of environmental science, then travel in the field both to see environmental efforts firsthand and to meet with village activists who have successfully lobbied to protect their local resources.

Senegal is a small coastal nation with a stable government where French is the predominant language. Students will meet and be encouraged to room with their African counterparts enrolled in business courses at Suffolk's Dakar campus.

"The African students come from all sorts of backgrounds -- there are refugees from Sierra Leone as well as students from elite families," said Dushku. "We hope there will be lots of mingling among the African and American students."

The Senegalese administrators on the Dakar campus are excited about showing off their country to the American visitors, said Dushku. "They plan to take over the weekends, with trips to music and cultural festivals and visits to villages to help the students become better acquainted with the country and its culture," said the Suffolk professor.

Because of the breadth of courses offered, Dushku has seen students enrolling from far beyond the fields of study she had anticipated. They hail from Suffolk and other universities and will be able to apply the Senegal courses to their degree work. Dushku expects the program to grow in coming years, and already has seen an expression of interest for summer 2003 from the Air Force Academy in Colorado.

For more information, please contact:
Mariellen Norris at 617-573-8450
Tony Ferullo at 617-573-8448

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