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SSW Study Abroad in Ghana Program Celebrates 10 Years


Contact: Emily Williams

Posted Aug. 12, 2010

Nearly 160 students have made the trek to the Republic of Ghana in West Africa over the past decade through the School of Social Work's Study Abroad in Ghana program. The 10th anniversary celebration was marked at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Kumasi, Ghana. The School of Social Work hosted a celebration at UGA's campus on Sept. 20 in the Tate Student Center's Grand Hall.

The interdisciplinary, service-learning program takes faculty and students from across campus and from other institutions. This year's class was made up of eight students and three faculty members from the School of Social Work, the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Education.

"To see that we've been able to sustain a program this long was special for us, but we didn't know the impact we had on the [KNUST] campus," said Cheryl D. Dozier, associate provost and chief diversity officer at UGA. Dozier has participated in the program since its inception in 2001 and became the program director in 2003. Dozier took the first group of social work students to Ghana in 2002.

KNUST Dean of International Programs Raphael Kasim Kasanga recognized that the KNUST/UGA partnership is the oldest international partnership at their university and the longest running U.S. study abroad program in Ghana. Several faculty who have been involved with the program over the years made the trip to Ghana just to attend the celebration, including Patricia Hunt-Hurst, an associate professor and department head of textiles, merchandising and interiors in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences. Noel Fallows, associate dean of international and multidisciplinary programs in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, also made the trip to observe and evaluate the study abroad experience.

"The interdisciplinary piece adds a different feature to the program," said Tony B. Lowe, associate professor of social work. "Having students from different disciplines—they have different ideas, different ways of thinking. Those combinations and mixes change each year. It really adds more interest and it keeps you engaged every year," he said.

The program has partnered with several universities, social service agencies and communities across the country over the years, but the partnership with KNUST was the first. The two institutions swap professors and students, as well as work on service-learning projects together. Every year students from both institutions paint a mural at a nearby orphanage, led by Diane Edison, professor of art in the Lamar Dodd School of Art.

Each destination was full of enriching experiences for the students. The traveling classroom meant students attended lectures from faculty at other institutions, worked on service projects in various communities and had site visits and interviews at Ghanaian social service agencies.

"I was able to see social work in action in many different arenas," said B.S.W. student, Melissa Chiz. Chiz, a Shaw, Mississippi, native, stayed 2 additional months in Ghana after the School of Social Work program ended. "Prior to this trip, I had spent very little time in the developing world. Cold showers, power outages, unpaved roads, poor sanitation and an incredibly inefficient government are all part of daily life for Ghanaians. I have learned to appreciate so many things we take for granted in the U.S."

The 3-week journey began in Accra where the group spent 3 days touring the capital city, visiting the University of Ghana and U.S. Embassy and immersing themselves in village life outside the city. Students were given traditional Ghanaian names in a naming ceremony in the Torgorme Village.

They spent the next 5 days in Kumasi. After touring the city, the group travelled to a couple of villages outside the city and purchased supplies for the Kumasi Children's Home, including paint for the mural. They spent several days at the orphanage painting and working on other projects around the home with their KNUST counterparts.

In their next destination, Tamale, the group visited the Sugashee Village where the women of the village have developed a sustainable way of life making shea butter. The program began visiting the village on the inaugural trip and started a service-learning project to send children from the village to school through the Uniform Project. "I've been very proud of our faculty, staff, students and friends who have supported these efforts," Lowe said. "We've bought over 600 uniforms and pairs of sandals as well as hundreds of books and other school supplies."

The mayor of Tamale received the group in his office and thanked them for their efforts in helping children in the rural North get an education as well as for continuing to visit the Northern part of Ghana each year because most study abroad programs primarily stay in South.

Next, the group spent several days in the Cape Coast region where they visited the University of Cape Coast, walked the sky walks under the rain forest canopy in the Kakun National Forest and toured the slave castles that housed imprisoned and kidnapped African's before they were shipped to the western hemisphere in the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

The trip ended in Accra with a visit to Ashesi University, several free days and a closing ceremony.

"Seeing this group bond was just really, really phenomenal. It was very, very special," Dozier said. "I see students transform, they come alive."

The Ghana study abroad program is the longest running study abroad program in the School of Social Work.