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For the past 17 years, Elon Professor of History Brian Digre has led hundreds of students to the West African nation of Ghana as part of a Winter Term course that leaves lasting impressions at home and abroad.


rian Digre first fell in love with Africa in the late 1970s while serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Teaching English and history, he lived in the rural countryside for two years. He even met Laurie Evans, his future wife and a fellow Peace Corps volunteer, during that time. Three decades later, Digre is still happily married, still teaching and still quite enamored with Africa. For the past 17 years, the history professor has led the Winter Term course Ghana: An Exploration of West Africa’s History and Culture, which has introduced roughly 450 Elon students to the nation’s busy cities, dusty countryside, turquoise coastal waters and affable people. The course, now a staple in Elon’s study abroad program, began as part of the development of the international studies major, offering coursework in the field of African studies. Digre was the chief author of a 1995 U.S. Department of Education grant that supported the development of the program by him and retired English Professor Iris Chapman. Digre, who served as Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Democratic Development in Accra, Ghana’s capital, during a 2004 sabbatical, says he chose that nation for the program because it serves as a wonderful introduction to the continent for students who have never been to that part of the world. On the practical side are its good { Professor Brian infrastructure and democratic Digre, honorary government. But Digre is a development chief of historian, and Ghana’s past Sokode, Ghana, joins offers much to study. village officials for a “Its links with the festival in January. } trans-Atlantic slave trade and leadership in African independence give it a very important and rich history,” he says, adding that academically, the goal is to provide students with an integrated study of Ghana’s history and contemporary life. This is accomplished through designated readings, lectures with Ghanaian professors, journaling and visits to historically significant sights. Another highlight of the course is the visit to

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The Magazine of Elon, Summer 2013