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NYU ACCRA te nth a nni v ersa ry

sa n kofa

NYU ACCRA tenth a nni v ersa ry

sa n kofa


We face neither east nor west: We face forward. Kwame Nkrumah First President of Ghana


Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park

Black Star Gate at Independence Square

Contents 7 The Ghanaian Concept

30 Service in the Developing World: An Interview with Alumna

of Sankofa

Kate Otto

9 Letter from NYU President John Sexton

32 NYU and the University of Ghana: Building a Partnership

11 Establishing a Tradition of

for Public Health

Excellence: A Director’s Voice 13 History of NYU Accra 14 When an NYU Presence in Africa

33 The For-Credit Internship 33 Select NYU Accra Internship Placements

Was Just a Dream: An Interview with Yaw Nyarko

35 The Arts: Engaging the West African Renaissance

14 Timeline of NYU Accra Development

36 The Dei Centre and Ghana’s International Art Scene:

15 President Obama Visits Accra

An Interview with Professor

16 The Evolution of the Academic Experience

Lyle Ashton Harris 37 Remembering “Uncle”

17 NYU School and Department Partnerships and Affiliations

Joe Nkrumah 38 Service at Buduburam Refugee

18 Looking Back and Forward 20 Notable Faculty

Camp Inspires Arts NGO 39 The Real Life Documentary Film Festival

21 In Memory of Professor Kofi Awoonor 23 The Student Experience:

Ten Years of Changing Lives

24 City and Classroom 24 Program Excursions 25 “Remembering,” by Joel Tillman 27 From Intern to Reporter 29 Service: Partnering with Ghanaians in an Era of Growth

41 Education and Research:

Expanding Perspectives

42 Teaching in Ghana:

An Interview with Professor

Jonathan Zimmerman

44 The NYU Abu Dhabi Center for Technology and Economic Development Opens in Accra 45 Ghanaian Women Receive Training from Three NYU Colleges Through the Ghana Wins! Project 46 Acknowledgments

Creative writing class trip to the University of Ghana Botanical Gardens

The Ghanaian concept of sankofa, which is often depicted by a bird with its head turned back, lifting an egg from its tail, reminds us that we must periodically stop, look back, and reflect on our past if we are to approach the future with understanding. In these pages we attempt to do just that—look back, reflect on the 10 years since this singularly successful global academic center opened its doors, and remember some of the many dedicated women and men who put their hard work as well as their hearts into NYU Accra. We also look to the future. NYU Accra is an essential part of the University’s global network of degree-granting campuses and global sites that cultivate transnational and cross-cultural understanding and innovation in addressing the critical issues our world faces. The academic program at NYU Accra explores the vast historical and cultural resources of Ghana as it supports the needs of a developing nation and investigates contemporary challenges in Africa. A site advisory committee made up of dedicated faculty from several NYU schools and colleges as well as representatives from NYU Accra’s faculty now guides the direction of our academic program here. Their collective expertise and collaboration generate new opportunities for students and scholars to immerse themselves in Ghanaian culture and communities. To celebrate the many accomplishments of NYU Accra over the years and highlight more recent developments, this tribute book is divided into five sections—the history of NYU Accra, the student experience, service, the arts, and education and research—and introduced by a letter from NYU’s President John Sexton and a vision for the future of NYU Accra by Director Akosua Anyidoho. To all who have worked for and with NYU Accra over the years, we extend our heartfelt gratitude. May this reflection inspire you toward another 10 years and beyond of success. NYU Accra: Tenth Anniversary Sankofa • 7

In our interconnected era, education must be truly global if it is to equip women and men capable of understanding and meeting challenges that are global in scope. John Sexton NYU President

Professor John Collins’s African drumming workshop


Seeing the world, its history, and its future through the eyes of one culture or one continent can no longer be justified, and to leave out the perspectives of the 54 nations that make up Africa, the world’s second-most populous continent, is to have a myopic vision of the economic, political, and cultural shifts of the past and present. We seek to become global citizens with an inclusive, multidisciplinary, and cosmopolitan approach to the complex questions of contemporary society and the human experience.

Since its founding in 2004, NYU Accra has made giant

strides in helping to fulfill NYU’s ideal of being “in and of the world.” Through NYU Accra, the University has formed valuable partnerships with Ghanaian, Pan-African, and international institutions in the arts, health, social sciences, and education. Faculty at NYU have widened the scope of their research and engaged in collaboration and dialogue with their Ghanaian counterparts. These efforts have resulted in projects that support regional economic development, the preservation of artistic traditions, and the strengthening of leadership capacity in the country. Perhaps most important, our students have expanded their understanding of the world by adding an African viewpoint and by studying topics of regional and international importance with Ghanaian scholars and professors at the top of their fields from around the world.

To cite philosopher and NYU professor Kwame Anthony

Appiah, “Cosmopolitanism is a temperament that is to be found on every continent. I learned it not in England or America but growing up in Ghana.” In short, NYU Accra has led us to fulfill more deeply our cosmopolitan vocation as the foremost global research university, seeking out new ideas and kindred spirits on a dynamic continent and thriving country!

John Sexton, PhD, JD NYU President

NYU Accra: Tenth Anniversary Sankofa • 9


NYU Accra will continue to be a magnet for accomplished faculty across disciplines. It draws exceptionally talented students committed to a deep and often lifechanging engagement. Akosua Anyidoho NYU Accra Director

NYU Accra academic center



The 10th anniversary of NYU Accra is the perfect time to celebrate the many accomplishments of this truly

we are offering an educational pathway that includes

unique center as well as reflect on our core vision and

an internship component at a local school. We are also

how it will continue to direct our steps in the future.

exploring a pathway for students at Tisch School of

the Arts, which will include drama and dance courses

With the founding in 2004 of what was then

called NYU in Ghana, the University took a bold

offered in conjunction with the University of Ghana.

step in developing curricula for US students devoted

NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study, Robert

to studying the African continent in its historical,

F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, Leonard

cultural, linguistic, religious, economic, political, and

N. Stern School of Business, and Silver School of

scientific dimensions. Ten years later much has been

Social Work are developing programs to engage

learned about what works in the context of Ghana

students in substantive fieldwork and professional

and with the type of students who study at the center.

development. And, of course, we continue to have

However, as the saying goes, “Success is a process and

robust course offerings—including history, journalism,

not a destination.” Therefore, as we look to the future,

literature, writing, and social and cultural analysis

we must consider Ghana’s evolving role in the world

(a department that has sponsored much of our

as well as the increasing interest in the African

curriculum from day one)—to meet the needs

continent that NYU Accra’s existence has precipitated

of students in the College of Arts and Science.

throughout the university community.

economic, political, and cultural significance, and

To that end, we are introducing new courses

As Accra grows into a cosmopolitan city of

tailored to students’ exploration of key subject areas

Africa as a whole enters the global era with renewed

in an African context. Our Site Advisory Committee

agency, NYU Accra will continue to be a magnet for

is actively engaged in developing a curriculum that

accomplished faculty across disciplines. It draws

leverages the intellectual resources of the NYU

exceptionally talented students committed to a deep

community and our Accra location. We will expand

and often life-changing engagement with the culture,

our course offerings with the new global public health

thereby making us a leading global study destination

major for students who will come to us in their

on the continent far into the future.

second year. As a complement to the ongoing work of the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and

Akosua Anyidoho, PhD

Human Development in areas such as art therapy,

NYU Accra Director Affiliated Faculty, Department of Social and Cultural Analysis, College of Arts and Science

nutrition, food studies, and educational leadership,

NYU Accra: Tenth Anniversary Sankofa • 11


The Ghanaian people are some of the warmest, most welcoming people I have ever met. You will see the most beautiful smiles here coming from everyone and anyone. Seth H. Paris NYU Accra Student, 2004



In the fall semester of 2004, NYU Accra opened its doors to 25 pioneering students and became the first American study abroad program in Ghana with its own facilities and faculty. The global site partnered with the nearby University of Ghana and Ashesi University, offering additional course work for students. From the beginning NYU Accra combined an emphasis on volunteer and internship experience with a rigorous academic program taught by an elite Ghanaian and international faculty. Students selected from courses in film, anthropology, psychology, literature, history, and music. As the site grew, a course in introductory Twi—the most widely spoken of Ghana’s estimated 50 native languages—was added. Local NGOs, such as the Microfinance and Community Development Organization and the West Africa AIDS Foundation, began to count on the support of NYU students each semester. Staff-led trips to cultural and historic sites throughout the country as well as homestays in the rural Volta region gave breadth and diversity to the immersive experience. NYU Accra has welcomed over 1,000 students across NYU’s undergraduate and graduate schools and colleges for fall and spring semesters and for numerous intensive summer courses.

NYU Accra: Tenth Anniversary Sankofa • 13

When an NYU Presence in Africa Was Just a Dream: An Interview with Yaw Nyarko we had to do something outside Europe. Africa was chosen as one place to explore, among others—NYU Buenos Aires opened but had to be closed temporarily because of the Argentine economic crisis. So a faculty committee was formed. Colleagues Farhad Kazemi and Manthia Diawara along with John Gates in the office of former NYU president L. Jay Oliva began looking in Africa for a location. They considered Senegal, Economics professor Yaw Nyarko, director of the

Mali, and Ghana. I became involved during a

NYU Abu Dhabi Center for Technology and Economic

meeting that took place at the University of Ghana.

Development, founding director of NYU’s Africa House, and cofounder of NYU Accra, is the former

How did NYU ultimately decide on Ghana?

vice provost for globalization and multicultural

Ghana had a number of advantages. The country

affairs. Nyarko’s research focuses on economic actors learning about their environments and on human capital models of economic growth and development. He’s earned many prestigious awards and grants from organizations including the National Science Foundation and has served as a consultant to the

was generally well organized and safe, spoke English, and had a long-standing relationship with NYU. The vice chancellor of the University of Ghana—of which I’m a former student—was Ivan Addae-Mensah. He was a member of the League of

World Bank, the United Nations, and the Social

World Universities, which was founded by L. Jay

Science Research Council.

Oliva. Addae-Mensah knew Oliva personally and had visited NYU on several occasions, so it was

How did NYU’s search for a location in Africa begin? NYU now has sites all around the globe, but at one

natural that we would work with the University of Ghana.

time we were only in Europe. The feeling was that

Timeline of NYU Accra Development 1999






The newly established Office of Global Activities begins exploring the possibility of an NYU center in Africa.

Vice Provost for Global Affairs Farhad Kazemi and Professor Manthia Diawara travel to Senegal, Mali, and Ghana in search of a potential NYU in Africa center.

Ghana’s capital, Accra, is chosen as the site for the NYU center under the leadership of the new vice provost, Yaw Nyarko.

NYU Accra opens its doors in the fall semester to 25 students.

The first Real Life Documentary Film Festival is produced by NYU Accra professors Manthia Diawara and Awam Amkpa.

The Dei Centre for the Study of Contemporary African Art opens as a partnership between the Seth and Carleene Dei Foundation and NYU’s Africa House.

What were the first steps toward building the center? I formed a small group of knowledgeable and well-connected people—drama professor Awam

President Obama Visits Accra

Amkpa, literature professor Manthia Diawara, among others—to find a space and recruit faculty. Manthia reached out to Kwaw Ansah, the famous film director, and we rented his house, which became the first NYU center.

Finding student residences was another

hurdle. On a trip to Accra, I remember exploring neighborhoods with a flashlight at night wondering, “Is this place for rent?” The way buildings work in Ghana is that somebody builds a foundation and then waits for a tenant to pay them two years’ rent. Then they take the rent and put up the building.

In 2009, Barack Obama made Ghana the site of his

So the first NYU residence hall was actually just a

first visit to Africa as president of the United States.

foundation when we arrived.

In a speech to the Ghanaian parliament, he praised the country as a beacon of stable democracy on the African

Has NYU Accra lived up to your expectations?

continent and predicted that “the 21st century will be

Very much so. Students love the place. People

shaped by what happens not just in Rome or Moscow

have a passion for NYU Accra. When I was in the provost’s office, I would ask students about their

or Washington but by what happens in Accra as well.”

“President Obama coming here put Ghana on

the map for the rest of the world as a country that

global experience. Sometimes I’d hear, “Oh, it

represents political stability and democracy,” says

was good,” or, “very good.” But if I heard an NYU

Christa Sanders, associate director of NYU Accra

Accra student saying that, I’d think there was

from 2004 to 2014 who briefed CNN viewers on the

something wrong, because most of them say:

president’s visit to Elmina Castle, where students have

“It was spectacular! My life was completely turned around because of this experience!” That, for me, is a huge success.

visited since the inception of NYU Accra. “Ghanaians are ecstatic about Obama. Here in Accra you see West African cloth with his face patterned all over it,” she adds.






NYU Accra opens a new residence hall, Solomon’s Lodge.

The center’s name changes from NYU in Ghana to NYU Accra, reflecting the growth of Accra as a cosmopolitan city.

NYU Accra acquires the former Ashesi University campus.

NYU launches the Ghana Wins! Project in collaboration with Fundación Mujeres por África, the University of Ghana, and Banco Santander.

NYU’s original facility is given to NYU Abu Dhabi’s Center for Technology and Economic Development.

The Evolution of the Academic Experience A commitment to academic excellence has been

at the heart of NYU Accra from day one and is

including Professor Kofi Anyidoho’s Colonialism

reflected in its faculty of scholars and professionals

and the Rise of Modern African Literature,

at the forefront of their fields. Now, as NYU

Professor John Collins’s African Popular Music—

embarks on a university-wide conversation about

which has grown to include an African drumming

the contribution of its global sites to the overall

workshop component—and Professor Jim Fara

academic mission of the University, NYU Accra

Awindor’s Documenting the African City, which

is taking a lead role through a partnership with

was first cotaught by Professors Manthia Diawara

the Global Institute of Public Health as well as

and Awam Amkpa.

providing academic pathways for students in a

variety of majors.

departmental interest, many academic pathways,

partnerships, and affiliations have emerged across

In 2004, NYU Accra opened with a focus on

Some of the original courses are still in place,

In response to student, school, and

the humanities and social sciences supplemented

disciplines—including Africana studies, art

by an array of courses—from Qur’anic Studies to

history, art and art professions, creative writing,

Applied Linguistics—at the University of Ghana

comparative literature, food and nutrition, history,

and Ashesi University. From the outset NYU

journalism, linguistics, metropolitan studies,

Accra’s faculty members shaped the curriculum

occupational therapy, public health, social work,

by following their intellectual passions. “Many

and teaching and learning—as well as with

of our founding professors were theatre, film,

schools that include the Gallatin School of

and literature scholars. That gave us our initial

Individualized Study, Leonard N. Stern School

thrust, and the student response was immensely

of Business, and Robert F. Wagner Graduate

favorable,” says former vice provost Yaw Nyarko.

School of Public Service.

Class trip to a Danish slave plantation at Sesemi

NYU and University of Ghana students in 2004

16 • NYU Accra: Tenth Anniversary Sankofa

The academic program is enriched by the

engagement of a faculty made up of leading Ghanaian

NYU School and Department Partnerships and Affiliations

scholars and professionals; for example, students have

An academic partnership develops when an NYU

the unique opportunity to study the urbanization

department or school has a significant scholarly and

of Africa with the former mayor of Accra, Professor

curricular stake in a global site, currently offers or is

Nat Nuno-Amarteifio. Participants in NYU Accra’s

developing course work there, and is willing to take an

semester-long programs and several graduate

active role in determining the site’s academic direction

programs also have the opportunity to learn alongside

through participation in the Site Advisory Committee.

An academic affiliation develops when an NYU

Ghanaian students and professionals through our

department or school currently offers or plans to

affiliation with the University of Ghana.

offer at least one course at a global site. These may

be courses that are required for multiple majors or

Academic fieldwork, community-based research,

and service learning continue to be integral parts of the educational experience at NYU Accra. Soon after the center opened, students began volunteering for

for general education programs. An affiliation may give rise to occasional participation in the Site Advisory Committee.

schools, NGOs, and government agencies. Since 2008

NYU Accra (as of June 2014)

a for-credit internship and fieldwork seminar has


helped students gain experience in Accra’s burgeoning

Faculty of Arts and Science

business, education, and nonprofit sectors, and as we keep pace with Ghana’s developing economy, we have

Linguistics Social and Cultural Analysis (Metropolitan Studies and Africana Studies)

broadened our internship program to include finance

Comparative Literature

and media organizations as well as opportunities to


work with NYU faculty at the Accra branch of the

Gallatin School of Individualized Study

NYU Abu Dhabi Center for Technology and Economic

Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and 

Development. Field experiences are also embedded in

Human Development Teaching and Learning

the core courses of new pathways in public health and

Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service

teaching and learning.

Global Institute of Public Health

The potential to develop innovative and relevant

academic programs in Accra is extensive. By sharing ideas and assessing opportunities, the Site Advisory

Affiliations Faculty of Arts and Science Creative Writing

Committee is guiding NYU Accra in the next phase

Silver School of Social Work

of its development. This multidisciplinary group has

Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and 

already identified integrative themes, such as critical

Human Development

development studies, which will engage students

Art and Art Professions

and faculty from across NYU’s global network and

Food Studies

highlight Accra as an idea center that supports the education of active and accomplished global citizens.

Nutrition Occupational Therapy Leonard N. Stern School of Business Development of the academic program is ongoing. Please visit for the most current list.

Looking Back and Forward first-ever Hip-Life Festival, which raised over $10,000 from local businesses, and now works for the World Health Organization. Another runs a newspaper in Tanzania. To me, these students— and there are so many of these success stories— are NYU Accra’s treasure.

NYU Accra, our link to Africa, offers a unique

curriculum that relates to different departments and schools in New York City. NYU’s Africa House and Institute of African American Affairs have been significant bridges and enormous resources Awam Amkpa, associate professor of social and

for NYU Accra for the development of research,

cultural analysis, interim director of Africana studies,

photography, and writing programs. What NYU

and associate professor of drama at Tisch School

Accra offers now can also be linked to the curricula

of the Arts, is an author, actor, and documentary

at the Shanghai and Abu Dhabi campuses.

filmmaker. When NYU decided to open an academic center in Africa, he moved to Accra to join the team

Recently, I’ve been teaching at NYU Abu

of professors who were asked to take the idea of an

Dhabi and have witnessed the desire of students

NYU location in Ghana and make it reality. Here’s a

there to connect with Africa. And it’s interesting

reflection in his own words.

because Africa was always culturally, religiously, politically, and economically part of the Middle

I grew up in the region, and I, like most Africans,

East—before the Americas, before Europe. It will

believe that the human population is the

be great to see how the Ghanaian scholars can

continent’s most significant asset. Ghana is already

impact the curriculum in Abu Dhabi. China is

one of the top-five rising economies in the world,

already engaging with Africa on a large scale, so

so what can NYU offer? The answer: We can

broadening our reach to NYU Shanghai can also

find a way to stimulate the local production

have positive results in the development of

of knowledge.

new knowledge.

Our students got involved with the local

Currently, I’m making a film with a story that

community almost instantly. They developed

traces art history from Accra to Abu Dhabi to

relationships with neighbors and businesses.

Florence, and it shows the historical connectivity

They set up concerts, conferences, and fundraisers.

of countries that have been intimately related

They volunteered in schools and clinics. They

since the first century when the Moors were

made documentary films about the city and the

importing gold to Italy. The film has taken me to

community. The experience in Accra can and does

NYU locations in these three cities, and I’m also

change lives, and many students have gone on to

setting up visual and performance archives that

careers that are connected to Africa. One student

connect the histories of these places so people can

returned to Ghana after he graduated and now

be more connected to one another and develop

lives and works in Senegal. Another organized the

new knowledge.

18 • NYU Accra: Tenth Anniversary Sankofa

The students who have come to NYU Accra over the past 10 years have been a self-selecting group. They came because they wanted to interact with the community and learn more about the culture, work, and daily life of the people. Through small classes with top professors who are prominent figures in the political and cultural life of the region, internships and volunteer positions in a variety of fields, staff-led trips that highlight Ghana’s history and diversity, and the option of studying alongside their Ghanaian peers at the University of Ghana, we have built a center that provides just such opportunities for engagement. Akosua Anyidoho NYU Accra Director

Notable Faculty NYU Accra is home to a wide range of talented

Esi Sutherland-Addy (2005–present), professor

faculty who bring with them lifetimes of experience

of comparative literature, is adjunct director of

as professionals and public personalities. Many are

CODESRIA’s African Humanities Institute Programme

involved in international, national, and community

at the University of Ghana and has been senior

affairs and share their professional insights with their

fellow at the Institute of International Education

students. Here are just a few of the center’s many

at Manchester University, United Kingdom.

exceptional professors.

“My hope is that students leave the country

much more enlightened about the realities of Kofi Anyidoho (2004–present), professor of

living in Ghana and the global south in general,”

modern African literature and creative writing, is a

Sutherland-Addy says.

distinguished poet, literary scholar, cultural activist, and director of the CODESRIA African Humanities

Akosua Darkwah (2006–present), professor of

Institute Programme at the University of Ghana,

globalization and the developing world and societies,

where he has served as the first occupant of the

cultures, and modernization, is the director of the

Kwame Nkrumah Chair in African Studies, director

Center for Gender Studies and Advocacy at the

of the School of Performing Arts, and head of the

University of Ghana and has been awarded an

Department of English.

International Development Research Center grant

to study land grabbing in Ghana.

“Through my creative writing workshops and

African literature courses, several students have

“I love watching my students come to a greater

developed remarkable maturity in their personal

sense of the world beyond the United States and their

understanding and appreciation for both the

place in it, particularly their role in shaping a better

challenges and the capabilities of people of

world for all of us,” Darkwah says.

other cultures,” Anyidoho says. Nat Nuno-Amarteifio (2007–present), professor John Collins (2004–present), professor of African

of urbanization in West Africa, is the former mayor

popular music, is a musician and music journalist

of Accra and expanded and improved the city’s

who wrote and presented the BBC’s first-ever series

infrastructure—especially roads, drains, and

of radio programs on African popular music.

sanitation—during the four years of his tenure as

a city leader.

“NYU Accra students are very innovative and

experimental when it comes to the projects I assign,

including work with Ghanaian artists, bands, and music

explore how an insignificant African market town

“In my Accra’s Global Connections course, we

centers as well as comparative research into African

in the 15th century survived wars, slavery, and

and African American entertainment,” Collins says.

colonialism to become a financial and political capital in the 20th,” Nuno-Amarteifio says.

In Memory of Professor Kofi Awoonor

As NYU Accra marks its 10-year anniversary, we want to remember Professor Kofi Awoonor, a faculty member who was killed in a terrorist attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, on September 21, 2013. May his soul rest in perfect peace.

From 2004 through 2009, Awoonor taught

creative writing classes and gave guest lectures at NYU Accra. He was a distinguished poet, novelist, literary scholar, essayist, diplomat, and political activist. Early in his career he was a research fellow at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana; director of the Ghana Film Corporation; chair of the Comparative Literature Program, State University of New York, Stony Brook; visiting professor at University of Texas at Austin; and chair of English and dean, Faculty of Arts, University of Cape Coast.

From the early 1980s through the early 1990s,

he was Ghana’s ambassador to Brazil, to Cuba, and to the United Nations, and from 2008 through 2012, he was the chairman of the Council of State, an advisory group to the president of the Republic of Ghana. Best known for his work as a poet, he published two novels, oral poetry in translation from Ewe into English, a major scholarly work on African literature (The Breast of the Earth, 1975), and three books of essays. He was a recipient of several awards, including the State Honor, Order of the Volta.

NYU Accra: Tenth Anniversary Sankofa • 21


A lot of the philosophical questions that I was grappling with at the time were answered in Ghana. Branson Skinner


NYU Accra Alumnus, Fall 2009


Ten years ago no one knew what kinds of students would enroll at NYU Accra or what they would be seeking, let alone whether they would find it in Africa. Since then, students of all backgrounds and areas of study have selected NYU Accra for a variety of reasons—some with an interest in development and a desire to serve, others as aspiring artists or writers seeking alternative traditions to those of the West, and still others with no agenda besides a sense of intellectual curiosity.

Yet all returned home with tales of being jammed into

crowded tro-tros crawling through Accra traffic to a symphony of car horns, chowing down on mouth-watering kewelewe while sharing their life stories with street vendors, bonding with each other as a power outage pried them from the grip of social media, or being touched by the generosity of poor villagers in the Volta region. For six months of their lives, their sense of time, necessity, friendship, and community was turned on its head as they experienced Ghana through their professors, on field trips, or just by rounding the corner off Third Norla Street.

As alumnus Branson Skinner (fall 2009) puts it, “Within a

week, I was wondering, ‘Why doesn’t everybody come here?’ I think the world would be a happier and more peaceful place if they did. A lot of the philosophical questions that I was grappling with at the time were answered in Ghana.”

NYU Accra: Tenth Anniversary Sankofa • 23

Students visiting Lamie, a seamstress in Labone

Students frequenting a fruit stand near NYU Accra

City and Classroom

At NYU Accra learning happens on the street as

near Labadi Beach, Professor John Collins’s

well as in the classroom, and over the academic

African Popular Music course helped him put

center’s first 10 years, the faculty and staff have

the events into context.

become experts at guiding students’ natural

curiosity about their new environment.

mapped in Western musical notation. It literally

Alumna Esumi Fujimoto (spring 2013) had a

doesn’t fit because the musicians play in a circle

chance to experience Ghana’s thriving informal

as opposed to a line. It’s a good metonym for the

economy firsthand on a trip to Makola Market led

traditional culture of Ghana, which—even in

by NYU community resource assistants.

an urban neighborhood near Labadi Beach—is

focused on the circle of life and agricultural

“At one point a friend and I were huddled

in a woman’s shop surrounded by an array of

After alumnus Branson Skinner (fall 2009)

attended the exuberant Homowo harvest festival

“A traditional West African rhythm can’t be

cycles,” Branson says.

different fabrics when she began calling us by traditional Ghanaian names that we recognized from our intensive Twi class. When we asked

Program Excursions

about it, she laughed and proudly confessed that

From its inception NYU Accra has had the most

she renamed all the obrunis who came into

extensive and ambitious array of subsidized

her shop—obruni being the Ghanaian word for

excursions of any NYU global location. Carefully

foreigner,” Esumi says.

chosen to expose students to Ghana’s globally

relevant history and dramatic diversity, trips

Afterward, in a long-standing NYU Accra

student ritual, Esumi took the cloth she had

to the Cape Coast and Elmina slave castles, the

purchased to Lamie, a seamstress with a

Ashanti capital of Kumasi, Wli Falls, villages in

workshop not far from NYU Accra in the Labone

the rural Volta region, and Tamale—capital of the

neighborhood. “I showed up at Lamie’s with a

predominantly Muslim northern region—anchor

handful of fabric and a few ideas, and I walked out

the academic program and provide a basis for

with three beautiful dresses in hand,” says Esumi.

in-depth class discussion and course work.

The essay on the next page on the Elmina slave

castles was written by Joel Tillman for Professor Kofi Anyidoho’s creative writing class. 24 • NYU Accra: Tenth Anniversary Sankofa

Remembering By Joel Tillman, NYU Accra Alumnus, Spring 2012

A bead of sweat inches down my cheek to rest in my half-grown beard. As we march in line behind our guide, I tiptoe across the paved stones, playing hopscotch to avoid cracks. Slanted floors mean the slaves on the high ground would have been the lucky ones. In the rain these cracks would have carried tributaries of diseased feces and urine.

We funnel into a cell and are embraced

immediately by darkness. It coils around us, its density suffocating our eyes. We huddle close together to seek comfort, but find none. I let my eyes drift shut, and my consciousness floats down the current of our mingling breaths. We are here together—that is enough. Echoes of pain tell us everything else. We travel deeper.

A beam of sun cuts through the “Door of No

Return,” but the air is just as dank here. Ato, our guide, tells us to step forward, to stand in the doorway. I approach the precipice and peer through its opening. The ocean is dazzling. A graveyard has never been more captivating. Its froth draws in my eyes and dares them to pry even farther down into the water. It’s too blue to make out the seafloor, but I don’t want to see the bottom anyway.

As we retreat I allow my fingertips to trace the

edges of the room. Sand flakes off the brick walls at my slightest touch, but it would be impossible to dig through. You could easily ravage your hands bloody clawing at the bricks, but even free from chains, the prisoners would have been smarter than that. Where would they go?

We reach a room full of nothing but rows of

benches. Praying is the only noise we make. We sit until the floor quakes. I haven’t spoken in an hour. My lips are glued together in a paste of dried saliva. I break them open and crack my jaw in the process. Still, the ache lingers, and words are not free to flow from my mouth. The only thing I can do is reach for my notebook and a pencil.

“Never forget,” says Ato. His words echo the

mantra of tattooed Holocaust survivors. They train us to learn our history so we do not repeat the same mistakes. They brand the past into our memory until we are unable to ignore the tragedy. I’ve always been told never to forget. How could I?

NYU Accra: Tenth Anniversary Sankofa • 25

A guide giving students a tourSankofa of Elmina Castle on the Cape Coast 20local • NYU Accra: Tenth Anniversary

From Intern to Reporter When Drew Hinshaw, a recorded music major

Fulbright Scholarship to study media, covering

at Tisch School of the Arts, packed his bags

President Obama’s visit for several newspapers.

for NYU Accra in spring 2006, he had no idea

he’d find a career and meet his future wife all in

United States can compete with abroad. The act

one semester.

of discovery is so much more intense and enjoyable

in a foreign country,” Drew says.

“I didn’t want to study in Europe, and Africa

“I can’t see how being a journalist in the

just seemed like a compelling place. I had an

inkling that Africa was changing and that there

NYU student, Celeste Mason, with whom he

were new things happening there. And it’s a deeply

shared a penchant for unfettered exploration of the

historical place, one that students don’t go to often.

African continent. Their relationship grew as they

All that made me feel—where else would I go?”

returned to New York City to finish their studies.

Drew and Celeste were married in July 2011 and

Over the course of the semester, Drew landed

While at NYU Accra, Drew met another

an internship reporting for the Ghanaian Times.

lived for a year in Dakar, Senegal, before settling

Heading on assignment to a rural middle school

in Accra—the city that had brought them together.

where it was rumored that not one student had

Celeste, a graduate of the NYU Steinhardt School

passed the test to proceed to the next grade, he

of Culture, Education, and Human Development,

became lost in the countryside and ended up

now teaches at an international school, and Drew

riding in circles in a taxi with a group of inebriated

works as a freelance journalist reporting on West

men who thought it was great fun to lead the

Africa for the Wall Street Journal.

obruni astray. Despite—or perhaps because

of—such experiences, Drew became hooked on

and it still feels like I’m peeling back layers of

reporting and returned to Ghana in 2008 on a

understanding and continually being surprised

“I’ve been in West Africa for nine years now,

and delighted,” says Drew.

Students meeting with Dr. David Abdulai, founder of the Shekhinah Clinic in Gurugu, in northern Tamale, Ghana

NYU Accra: Tenth Anniversary Sankofa • 27

Ghana is a country that is racing headlong into modernity, but you can’t just compress time— you have to let it evolve. Samara Soghoian

Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine at the NYU School of Medicine


Partnerships are a hallmark of the educational programs of NYU Accra. As faculty and staff worked hard to grow NYU Accra to what it is today, the economy of Ghana and its capital city was making huge strides on the path of modernization. The result is a dynamic relationship between the University and the region that is reflected in the student experience as well as faculty and institutional partnerships.

In 2005, NYU Accra established its community service

program, through which students began volunteering at schools, NGOs, and government agencies. As the program expanded and some of the most enthusiastic, committed students were drawn to NYU Accra, it became clear that their volunteer positions were places where they gained valuable skills and experience by partnering with the brightest Ghanaians—men and women at the center of building a prosperous Ghana. Reflecting this development, a credit-bearing internship program sponsored by the NYU College of Arts and Science’s Department of Social and Cultural Analysis and Gallatin School of Individualized Study was added in 2008. And with the introduction of pathways in public health and education, clinical and field experiences will soon be included in core course work for majors studying in Accra. Service learning courses—such as the Leonard N. Stern School of Business’s International Volunteer Seminar and the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development’s art therapy program—continue to thrive as well.

University and community partnerships also serve as

foundations for graduate and professional programs and research initiatives. Academic collaboration supports the development of skilled professionals in education, global affairs, nursing, public policy, and social work.

From intensive service projects in rural villages to long-

term research projects that help advance Ghana’s infrastructure, opportunities for community engagement contribute to the vitality and relevance of NYU Accra’s educational programs. NYU Accra: Tenth Anniversary Sankofa • 29

Service in the Developing World: An Interview with Alumna Kate Otto

What drew you to NYU Accra? I had never been to Africa before, but I was interested in international development and public service. I had done some short-term volunteer work in Mexico and in Guatemala and had a sense that I wanted to spend a semester in a place where public service would be a big part of the experience and where understanding more about development and public health could be a part of the experience too. Did you find what you were looking for? Absolutely. I ended up volunteering with the West Africa AIDS Foundation, where I helped start a peer education program in secondary schools. Most of my time was spent in classrooms working with teenagers on HIV education programs. I also helped organize a fashion show to raise money for HIV patients who were denied a spot at overcrowded public clinics and couldn’t afford a private one. I partnered with Anita

Kate Otto, 2009 (College of Arts and Science–

Ayanga, a Ghanaian student I met while taking

Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public

courses at Ashesi University. I went back to visit

Service BA–MPA Program) attended NYU Accra

her over winter break the next year, and she has

in spring 2006. She currently works with the

remained one of my really good friends to this day.

World Bank in Ethiopia, assessing the impact of

It was a joy working not only with Anita but also

mobile-phone tools on maternal health outcomes,

with other Ghanaian friends from Ashesi.

and with USAID in Indonesia, designing and deploying a mobile health tool for HIV/AIDS and

And what did you learn from that experience?

drug rehabilitation counselors. She is the author

It was a fruitful semester in that it gave me a

of the forthcoming book Everyday Ambassador:

realistic sense of what it means to do development

How to Be a Global Citizen in a Digital World and

work. It’s not about saving people or coming with

has given a TEDTalk on the same subject.

your big ideas and changing things. It’s not as if Africans are sitting there waiting for people to save them, especially not the college-educated group of young Ghanaians I worked with. They have a lot of creativity, ambition, and good ideas—just sometimes not a lot of resources to carry them out or models of people successfully doing that.

30 • NYU Accra: Tenth Anniversary Sankofa

Our role as outsiders is to assess who’s already

In Ghanaian culture there is a focus on

there, what they’re working on, and how we can

community as opposed to just responsibility for

be a part of it—especially if we’re only going to be

promoting and supporting yourself. Until I went

there for a short time. We wouldn’t want to create

to Ghana, I never realized just how individualistic

anything that depends on us and then leave a

Americans are. In some ways it’s positive—it’s

vacuum when we go.

a big reason why we’ve advanced in the areas of human rights and privacy—but there are some

How has your time at NYU Accra impacted

bad sides to it as well, like a culture of thoughtless

your life and career since then?

self-promotion. So a big takeaway for me was

It was a crucial stepping stone in that it set me

discovering a different way of working: to

on a path that has involved working in Africa—

not focus on myself and my benefit or even my

Tanzania, South Africa, and now Ethiopia and

contribution but rather understand how I fit

Indonesia. But, most important, it’s where

into a community and what—if anything—I might

I began to realize how much common ground

bring to it. That idea of valuing the team was an

we have with people who seem quite different

important lesson for me.

from us. This has been imperative to my work and a guiding principle in my life as well: to appreciate what is unique about a culture but also to realize that people aren’t as different as we might think they are.

Memorial wall at the offices of the West Africa AIDS Foundation

Independence Square, the venue for national celebrations

NYU NYU Accra: Accra: Tenth Tenth Anniversary Anniversary Sankofa Sankofa •• 27 31

NYU and the University of Ghana: Building a Partnership for Public Health In spring 2013 four NYU Accra students reported to internships with Samara Soghoian, NYU professor of emergency medicine, in the newly established Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Ghana–affiliated Korle Bu Teaching Hospital. It was a trial by fire. Armed with clipboards, the students raced up and down the crowded hallways tracking the performance of the department’s staff as they took vital signs, administered antibiotics, and checked for signs of sepsis.

“The students were very much a part of our

whole process of developing triage capacity,” says Soghoian, who moved to Ghana in 2011 to take

A student interning at the West Africa AIDS Foundation

part in the effort to establish a general emergency department at Korle Bu. “Right now there are

different teams that take care of people with

country where health-related NYU faculty

different problems, and sometimes patients get

could develop long-term relationships leading

a little bit lost. Our goal is to have one point of

to academic projects, research, and program

entry and a team of people who have relationships

development. And because NYU Accra already

throughout the hospital so they can get the process

existed, this was one place in the world where

of stabilizing and managing patients underway.”

it seemed logical to look for partners who were

interested in health,” says Soghoian.

Soghoian’s involvement at Korle Bu is part of

“From the beginning the goal was to find a

a multidisciplinary collaboration for professional

development in health between the University

small but real contribution to the process, it is

of Ghana and NYU’s School of Medicine, College

a valuable introduction to both the difficulties

of Nursing, and College of Dentistry as well

and possibilities of public health in the

as the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School

developing world.

of Public Service; the Steinhardt School of

Culture, Education, and Human Development;

healthcare system is here. Ghana is a country that

and the Global Institute of Public Health. The

is racing headlong into modernity, but you can’t

collaboration also includes a National Institutes

just compress time—you have to let it evolve. So

of Health–funded training program headed by

there’s a mismatch between expectations and

Olugbenga G. Ogedegbe, NYU School of Medicine

realities on the ground. Fortunately, there are

professor, for Ghanaian researchers committed

Ghanaians in the healthcare system who are very

to careers in cardiovascular epidemiology.

dedicated and quite well trained,” says Soghoian.

32 • NYU Accra: Tenth Anniversary Sankofa

For the NYU Accra interns who make a

“Structurally, the foundation of a good

The For-Credit Internship As successive semesters of students attended

NYU Accra, they demonstrated a keen interest in

structured, have healthy work environments,

learning more about how their chosen professional

and operate in fields that interest our students.

fields—from business and education to health,

Students have the opportunity to meet with

public policy, and the arts—function in the context

representatives from the organizations during

of a postcolonial city entering a globalized era.

an on-campus internship orientation at the start

In response, NYU Accra initiated a for-credit

of each semester,” says Community Service and

internship program in 2008, sponsored by the

Internship Coordinator Victor Kweku Yeboah,

Gallatin School of Individualized Study and

who will often drive students to their jobs to

the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis

familiarize them with the route.

at the College of Arts and Science.

a key path for students to interact with Ghanaian

“In Accra you have the chance to work for

“We select organizations that are well

For-credit internships in Accra have become

businesses that are being built from the ground up

culture and think about their prospective fields

with colleagues who are facing the challenges of

in a fresh context. According to alumna Maria

the developing world and overcoming them. It’s

Schmidt (spring 2012), who conducted research

an opportunity you don’t have in New York City,

for a CARE study on gender disparity in education,

where everything is set in stone,” says alumna

“I personally interviewed government officials in

Rachel Goodfriend (spring 2012), who interned at

the ministry of education. It’s an experience that

an advertising and brand development agency that

could mean a lot for my future career if I choose

works with many of the city’s small businesses in

to pursue a policymaking path. Even my morning

the fields of art, music, and fashion.

tro-tro commute gave me unique insights into the

professional culture of Accra.”

Students in the for-credit internship program

attend a weekly seminar designed to complement fieldwork with theoretical understanding and receive comprehensive support from NYU staff on every aspect of working in Accra, from transportation to effective communication in

Select NYU Accra Internship Placements

the Ghanaian workplace. • Autism Awareness Care and Training • Foundation for Contemporary Art—Ghana • Grassroots Africa • Habitat for Humanity International • The Longevity Project • Microfinance and Community Development Organization • Morning Star School • Open Heart Solution Agency • United Way Ghana

NYU Accra: Tenth Anniversary Sankofa • 33


Accra is a cosmopolitan city, and the world is now taking a serious look at its art scene. Lyle Ashton Harris


Founding Director of the Dei Centre for the Study of Contemporary African Art Associate Professor of Art and Art Education at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development


Ghanaian artists, filmmakers, and writers are breathing new life into the global art world, earning acclaim at its highest levels, and Accra is fast becoming an international arts capital where scholars, critics, intellectuals, and artists collaborate in search of new forms of expression. From its inception NYU Accra has both benefited from and played a key role in this process. One of the program’s flagship courses, Documenting the African City, taught by two of NYU Accra’s originating faculty members, Manthia Diawara and Awam Amkpa, set a precedent for using hands-on arts instruction to bring students in touch with Ghanaian culture and daily life. Woven through the fabric of the entire academic program, the arts component fosters a respect for the diversity and dynamism of Ghanaian and West African culture, functioning as a powerful antidote to neocolonial stereotypes.

Through its institutional partnerships, NYU Accra has

contributed to establishing the Dei Centre for the Study of Contemporary African Art—one of the region’s foremost venues for emerging and established artists—and the annual Real Life Documentary Film Festival, the continent’s most prominent exhibition of documentary films on African and Africandiasporic subjects.

NYU Accra: Tenth Anniversary Sankofa • 35

The Dei Centre and Ghana’s International Art Scene: An Interview with Professor Lyle Ashton Harris What was NYU’s role in the creation of the Dei Centre? In 2006, I was introduced to Seth Dei by my colleague at NYU Accra, the late Joe Nkrumah. I was taken by the extensiveness of Seth and his wife Carleene’s private art collection. Over the last 45 years, they have amassed what is probably the most significant collection of contemporary Ghanaian art in the world—paintings, sculptures, photographs, and work in other media. Together with my colleague Nancy Barton, who at the time was chair of the Department of Art and Art Professions at the NYU Steinhardt School, we began to orchestrate a collaboration between the Dei Foundation and NYU via NYU’s Africa House. The Dei Centre was born out of this collaboration. What has been the impact of the Dei Centre Lyle Ashton Harris, assistant professor of art

on the arts of Ghana and beyond?

and art education at the Steinhardt School of

The Dei Centre and NYU have had a critical role in

Culture, Education, and Human Development, is

the artistic renaissance that’s currently happening

an internationally renowned artist whose work has

in Ghana. Since the center’s inception in 2007,

been exhibited at the Solomon R. Guggenheim

we’ve been steadily building relationships with key

Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art,

international arts institutions and personalities,

the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Institute of

often serving as their destination in Ghana.

Contemporary Arts in London, the Kunsthalle Basel, the Centre d’Art Contemporain in Geneva, and the 52nd Venice Biennale.

36 • NYU Accra: Tenth Anniversary Sankofa

Remembering “Uncle” Joe Nkrumah

We’ve been visited by Alisa LaGamma, curator

of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City; world-famous Ghanaian artist El Anatsui; and Bisi Silva, director of the Centre for Contemporary Art in Lagos, Nigeria. We’ve collaborated on programming with the French Embassy, the Spanish Embassy, and London’s Tate Gallery.

In addition to hosting traveling shows,

we’ve initiated shows including an exhibition with three photographers: me; Nii Obodai, who

Lyle Ashton Harris (left) with Joseph Nkrumah

is the most famous Ghanaian photographer

It is with great fondness that the faculty

working today; and Bruno Boudjelal, a Moroccan

and staff of NYU Accra remember Professor

photographer who shows internationally. This

Joseph Nkrumah—artist, conservator, curator,

was groundbreaking because photography in its

historian, and passionate defender of Ghana’s

contemporary sense is only now being appreciated

cultural heritage—who passed away in 2009. His connections within Accra’s arts community

as an art form in Ghana.

were extensive, and many emerging artists

over the years counted “Uncle” Joe as a

Ultimately, the Dei Centre is about the creation

of culture—not just for exhibiting art but for

mentor and guide.

becoming a space where people can come together

and discuss art and culture.

African Art: Past and Present, a key plank in

From 2005 until his death, Nkrumah taught

NYU Accra’s arts curriculum. In his honor, the continued on next page

NYU Office of Global Programs has established the “Uncle” Joe Nkrumah Memorial Grant, which provides funding to assist students as they experience the art and culture of Ghana.

Seth Dei at the Dei Centre art gallery

continued from previous page

How would you describe the current art

Has the Dei Centre had an impact

scene in Ghana?

on NYU Accra students?

Accra is a cosmopolitan city, and the world is

Every semester we have student interns, and all

now taking a serious look at its art scene. Bisi Silva,

our programming has an educational dimension.

the leading curator on the continent, recently

Giving NYU students the opportunity to be

had a booth for Ghanaian art at Art Dubai, a top

exposed to non-Western art is essential—but

international art fair. Ghanaian Joe Osae-Addo

what’s even more important is to expose them to

and David Adjaye—who is of Ghanaian parentage

non-Western contemporary art. Their notion of

and designed the National Museum of African

the contemporary gets expanded. They see that

American History and Culture that is being built

there is a whole world of art and ways of thinking

on the National Mall in Washington, DC—are

and operating beyond what they’re familiar with.

two of the leading architects worldwide. Both are trying to engage the contemporary scene in Accra. It’s a moment of incredible possibility, and my hope is that NYU and the Dei Centre continue to be at the forefront of it.

Service at Buduburam Refugee Camp Inspires Arts NGO In spring 2006 students Danielle Levanas and

communities struggling with day-to-day material

Prentice Onayemi traveled to Buduburam refugee

needs. At Buduburam, I learned that theatre can

camp with Daniel Banks, a Tisch School of the Arts

elevate any struggle,” says Prentice, who has

professor teaching a hip-hop/hip life theatre course

appeared in the Broadway production War Horse.

in conjunction with NYU Accra and the University

of Ghana. Their experience producing a theatre

University of Ghana was an incredible experience.

piece to combat HIV/AIDS stigma and raise

Music, rhythms, and storytelling are integrated

awareness of the disease among Liberian refugees

into daily life in Ghana in a way that has informed

in the camp led them to found Asmi International,

my own work,” says Danielle, who is a graduate

a nonprofit dedicated to helping survivors process

student in the drama therapy program at the

trauma and connect with their creative potential.

Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and

The organization has run theatre workshops and

Human Development. In the future they hope

trained drama teachers in the United States, Liberia,

to use Asmi as a platform for building more

and the Sudan. “Before my time at NYU Accra, I

therapeutic arts-based programs in West Africa

wasn’t sure what my field—theatre—had to offer

and around the world.

“Working across cultures with students at the

Professor Manthia Diawara during his Documenting the African City course in 2004

The Real Life Documentary Film Festival On May 20, 2006, the first annual Real Life

Amkpa—are specialists in African cinema and

Documentary Film Festival brought together

documentary filmmakers themselves. Their

filmmakers, scholars, students, and film

course, Documenting the African City, may be

enthusiasts to view and discuss films focused on

credited with laying the foundations of the Real

the theme of Pan-Africanism in the 21st century.

Life Documentary Film Festival,” says Professor

Supported by NYU, the Prince Claus Foundation,

Kofi Anyidoho, who served as executive producer

the French Embassy, the Goethe-Institut, and

for the 2010 and 2011 festivals.

Ghana’s National Film and Television Institute,

the festival would go on to become the African

says Amkpa. “It gave local filmmakers a platform

continent’s main forum for the production,

to tell stories, and at the same time, it helped

cataloging, and exhibition of documentary film

people understand what NYU was doing and gave

records of African and African-diasporic subjects.

context to why Manthia Diawara and I, as scholars

of African cinema, were excited to work here with

“By a very significant coincidence, the

two NYU faculty who helped launch NYU

“The event was successful for two reasons,”

people from all over the world.”

Accra—Professors Manthia Diawara and Awam NYU Accra: Tenth Anniversary Sankofa •39

My time at NYU Accra made my research program and profile much broader. I’m an American historian by training, and it really allowed me to become more international and gain perspective. Jonathan Zimmerman

Director of the History of Education Program at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development Professor of Education and History


With the founding of NYU Accra, NYU added not only a semester-long study-away destination but a year-round forum for cross-cultural exchange that has led to intellectual discovery and the production of new knowledge on many fronts. A series of graduate and undergraduate shortterm summer and winter programs offered in conjunction with the schools and colleges of NYU brings students to study global affairs, journalism, public health, education, art therapy, and nursing, among other subjects, in an African context. NYU faculty have gained a tremendous platform for conducting a variety of independent research projects in West Africa. The Ghana Wins! Project offers a series of educational opportunities for Ghanaian women through the NYU system. The NYU Abu Dhabi Center for Technology and Economic Development has a base of operations in Accra that brings economics faculty and graduate students to conduct research, and new projects are continuously planned.

NYU Accra: Tenth Anniversary Sankofa • 41

Teaching in Ghana: An Interview with Professor Jonathan Zimmerman What first led you to teach in Ghana? I grew up overseas. My parents were in the Peace Corps when I was little, and I was actually in the Peace Corps myself later on. Growing up in Asia as I did—in India and Iran—was the critical moment of my life, without a doubt. It was the most influential experience that I had as a young person, and at the most selfish level, I wanted my kids to have that experience.

Ghana was an obvious choice for two reasons.

First, it’s Anglophone. And second, it’s not like New York City. What’s really unique about Accra is that it’s not in the first world. And if you’re going to uproot yourself and go live in another country, to me, you want to go live in one that is the most different from yours.

I had also just completed writing a book called

Innocents Abroad, which is a history of American Jonathan Zimmerman is professor of education

teachers who had gone overseas, and I had become

and history and director of the history of education

very interested in Ghana. Moving there was a

program at the Steinhardt School of Culture,

continuation of some of the stories I had told in

Education, and Human Development. He also holds

the book.

an appointment in the Department of History of NYU’s Graduate School of Arts and Science. A

Did you conduct academic research

former Peace Corps volunteer and high school

while at NYU Accra?

teacher, Zimmerman is the author of four books,

I developed a research project there about

including Innocents Abroad: American Teachers

historical efforts to improve teaching in Ghana,

in the American Century (Harvard, 2006), and

and it resulted in a paper called “Money, Materials,

is a frequent op-ed contributor to the New York

and Manpower” that became my presidential

Times, the Washington Post, and the New Republic,

address at the History of Education Society. I also

among others. He has taught the graduate course

did research on the project I’m working on now,

Education and Diversity: Comparative Perspectives

which is a global history of sex education.

at NYU Accra each summer since 2009.

My time at NYU Accra made my research

program and profile much broader. I’m an American historian by training, and it really allowed me to become more international and gain perspective.

42 • NYU Accra: Tenth Anniversary Sankofa

Students at Betty Ked School in Tema

What do your graduate students gain

rapidly. Its economy is one of the fastest growing

by studying in Ghana?

in the world. You can see that in all the new

I hope it gives them a comparative lens of

business and in the challenges that are attached

difference itself. One of the ironies of the whole

to growth. Many improvements are coupled with

multicultural credo that we teach at a place like the

new problems, especially as urban areas grow.

NYU Steinhardt School is that, at the end of the

day, it’s pretty parochial. It’s very America-centric,

site visits to Ghanaian schools. What’s really

and there’s an annoying irony to that whole story:

remarkable is how static the schools are compared

We love diversity, but we mostly talk about

to other aspects of the society. But I think that

diversity in the United States. Hopefully, what the

might just be because education is an inherently

course does is expose them to the dilemmas of

conservative enterprise. Its job is to conserve, to

diversity outside the United States. Ghana is in

define a nation, to remind people of who they are,

some ways every bit as diverse as America.

and to hold onto certain values and experiences

Part of the course that I teach involves

that they share. If we brought someone from 100 Have you been tracking the development

years ago to the United States and showed them

of Ghana and its education system over the

our transportation institutions, energy extraction,

course of your time there?

commerce, or the arts, they would be astonished.

That’s one of the most interesting things about

But if we took them into a university classroom, I

returning each summer—noticing and thinking

think they might recognize it perfectly.

about those changes. Ghana is changing quite

NYU Accra: Tenth Anniversary Sankofa • 43

The NYU Abu Dhabi Center for Technology and Economic Development Opens in Accra In 2013 the NYU Abu Dhabi Center for

With the opening of CTED in Ghana,

Technology and Economic Development (CTED)

Yaw Nyarko, CTED’s director and a professor

opened a base of operations at NYU Accra.

of economics, takes a step toward fulfilling

A research organization devoted to the interface

his long-held goal of giving NYU Accra an

between technology and economic development

enhanced research component. “My hope is that

throughout the world, CTED’s projects include

undergraduates at NYU Accra will intern with

affordable solar energy platforms and the use of

CTED and that graduate students and faculty from

cell phones in rural areas for everything from

NYU’s campus in New York City will enter into

transferring money to obtaining the latest crop

a deeper intellectual engagement with Ghanaian

prices to providing healthcare support.

society,” says Nyarko, who will also be teaching a new course at NYU Accra on technology and economic development.

Students on location at NYU Accra

44 • NYU Accra: Tenth Anniversary Sankofa

Ghanaian Women Receive Training from Three NYU Colleges Through the Ghana Wins! Project In fall 2012, NYU, in collaboration with Fundación Mujeres por África and the University of Ghana, announced the launch of the Ghana Wins! Project, an initiative funded by Banco Santander—Europe’s largest bank—to develop and promote leadership skills in Ghanaian women. Select Ghanaian women will receive training and assistance from the NYU College of Nursing; the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development; and the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service to help address Ghana’s critical healthcare and education needs.

“The idea is to train women for midlevel

leadership positions in education, nursing, and social policy. The education piece is through Steinhardt, the social policy piece is through Wagner, and the nursing piece is through the College of Nursing—each in collaboration with the University of Ghana or the University of Education, Winneba,” says NYU Accra director Akosua Anyidoho. “NYU received that gift because NYU Accra is here. Banco Santander liked the fact that we had an academic center in Accra, in West Africa.”

A monument dedicated to nurses near the Ridge Hospital

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS NYU would like to acknowledge and thank all the faculty and staff members who have contributed to the growth and success of NYU Accra over the past 10 years. Sincere gratitude and deep appreciation is extended to the following:


Front row: Nana Akua Anyidoho, Matilda Aseidu, Alice Boateng, Akosua Anyidoho, John Collins, Esi Sutherland-Addy Back row: Nat Amarteifio, Renee Blake, Kodjo Senah, Michael Williams, Kofi Anyidoho Missing from photo: Kofi Baku, James Anquandah, Akosua Darkwah, Yahaya Alpha Suberu, Charity Akotia, Kofi Saah

46 • NYU Accra: Tenth Anniversary Sankofa

NYU Accra Staff 2014-2015

Akosua Anyidoho Director

Marian Ansa-Otu Student Life Coordinator

Patricia Twum Finance and Facilities Manager

Victor Kweku Yeboah Community Service/ Internship Coordinator

Christopher Amissah Library/Facilities Assistant

Delali Kudu Nurse

Kingsley Lims Nyarko Special Programs Assistant/TA, Film Class

Selasi Amenyeawu Community Resource Assistant

Benardine Ghanson Community Resource Assistant

NYU Accra: Tenth Anniversary Sankofa • 47

Photography by Bob Handelman, Ilene Pearlman, Carrie Brown, Regina Boone, and Maggie Schulten

Accra Anniversary Book  
Accra Anniversary Book