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
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:
42 Teaching in Ghana:
An Interview with Professor
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
LETTER FROM THE PRESIDENT
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
ESTABLISHING A TRADITION OF EXCELLENCE: A DIRECTOR’S VOICE
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
HISTORY OF NYU ACCRA
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
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
development studies, which will engage students
Art and Art Professions
and faculty from across NYU’s global network and
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 nyu.edu/global/global-academicpartnerships-and-affiliations.html 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
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
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.
“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
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 Ghanaâ€™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 â€˘ 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
THE STUDENT EXPERIENCE: TEN YEARS OF CHANGING LIVES
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
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 â€˘ 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
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
SERVICE: PARTNERING WITH GHANAIANS IN AN ERA OF GROWTH
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
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
THE ARTS: ENGAGING THE WEST AFRICAN RENAISSANCE
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
EDUCATION AND RESEARCH: EXPANDING PERSPECTIVES
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 â€˘ 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
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 â€˘ 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 â€˘ 47
Photography by Bob Handelman, Ilene Pearlman, Carrie Brown, Regina Boone, and Maggie Schulten
Published on Feb 24, 2015