WMU News

West Africa is next stop for area educators

June 6, 2003

KALAMAZOO -- Western Michigan University professors, graduate students, and Kalamazoo area public school teachers who are headed to Senegal, West Africa, this summer will thank their supporters and discuss their research plans during a noon luncheon, Wednesday, June 11, at the Kalamazoo Public School's Professional Development Center at 1627 W. Main St.

The June 11 sendoff event, which is not open to the public, is the group's last gathering before they depart from Detroit's Metro Airport June 12 for an initiative titled "Tradition and Transition in Senegal: Islam, Globalization and Contemporary West Africa," a project and study trip aimed at exploring the region's religion and culture.

During their month-long visit to Africa, members of the group will collect artifacts, conduct research and work closely with educators and administrators from the University of Dakar in such areas as language acquisition, art, religion, education, music, literature and history. Organizers say the 4,434-mile trip is just the beginning of several long-term educational collaboratives that will include international classroom presentations and special projects.

"We are interested in developing curricula for educators in the Kalamazoo area, St. Joseph and Benton Harbor, Grand Rapids and Lansing," says Dr. W.F. Santiago-Valles, project director, who notes that creating the new content will reflect a joint effort. "The artifacts we collect while in Africa and the research we conduct will be used to support new teaching units we develop upon our return," he says. "And these are teaching units that will be negotiated by both sides--it's not just 'them' helping 'us' or vice versa. When a particular unit or subject arises, we--as partners--can teach it together, in Senegal and in the U.S."

The trip is partially funded by a Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad Program from the U.S. Department of Education. Backing also came from WMU's Haenicke Institute for International Studies and other supporters.

Media note: Members of the media are welcome to attend the June 11 sendoff event, and may confirm plans to attend by calling Linda Dick at (269) 673-0094.

Media contact: Gail Towns, 269 387-8400, gail.towns@wmich.edu

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