Justin Black has a passion for changing the lives of others through community empowerment and economic development. After coming to Western Michigan University as a Seita Scholar in the fall of 2016, Black immediately began to immerse himself in student life, leadership opportunities, and maximizing his college experience.
His desire to change the world compelled him to pursue study abroad opportunities, and he has now studied in five different countries: South Korea, Senegal, Hong Kong, Rwanda, and Uganda. In an effort to serve fellow students and encourage them to experience the world, he set to work developing the university’s first multi-country study abroad program in Africa.
Black collaborated with Dr. Gary Marquardt, a faculty specialist in Intercultural and Anthropological Studies with expertise in systemic and comparative forms of historical oppression in Africa, to develop an innovative curriculum for his fellow Broncos. The course, titled Global Challenges for a Global Society, will enroll students in fall 2020 and deepen their understanding of cultural conflicts, social and economic progression, and community empowerment through planned action. Students will meet Rwandan Genocide survivors, visit historical landmarks, plant trees in local Ugandan communities, and engage with community leaders in both Rwanda and Uganda to discuss civic organizing methods.
“The trip to Rwanda and Uganda provides students with a unique opportunity to study in two African countries with histories and experiences that are markedly different,” says Marquardt.
“Justin’s vision for a study abroad opportunity designed specifically, but not solely, for students of color is long overdue. His proposal and preparation for the program rivals those who have veteran experience in planning similar activities.”
Black’s efforts and passion for civic engagement, paired with Marquardt’s knowledge, resulted in a program that will offer a meaningful and engaging experience for students. Black’s latest trip abroad provided him an opportunity to formalize partnerships with local organizations in both countries and establish a detailed course plan.
The program will begin on December 6, 2020 in Kigali, Rwanda. There, students will learn the history of Rwandan colonization and the ethnic divide between the Hutus and Tutsis through a series of workshops, community interactions, and discussion-based activities. Workshops will be led by AEGIS Trust and African Leadership University staff and student organizations. Next, students will travel to Kampala, Uganda where they will meet regularly with professors at Cavendish University to discuss Uganda’s climate change issues. Learning will be enhanced through a series of classroom problem-solving sessions hosted by Cavendish University’s Girls Paint Africa Green, an organization aimed at inspiring youth to act against climate change.
Click here to learn more about how this project is contributing to Justin's WMU Signature Endorsement.