UAPB’s study abroad program brings students from three 1890 universities to Ghana

Will Hehemann | School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Humanities

UAPB’s study abroad program in Ghana included a series of cultural excursions, including one to Bonwire Kente village, where participants learned about the production of traditional hand-woven kente cloth. From left to right: Dr. Benjamin Annor, Annette Fields, Lyric Armstrong, Jeremiah Pouncy, Jai Lewis, Dr. Nina Lyon Bennett, Dr. Emmanuel Asiamah and Allison Malone.

An initiative by the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB) recently gave students from UAPB, North Carolina A&T State University, and Tennessee State University the opportunity to go to Ghana, a West African country. The study abroad program enabled students from the three historically black universities to learn agricultural subjects and gain insight into the history, culture and people of Ghana.

Participating students included Allison Malone, UAPB 2022 alumnus in agricultural engineering, Jai Lewis, agricultural science major at Tennessee State University, and Jeremiah Pouncy and Lyric Armstrong, animal science majors at North Carolina A&T State University. The students were accompanied by Dr. Emmanuel Asiamah, assistant professor of animal science at UAPB, Dr. Nina Lyon Bennett, professor and assistant dean for academics in the School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Humanities at the UAPB, and Annette Fields, Instructor/Advisor for UAPB’s Office of Basic Academic Services.

Dr. Asiamah and Fields organized the program in coordination with UAPB’s Office of Programs and International Studies. Most of the event’s programming took place at Dr Asiamah’s alma mater, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Kumasi, Ghana.

Dr. Bennett oversaw the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the UAPB and KNUST.

“The signing of the Memorandum of Understanding marks the beginning of a long-term partnership that will allow students and faculty to engage in research collaborations and future exchange programs between the two universities,” said the Dr Asiamah. “Next year, we plan to invite KNUST students to study agriculture at UAPB. Over the years, we plan to develop this exchange program and increase the number of students who will benefit from it.

Participate in hands-on agricultural training

“While in Ghana, our participants had the chance to participate in a number of hands-on agriculture-related activities,” said Dr Asiamah. “They joined KNUST students in the field to learn about corn breeding, visited a catfish farm, where they learned a bit about the business side of farming, and even saw how palm weevil insects are bred for value-added food products.”

During a visit to a poultry farm, the students learned how to sort chicken eggs without using machines.

“The poultry farming activity opened the eyes of the students and allowed them to put things into perspective,” he said. “Because they were sorting eggs manually, they gained a better understanding of how quickly egg sorting machines work in the United States. They couldn’t keep up with the agricultural technician who was able to sort the eggs incredibly quickly. »

Develop an impactful study abroad program

Dr Asiamah said he got the idea for a study abroad program in Ghana when Annette Fields visited one of his classes while recruiting students for a study trip to abroad in South Africa.

“At the time, I joked, ‘Why not plan a program in my home country of Ghana,'” he said. “But over time, I thought that kind of trip would make a lot of sense, especially given the well-known agricultural department at my alma mater.”

Dr Asiamah said he was also inspired by Ghana’s ‘Year of Return’ campaign in 2019. The initiative aimed to bring foreigners from the black diaspora to visit Ghana.

“Famous African-Americans, including Don Lemon and Steve Harvey, traveled to Ghana as part of the initiative,” he said. “I thought it would be great to allow students from an HBCU – who weren’t as affluent as celebrities – to visit Ghana and also feel a connection to Africa. Unfortunately, the pandemic has ruined any plans to visit Ghana as part of the Year of Return campaign, but it was then that I decided we needed to plan an in-country program for UAPB students.

While planning the program, Dr. Asiamah worked with Dr. Pamela D. Moore, Associate Dean for Global Engagement at UAPB, to secure funding from the 1890 Center of Excellence for International Engagement and Development (CEIED), which serves 19 historically black countries 1890 land-grant universities. The involvement of students from other 1890 universities and continued partnerships with Ghanaian universities made the program more impactful and helped the grant get approved, he said.

“In addition to supporting Dr. Asiamah’s program, the grant we received provides essential resources to initiate study abroad programs within the Department of Aquaculture and Fisheries and the Department of Human Sciences” , said Dr. Moore. “The Center received its funding through congressional legislation that included the creation of Centers of Excellence at 1,890 land-grant institutions. Funding for the center is administered by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) of the United States Department of Agriculture.

Live a cultural immersion in Ghana

“Our idea was to give young African Americans a truly global experience rich in culture and history,” Dr. Asiamah said. “The program included visits to the coastal slave castles that were part of the European Atlantic slave trade. So it was a bigger experience than what American history books can give you. Visiting these castles was more like a pilgrimage for students – a chance to connect with their ancestors.

Malone said visiting the slave castles made a lasting impression on him.

“It’s a humbling experience to go to a slave castle because it shows you your ancestral lineage,” she said. “It also meant a lot to be there and understand the processes they went through. We are the dreams and hopes of the slaves, so when we go to visit the castles, it’s like coming home.

Pouncy said the moment that stood out the most while visiting the slave castles was seeing the “gate of no return” at Elmina Castle. It was through this gate that millions of Africans were forced to board ships bound for America where they faced a life of slavery.

“Being at the slave castle and being face to face with the door of no return was one of the most defining moments for me during the trip,” he said. “It was a very strange feeling as we walked through the castle. I was able to look around and see where my ancestors were held as slaves, as property. It was a relief to return to the gate where my ancestors were held. taken away, never to come home – that I was able, in a sense, to come back for them.

Dr. Asiamah said he enjoyed observing the students’ openness and willingness to experience a new culture. In addition to regularly interacting and playing games with the KNUST students, they also enjoyed interacting with the locals – everyone from restaurant servers to shopkeepers and market workers.

“In the restaurants, our students would try to say a few sentences in the local Twi language, which always got a positive reaction from the people working there,” he said. “They also enjoyed many visits to local markets, where they learned how to bargain. Several students approached me and boasted of the bargains they had managed to get.

Dr. Asiamah said he was particularly touched when the students told him how their perception of Africa had changed thanks to the programme.

“They commented on the development of Ghana and how hardworking and enterprising everyone seems,” he said. “When we went to Kakum National Park, we walked over a 100-foot-high suspension bridge that overlooks the lush forest canopy. After this trip, several students said they did not expect Africa to be so green. »

Another cultural excursion was organized at Bonwire Kente Village, where the students learned about the production of traditional handwoven kente cloth.

“I loved learning about the different symbolisms in weaving kente cloth,” Malone said. “Colours, designs and symbols have a specific meaning and purpose. There is a story behind the fabric.

They also visited the WEB DuBois Center for Pan African Culture, where they learned how the African-American scholar and activist spent his final years living in Ghana, the first African country to gain independence from colonial rule.

“What I take away the most from this study abroad program is that African history and culture give me so much life and joy,” Pouncy said. “Everyone was so amazing, welcoming and loving that I felt at home, even though it was my first time there. It also showed me that there is still a wealth of information out there about the world that I still don’t know. There are also truly limitless possibilities. I will be back to explore Ghana, the rest of Africa and the world as well.

The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff offers all of its outreach and research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion , age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

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