The U.S. Department of Education has awarded Harper College’s Office of International Education a Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad (GPA) grant. The $163,444 grant is helping to fund a professional development program in East Africa titled Teaching Africa Today: Environmental and Sustainability Issues in Kenya and Uganda Through a Social Justice Lens.
Co-directed by Harper faculty Dr. Richard Johnson (English) and Associate Professor Mukila Maitha (Geography), the 18-month project began this June and will include two semesters of pre-departure work in fall 2022 and spring 2023. The centerpiece will be a six-week field seminar for 12 educators in Kenya and Uganda during summer 2023, followed by additional months to review and report on takeaways from the experience. The project will end in November 2023.
“We’re honored to receive this grant and excited for the opportunities it will provide to our college and surrounding community,” said Johnson, outgoing director of the Office of International Education. “International professional development has been a focus of Harper’s Office of International Education for the past eight years. When faculty are globally minded, we are able to bring that perspective into the classroom.”
Maitha concurred, highlighting the project’s focus on one of the planet’s most fascinating areas.
“By participating in this program, educators will be able to introduce their students to environmental and socioeconomic issues in a region of the world that is an integral part of today’s fabric of nations,” he said. “East Africa’s history stretches back to the dawn of humanity and the region has some of today’s fastest growing and rapidly changing countries.”
The purpose of the Fulbright-Hays GPA program – much like the associated Fulbright Scholarship program – is to encourage international goodwill and cultural exchange. Additionally, the program supports overseas projects in training, research and curriculum development among educators at the K-12, higher education and graduate student levels. As such, Harper is including two of its own faculty members in this project, along with five faculty from community colleges in Illinois and Indiana, and five K-12 teachers from schools in Harper’s district and Chicago Public Schools.
Goals for the Teaching Environmental Sustainability project include:
Harper is one of only two community colleges, out of 16 funded applications, to receive the GPA grant. It will fund 97% percent of the total program budget ($168,658), with the remaining 3% percent coming from non-governmental sources.
“We’re not just honored to receive the GPA grant, we’re excited about the educational and partnership opportunities it will yield,” said Nellie Khalil, assistant professor and new director of Harper’s Office of International Education. “From the creation of a regular study abroad program for Harper students to faculty exchanges between Harper and East African universities, we expect the Teaching Africa Today project to have wide-ranging impacts at Harper and in its community.”