African American Studies 310 is the program’s course dedicated to an international Black population with the additional course component of a faculty-led study abroad after the semester ends. In the winter of 2019-2020 students went to Ghana, located in west Africa. This course provides students the opportunity to connect their literature-based course curriculum, along with additional content on historical, environmental, political, health and gender related materials, with a guided experience within the African Diaspora. As a discipline founded on classroom, scholarship and engagement this course allows students to engage within the on-campus classroom, classrooms abroad and non-traditional classrooms as they engage with various components of an international Black culture.
This is the only African American Studies course dedicated to the experience of African peoples beyond the United States. This first rotation of the course gave students the opportunity to read texts written by West African writers, in order to engage with various time periods of the West African experience. Alongside their readings and course discussions, supplemental materials were added to ensure that students have a general understanding of the past and current contexts of West Africa, with emphasis on Ghana. This course is unique in various ways, and it is most important to AFAM because Africa is the foundation of African American culture and history. This course provides students with a new perspective into the African American experience by reading and experiencing the culture and history of Africa.
Major aspects explored are slave castles, where Africans who would become slaves in the west were last stored. But also exploring components of West African culture that have become prominent in the U.S. as a form of Black Pride (Kente cloth for example). Learning of the native languages and comparisons to African American Language also showcases the underlying importance of knowing the origins of a culture or a society to understand it’s current components.
AFAM 310 provides students with access to alternative narratives of African experiences through various time periods of importance. It provides students tools to engage with persons from non-western societies in a productive, respectful, and culturally aware manner that will guide them in collaborating cross culturally. Students are also provided a space to engage with peers, scholars and professionals to discuss current and past conceptions about a continent that is often misrepresented.
Professor LaToya Brackett teaches the Ghana option of this course. The goal is to have this Ghana option occur every 3 years with a Spring on campus course and Summer visit to Ghana. The next trip is slated for Summer 2023. Dr. Brackett has had a long history with Ghana, and considers it a second home. With the support of the International Programs Office, and African American Studies faculty and leadership she made this trip happen and will continue it. She also has additional faculty and staff join the trip to ensure all diverse students have support.
Short-Term Faculty Led Study Abroad is a great way for students to engage in high impact educational practices without having to miss out on any academic, extra-curricular, or athletic requirements here on campus. They are also able to embark on a journey with their Puget Sound peers and faculty with whom they spent the semester learning about and discussing the location they will visit.
A major goal for these trips is to make sure every student who wishes to go, and who has been accepted into the course, is able to find funds to go. Many students ask for financial support from family and friends. Dr. Brackett along with those supporting the course, do their best to find financial support to reduce the cost of the course as well, but recognize that individual students still have individual need. Students fund-raise for this trip, and are always looking for even the smallest amount of support.