African Diaspora & Climate Change Studies | An Interdisciplinary Study Abroad Program

After the two university visits to The University of The Bahamas (UB) last week (Drake University and University of Maryland--College Park), I got to turn my attention to to the development of UB's semester-long program. The following is a brief overview of that program and it fits well with the extended request for proposals for the Santander Competition for Innovations in Study Abroad Partnerships & Collaboration (U.S. Department of State and NAFSA: 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund). 

This is the preliminary overview of the program. In the next week, I will be looking for partner institutions from the northeastern United States. 

The African Diaspora Studies & Climate Change program is an interdisciplinary, comparative initiative that will involve bilateral movement/exchange between The University of The Bahamas (UB) and [[[   ]]].

Rooted in the work of Robert Farris Thompson and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the program offers students a unique opportunity to explore the cultural patterns, religions, arts, and literatures of the Afro-Atlantic and Afro-Caribbean at the geographical crossroads of these two regions, The Bahamas, and the cultural crossroads of the north-eastern United States.  

The program also supports and provides tools for the study of pressing regional and global issues through culturally-rooted frameworks, situating and analysing such topics as global warming and the devastating impact of climate change on communities across the African diaspora. Courses and co-curricular activities will look comparatively at how the destruction of the world’s great reefs are impacting diasporic communities that often depend on the reef’s eco-systems for food. The reefs also serve as much-needed natural barriers to hurricanes which we have seen increase in intensity and impact already vulnerable communities across the diaspora. The alarming conditions of our oceans are thus situated in a cultural, African diaspora context.  

Inbound students to The Bahamas will have access to numerous UB campuses and their resources including: Courses taught by leading African diaspora scholars in the areas of literature, art, history, and law; Access to Marine Biology and Environmental Centres of Excellence in the UB system (New Providence, Andros, San Salvador, Eleuthera, Exuma, Grand Bahama); Small Island Sustainability research specialists; Oral History archives; and the full range of UB Bahamian Studies courses and centres that explore Bahamian oral traditions, sociolinguistics of the Bahamas, the Aesthetic Philosophies and Cultural History of Junkanoo, Bahamian History, and Service Learning opportunities.

UB will offer writing-intensive courses so that program participants can develop senior theses, compelling international grant applications, and leverage the fruits of full-immersion and intercultural development for employment opportunities. Faculty members from [          ] are encouraged to participate as group leaders, as well, and may teach a course at UB.   

This interdisciplinary, comparative, broadly construed program of study will offer hands-on reef restoration initiatives; Blue Hole research opportunities with local marine conservation and biology institutes across the UB system; leadership training aboard a sailboat, and access to UB’s centres for excellence, including leading institutes at Bahamas Environmental Research Centre in Andros (BERC), The Gerace Research Centre for the Study of Archaeology, Biology, Geology and Marine Science in San Salvador, Marine and Environmental Studies Institute in [XXXX], The Exuma Centre in Exuma, and the new UB- Cape Eleuthera Island School partnership in Eleuthera. The goal of these courses is to participate meaningfully in critical interventions, all stemming from our broad approach to studying the African diaspora.

Students with advanced French, and Haitian Creole, Portuguese, and Spanish language skills will have the opportunity to take a project-based seminar in African diaspora courses in those named target languages and, in the next years, The University of The Bahamas will be hosting exchange students from Salvador da Bahia, Brazil and Havana, Cuba, making this initiative transnational in every sense. Through our online platform, many courses will be made available to students from across the African diaspora and beyond.  

Under UB’s Global Studies & Programmes Department, students from both institutions will be able to enrol in two writing intensive, projects-based courses designed to maximize the experience abroad: The Art of Immersion (pre-departure) and The Poetics of Return (re-entry). These courses, designed to maximize the experience abroad, will be open to students at both institutions both onsite and through online platforms.    

The University of The Bahamas, in conjunction with [[[             ]]], aims to fully support diverse groups of U.S. students through dynamic in-country “interventions.” Our aim is to set a precedent in terms of the ways in which under-represented groups can be integrated into the university community and thrive through the program’s goals. We will offer hands-on training workshops, job readiness workshops, and graduate school and international grant applications workshops specifically designed for under-represented groups in study abroad. So as to offer continuity, UB is developing a unique Master’s program in African Diaspora Studies, giving study abroad participants a chance to turn their program research into compelling graduate-level research projects. It is our belief that making study abroad more inclusive requires this type of continuity—program participants will be able to further develop their research projects in this unique 1-year Master’s program, a natural offshoot of the study abroad program described here. 

Inbound students from [[[      ]]]] will take an online course “Flash of The Spirit in The Bahamas,” administered by UB faculty, in Fall 2018. This course will allow students to develop a research project that prepares them for the African Diaspora Studies & Climate Change: An Interdisciplinary Study Abroad Program in Spring 2019. It is our hope that UB students and faculty will be able to participate in similar courses and research at [         ] in Fall, 2018. 

Please contact me directly if your institution would be interested in partnering!