The goal of this blog is to share stories from the field while on a program development contract at University of The Bahamas. While the project at hand is to determine the location and develop the university's inbound study abroad programs over the next few months, the first week involved international ed work on all fronts: I did some student advising on study abroad (and soon I’ll be finishing the next guide on choosing the right study abroad program), spoke with a few UB parents about study abroad opportunities for their children, began developing the 100,000 Strong in The Americas-Santander grant proposal, and UB received two U.S. universities on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
So as to welcome fully, I did some research on the history of the College of The Bahamas, Sir Lynden Pindling, Majority Rule and Independence, and the great symbolism of this time of transition into University of The Bahamas. The national vision is being realized! UB is developing a Graduate School, going for international accreditation, 5000 Full-time students, 3000 Part-time students, 200 Full-time faculty, and 60+ majors. UB is developing a Small Island Sustainability complex and new researchers working on climate change and its impact on marine eco-systems are arriving.
Drake University was the first university to arrive last Thursday, January 11th. The group of 22 students and two faculty members toured the campus and had a guided historical tour of the campus, library, and the Sir Lynden Pindling room which is dedicating to celebrating the life and memory of the First Prime Minister (revered as the Father of The Nation).
Drake students study a leadership model called “Situational Leadership”—essentially how leaders must adapt to the task at hand and constantly take on different methods of organizing, from coaching to delegating to participatory approaches. We learned about Majority Rule, celebrated on January 10th, the Nassau Accord, the role of The Bahamas in divesting in South African during apartheid. There are wonderful photographs of Sir Lynden Pindling and Nelson Mandela, gifts of camaraderie from Nigeria, and students learned about the development of The College of The Bahamas as a national project.
Following the tour, students gathered for a reflection on leadership led by Dr. Linda Davis, Provost of The University of The Bahamas, the chosen leader to oversee the transition of The College of The Bahamas into UB as we now know it. I will write about this candid, personal reflection on leadership in a separate post, but feel a need to highlight an important detail on Dr. Davis.
Even at the time of its inception, The College of The Bahamas had its goals reaching towards university status. Sir Lynden Pindling looked far into the future in 197 when the College was formed: “And after all of this, what will we have? Ten years from now we will have developed the University of The Bahamas….and the College of The Bahamas will have given way to the University of The Bahamas.” It took more than ten years, of course. It took many efforts at bridging public and private sectors, creating policy changes, and much more. Dr. Rodney Smith, President, and Dr. Davis were destined to be the leaders to transition into university status and the group of students were completely engaged with her critical reflections from the field.
After the discussion on leadership, we did a meet and greet with UB students who led a group unity game and then brought the Drake students to the student hangout area on campus. Last semester, when teaching at UB, I always noticed the dominoes players. This is one moment that students and faculty generally do not communicate. In fact, there is a hidden boundary that students police with determined looks meant to keep us at bay: “Faculty, this is our space, don’t try to impose deadlines or papers or readings on us here, ok?!” That is what seems to be the statement. There is also a gender boundary—these games seem to be men, most frequently. And yet here come the Drake students, faculty, UB student guides, and myself (uninvited UB faculty!):
Never had I seen such inter-domino integration. The Drake students spoke freely and exchanged information with students. It was a great sight that I hope will continue in the classrooms as we build inbound receiving capacity over the next months with the goal of a semester program starting in Spring 2019.
Later in the evening, Drake students had an incredible dinner at a family’s home, the gift of the Bahamian Ministry of Tourism’s People-to-People program. The food was incredible: conch chowder, conch fritters, fish, chicken, sweet potatoes, a wonderful salad (with organic, local-grown lettuce from Abaco!), and numerous deserts like Guava Duff. The family spoke about the important of the different dishes and Bahamian culture, and the conversation naturally moved towards the great musical and cultural expression of The Bahamas: Junkanoo.
It was then, just as the family discussed the way in which Junkanoo celebrates the African heritage of The Bahamas, that the sound began outside the front door.
Students danced, the family and friends danced, and then the musicians discussed the power of Junkanoo. Two days later, at 5:30 AM, Drake University students woke up and we all met to join the walk for a cure for cancer. At the end, more Junkanoo!
Thank you, Drake University, for making this a memorable first week, for your thoughtful questions and full engagement!