Day 1 at University of The Bahamas

I'll be using this blog as a space to share updates while on contract as Interim Director of Global Studies & Programmes at University of The Bahamas (UB). I'll be setting up inbound programming to The Bahamas, working with outbound programs for UB students, and working on multilateral exchange agreements and grant opportunities.

My flight from Boston to The Bahamas was cancelled due to a blizzard. Later on I'll post some photographs leaving frigid New England and the arrival in Bahamas. It was nice to return to the Cable Beach area of New Providence. A Professor of Special Education, part of the new faculty cohort that I joined, picked me up and we went directly to Dino's for a scorched conch salad and conch fritters. It's a great conch stand at the base of Gambier: 

"Gambier is one of the oldest villages in New Providence, dating back to the early 1800s. It is located nine miles west of Nassau and was established by liberated Africans after the abolition of the slave trade in all British Territories in 1807. Some of those Africans left an indelible stamp on the village's unique and intriguing history. Most notable was Elijah Morris who lead the largest slave revolt in the United States history in 1841.

A group of 135 enslaved Africans was being transported from Virginia on a ship, 'The Creole', to be sold in the slave market of New Orleans. After ten days at sea, 19 of the captives, led by Morris, overpowered their guards and took control of the ship. They had planned to sail to Liberia, but with insufficient supplies, Nassau was chosen as the final destination. All the Africans who were not directly involved in the mutiny were liberated and allowed to stay in The Bahamas as free men and women. The 19 involved in the mutiny were initially held, and when Elijah Morris was declared a free man some months later, he settled in Gambier Village.

His descendants still reside here and are important members of the local community. They, like their forefathers, are making significant contributions to the lives of the villagers. Today, the approximately 740 inhabitants of Gambier Village are Bahamian-born persons of African descent. Because of its largely youthful population, external cultural influences have impacted the traditional culture of Gambier and caused it to lose its distinctive African origin. However, the UNESCO youth-path Project for The Bahamas was established in 2004 to help preserve its African Heritage and evolving culture among the village's youth." (Click for more

Gambier is a small community that feels like its own island. It has a public school and many community members are expert fishers and divers. Last semester, I spent many weekends talking to divers. The day before my first teaching day at UB, I held a lantern for some of the young men who bring in conch, take the conch out of the shell, and then walk up the Gambier landing to the restaurants and supply them with the freshest catch. They told me about diving 50 feet with just a snorkel and mask, spearing lobsters carefully so as not to attract the sharks, and which parts of the conch to eat for different purposes. I knew I was in the right place when one of the conch fishers mentioned his course at University of The Bahamas. He was going to be one of my students! 

But I moved back in time to the first teaching days last Fall semester. Now I'm back in a new function, ready to build inbound programming (foreign students heading to The Bahamas). I have lots of plans and hopes for this role. High on the list is a network of Canadian universities that want to receive the versatile, talented UB students for a semester. I will be surveying and assessing all of UB's campuses to choose the best location for inbound programming--Grand Bahama (Freeport), New Providence (Nassau), San Salvador, Andros, Eleuthera, and Exuma are all possibilities--and conducting a full campus readiness assessment and development plan.    

But there are so many opportunities and tasks to consider. And that is where these blog posts come in: a kind of running story of what development looks like on the ground. I hope that those of you interested in The Bahamas, program development in general, and student-centered international education will find this to be interesting. 

Day 1...

Today I learned that the 100,000 Strong in the Americas initiatives announced an extension. Innovation funds for "Higher education institutions located and legally registered in Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island, and any of the non-U.S. countries in the Western Hemisphere are eligible to apply for grants from the Santander Competition." What immediately came to mind is a collaboration around global warming and climate change: collaboration between a U.S. institution and UB in this new era that has produced such new terms as "climate refugees," especially after the destruction of the past hurricane season that countries and islands will be dealing with for decades. Another idea that came was something around the African diaspora and social injustice as related to climate change and the impact of these storms on already disadvantaged communities.  

I'll also get a chance to talk to a few students about study abroad in Mexico and Spain, UB parents interested in learning more about this office's new developments, and review UB's Erasmus membership which opens the community to the expansive European Union network as well as Project Caribu, which includes 20 universities from Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean

Finally, today I'll me looking at a Colombian mobility proposal with the Catholic University of Manizales. The areas of study include Entrepreneurship and Social Leadership for Youth and a Educational Innovation. 

Drake University is coming to the UB campus on January 11th (they focus on the navigation of new environments, from sailboats to language to leadership principles) and University of Maryland-College Park (alternative winter break) will be here shortly after on the 12th. Much more to come on these visits!      

More to come! (I think that will be my signature blog post ending)