Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Teaching and Learning in Ghana

As countdown to PICS Ghana draws to a close, I feel blessed to be part of a group of dedicated philanthropist, professors, program coordinators, educators, and others who have contributed to the ongoing success of the Purdue Improved Cowpea storage project in West and Central Africa. Influencing the use of non chemical hermitic methods and Purdue’s triple bagging technology to store cowpeas, enables greater economic activity, reduces starvation and improves quality of life. I am wholeheartedly committed to this project. It’s ironic how things happen when you set a clear intention. Around this time last year I met with my program leader, Sam Cordes to discuss professional development and advancement opportunities at Purdue. We discussed many possibilities and left the meeting convinced that I wanted to experience myself differently—by engaging in assignments that provide me a platform to exert my influence and change minds and thoughts in Africa. Sam recommended that I meet with Dr. Jess Lowenberg-Deboer to express my international interests. I learned about the Purdue PICS program when I met Jess. I was not available to travel the first year to Nigeria, but told him that I would be delighted to serve when the Ghana opportunity came around in 2010.

Well, things went quiet for months until I met my friend Jim Murren at a meeting in early spring. He asked me why I had not applied for the Ghana educator opportunity. Frankly, I am not sure what happens to my e-mail sometimes, but I completely missed that announcement. I asked Jim to send me the notice and I was able to submit my application before the deadline. The rest is history and I am grateful to all of the people who have played a role in getting me here, especially Chuck whose international perspective about the role of extension is impeccable, Ron who agreed that I have been looking for such an opportunity for a long time and Rick, who just said—George I think this is a great opportunity—Go for it!

I get goose bumps when I think of this opportunity. I envisioned it—and most people around me, made it happen. It is humbling to work for an organization that in addition to its local focus also has an international agenda to make a difference worldwide—especially in Africa. Ok, so you understand my excitement—but the juiciest part is that, I was born in Ghana and have a large family there. Now I am an American citizen with a US passport. I need a visa when I am going to Ghana. In Ghana, my folks say I am too America and when I come to Indiana—they say I am different and have an accent. Even when I tell people I am a die hard Pacers and Colts Hoosier—they look at me and laugh. That is the complexity and blessing of my life. Even so, I get to use my land grant university training to give back to Ghana. I am extremely excited and humbled at the same time. I will be leaving for Ghana with my colleague Amanda this week. We will teach from the same script, but our experiences will be different. We will teach in Tamale, Wa and Bolgatanga (have never been there before) so the experience will be challenging but interesting. After two weeks we’ll be back in Accra and I will stay an extra week to visit with family and friends. I have also arranged an education session with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture staff to share my American Extension experience and learn from them.

I intend to represent Purdue well and hope to share the rest of the journey with constituents, colleagues and other interested parties. You can learn about Ghana and follow me at This afternoon, I work at the Extension hospitality room at the state fairgrounds and then roam around after 6pm and have my annual elephant ears snack in the evening. See you soon.

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