Accompanied by African music, food and a number of empty seats, Yale students and administrators discussed the University’s involvement with Africa at a panel discussion Thursday.
The event, held at the Afro-American Cultural House and attended by 10 students, focused on Yale’s educational opportunities for students interested in studying and working in Africa and on the University’s ongoing efforts to recruit African students.
Director of International Students and Scholars Ann Kuhlman moderated the discussion, and panelists included Lanch McCormick, assistant director at Undergraduate Career Services; Karyn Jones, director of study abroad for Yale College; Dorothy Woodson, curator of the Africana Collection for Sterling Memorial Library; and admissions officer Diana Cooke.
Cooke said that while there are only about 10 to 12 African students in each incoming class, the Admissions Office hopes to increase contact with Africa by scheduling visits to the continent.
McCormick and Jones echoed Cooke’s concern but said Yale has built bridges with the continent by working to increase the opportunities Yale offers students to go to Africa. McCormick said that last year UCS added three new programs, in Ghana, Uganda and South Africa. Each of these programs offers eight to 10 internships, McCormick said.
Woodson said Yale’s libraries are also contributing to efforts to study Africa in a variety of disciplines by preserving historical documents such as propaganda posters and texts about the liberation movement in South Africa.
Panelists said the administration should work to create a strong support network for students studying and working in Africa. Nevertheless, Woodson said Africa’s diversity is a challenge to providing students a sense of what their specific experience in Africa will be.
“It is hard to have a generic preparation for Africa when you are dealing with 51 different countries,” Woodson said.
But Ruth Botsio ’09, president of the Yale African Students Association, said part of the purpose of Africa Week is to get like-minded Yalies to meet and exchange notes, which helps them become better acquainted with Africa’s cultures and peoples.
“A lot of people have inhibitions about going to Africa, being the ‘unknown continent,’ ” Botsio said. “If you even know one person, it can make all of the difference in the world.”
Students in attendance said they were pleased that the discussion gave those looking for contacts in Africa a place to turn.
YASA Treasurer Akua Opiku-Mensah ’09 said the event gave her a better understanding of the Admissions Office’s challenges in its efforts to recruit African students.
Matt Durstenfeld ’09, who participated in Bulldogs in Ghana last summer, said it was interesting to hear different administrators’ perspectives on Yale’s involvement in Africa.
The event was part of the second-annual Africa Week, organized by YASA and cosponsored by 19 Yale organizations. Funds raised throughout the week will be sent to three African NGOs.