Travel changes lives, and for two students hailing from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, it has truly enriched their education. Get the full story from the official Lincoln University release by Dafina Diabate, Ed.D. below.
Despite the restrictions imposed by the global pandemic, two Lincoln University students and one professor participated in the inaugural Lions in Ghana program, under the auspices of Lincoln’s Office of International Programs, during June and July 2021. Students Romika-Grace Volcy, a mass communications major and black studies minor from Valley Streams, New York, and Chamir James, a pan-Africana studies major and anthropology and black studies minor from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, served as the university’s first Lions in Ghana Fellows, while Dr. Gervais Gnaka Lagoke served as the program’s Scholar-in-Residence. Lions in Ghana provides the opportunity for Lincoln students to engage in a summer action research fellowship through a virtual platform, in partnership with universities in Pennsylvania and northern Ghana. Using funds from the IDEAS grant from the US Department of State enabled Lincoln to avoid risks of COVID exposure and instead to continue to provide global engagement experiences for students.
Over the course of eight summer weeks, Lions in Ghana Fellows joined students from Bryn Mawr College and Haverford College in Pennsylvania, and the University of Development Studies in Ghana to participate in Layim Tehi Tuma (LTT), which means “Thinking Together” in Dagbani language. Lincoln joins LTT, now in its 9th year, expanding the collaboration between a diverse set of institutions – a historic women’s college, the first degree-granting historically Black college and university (HBCU), Ghana’s fifth public university, and a liberal arts college with Quaker origins. In the 2021 format, participants from the US colleges connected from their homes on zoom, while the Ghanaian counterparts participated through zoom while on-site in northern Ghana, as their country did not impose travel restrictions internally.
During LTT students sustained vibrant interactions with counterparts across the Atlantic, immersing themselves in study, intercultural exchange, internships with community-based organizations, Dagbani language training, centered in Black diasporic liberation and study.
Romika-Grace Volcy focused her internship on the Simli radio station and served on LTT’s communications committee. “This program not only gave me an opportunity to have an intercultural experience, but it helped me form bonds with people from different backgrounds and beliefs on imperative topics involving black culture,” said Volcy. Meanwhile, Chamir James interned with Titagya Early Childhood Education Schools and served on LTT’s research committee. “My participation in LTT has been an eye-opening, life-changing experience,” said James. “Even though this year’s program was virtual, it served the same purpose as it would if held in person. That purpose is to serve as a platform for cross-cultural networking and fellowship. My personal experience in this program was overall fun and humbling, yet still motivational.”
Transcending limitations of a virtual platform, Dr. Gnaka’s lectures on Pan-Africanism and Ubuntu exposed the 2021 cohort to concepts that built on the program’s focus of Black studies. “I was very pleased and privileged to be part of the program despite COVID 19 challenges,” said Dr. Gnaka. “The program’s success went beyond my imagination and also helped me broaden my horizons in my research interests.”
Initiated by conversations between Lincoln’s Dr. Dafina Diabate, director of international programs, and Bryn Mawr’s Dr. Alice Lesnick, director of the LTT program and associate dean for global engagement, the ensuing conversations expanded to include Dr. Chanelle Wilson (Bryn Mawr) and Dr. Gnaka (Lincoln) over the next 16 months, culminating in this new partnership. “I am thrilled that despite the challenges of the current moment, Lions in Ghana was born, the partnership was established, and the students have flourished,” said Dr. Diabate.
Funding from the IDEAS grant awarded to Lincoln University to increase and diversify study abroad was initially slated for travel during summer 2021. However, as the risks from COVID prevailed, the Department of State approved the pivot to virtual formatted programs such as Lions in Ghana. Contributions from Bryn Mawr and Haverford rounded out the full cost of the program. In future summers, Lincoln seeks to continue participation in LTT, allowing Lions in Ghana to incorporate travel to Ghana as a core part of the program.
“LTT has so many beautiful souls and I hope to continue the bonds I have formed for a lifetime!” affirms, Volcy.