Prof Earns Award for Promoting African Studies

COLUMBUS, Ga. - Columbus State University sociology Professor Florence Wakoko is a first recipient of the Faculty Internationalization Award from the Georgia Consortium for International Studies. She earned the honor amidst a field of nominees from throughout the University System of Georgia.

The award committee (representing university system faculty and administrators) recognized her many contributions to international education, particularly her outstanding work in promoting African studies, including the African Studies Certificate and the Southeast Model African Union hosted by CSU last fall, said history Professor Neal McCrillis, director of CSUs Center for International Education and CSUs representative member of the consortium.

FlorenceWakoko, left, said African studies is vital and expanding at CSU. Enrollment, particularly in the Swahili language courses, is strong; our faculty are effectively integrating African studies into the curriculum and our African students are increasingly visible in extracurricular activities. CSUs African Students Organization, including CSUs 24 African students and supervised by Wakoko, recently staged African Night as a public showcase of traditional food, fashion, music and dance. In November, they directed non-African student competitions in a Miss Africa pageant. Participants each represented a different nation by modeling traditional attire and reciting region-specific information on economic, political and cultural issues. Such activities have increased an overall student interest in international studies, which reinforces the university’s foundation for recruitment and retention, Wakoko said.

Citing these and other factors, McCrillis said CSU is fortunate to have Wakoko among its scholars of Africa. During her relatively brief time at CSU, Dr. Wakoko has played a pivotal role in developing African studies at CSU and in the USG. She brings a deep knowledge and love of Africa with tremendous energy to her role as an advocate for the study of African cultures.

Wakoko, a native of Uganda, joined CSU in 2002 from Fort Valley State University where, during six years, she organized a summer, faculty seminar in Ghana and helped form the Southeast Model African Union that facilitates college student collaboration in developing solutions to key economic, social, and political-security issues facing the African continent.

Wakoko brought the model African Union to CSUs Cunningham Center in November 2005. While approximately 200 students from 15 university system schools deliberated in two days of proceedings, some of their professors took part in faculty workshops staged by Wakoko and CSU colleagues who demonstrated courses theyve developed for the university system’s interdisciplinary 18-credit African Studies Certificate program that was established in 2004. Among those courses, Wakokos African Women and Development will be offered online beginning this summer and eventually be accessible to students throughout the university system. The certificate program, as well as the model Africa Union, is supported by the recently established USG African Studies Consortium led by Wakoko and colleagues from Georgia State University and the University of Georgia.

For a separate endeavor, the USG European Council has selected Wakoko to travel with a university system faculty contingent in May to study Denmark and Sweden social programs including healthcare and education.

However, Africa remains a priority for Wakoko. In December, she revisited Uganda on a personal trip with her husband and CSU faculty colleague John Studstill. The pair met with officials from three Ugandan universities to set the stage for potential visiting scholar and study abroad opportunities for CSU that could hopefully materialize in spring 2007, she said.