Sub-Saharan Africa Shares Culture with New Program

Photo by Hope Patti

On Wednesday evening, Ramapo College launched its Year of Sub-Saharan Africa, a year-round program which aims to offer diverse opportunities for both students and faculty to engage with this unique region of the world. Throughout the 2016-17 academic year, the Roukema Center for International Education will provide a multitude of ways for the Ramapo Community to become involved – via courses, speakers, performances, workshops, travel opportunities, special grants, scholarships and more.

“We hope that this year will inspire greater engagement with this dynamic region,” Ben Levy, Ramapo’s Director of International Education, said. “It is critical to provide all Ramapo students with international opportunities in our classrooms. Through faculty’s incorporation of additional course materials, and through authors and researchers from the region, we can achieve greater internationalization of our curricula and a higher level of global competency amongst our graduates.”

Each year Ramapo focuses on a specific international region in an effort to increase awareness and to allow the college community to experience cultures from around the globe. This is part of Ramapo’s Strategic Plan for Comprehensive Internationalization, which began in the Fall of 2015. Considering Sub-Saharan Africa’s history, diversity and culture, the region seemed like a clear choice. Located south of the Sahara desert, this area of the African continent consists of many different countries such as Ghana, Senegal, Rwanda, Kenya and Madagascar.    

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who visited Sub-Saharan Africa in August, recently told CNN, “There’s so much energy and potential here. I just want to walk around and meet folks.”

The opening celebration took place in Friends Hall on Wednesday. Abdulai Gad Swaray, a current Ramapo student from Sierra Leone, took the stage to share his story and how it motivated him toward becoming an agent of social change. Also on hand were dancers, music, food and a film. Levy emceed the evening’s event.

According to National Geographic, Sub-Saharan Africa is home to 3,000 ethnic groups who speak more than 1,000 different native languages. This year, students will have many opportunities to study abroad in this diverse part of the world, including a program in Ghana led by Ramapo Professors Elaine Patterson and Kathleen Burke. The College currently offers 53 international programs – study, research and internships – in 10 different countries in the region. Students can study wildlife, ecology, public health, human rights and languages, among other fields. Special scholarships are available for students interested in these programs.

Fall 2016 course options currently include “Hip Hop and Society,” “Africa and Cinema” and “Africans in Contemporary Latin America.” There will also be a book club with a focus on Sub-Saharan Africa, hosted monthly in the Potter Library Reading Lounge. For faculty members, 15 grants of up to $2,000 have been made available for scholarship and research in the region.

“Ramapo is privileged to have such a strong group of faculty who have dedicated their professional lives to research and writing about this important world region,” says Levy.

Levy encouraged the Ramapo community to participate in all the program has to offer.

“For more information, students can contact the Roukema Center for International Education in ASB-123, call us or email us at,” Levy said.