OSU Center Opens Cultural Doors To Africa

Saturday, February 10th 2007, 2:30 pm
By: News On 6

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) _ Oklahoma State University aims to educate students and others about Africa and support African students at the school through a new center that has opened on the campus.

The Center for Africana Studies is a suite of small offices with a world of possibilities, said associate director Patrick Saisi, a Kenyan graduate student.

The center is behind two new courses offered this spring to OSU students: Swahili and Introduction to African Studies. It also is laying groundwork for degree programs and travel exchanges.

``We are a very open-minded people. We don't live in trees,'' Saisi said.

Saisi is teaching the Swahili course, and incorporates song and dance into lessons. Of the 15 students, most are white and are enthusiastic to learn about Africa.

``Some of them would like to visit Africa, some have a girlfriend or boyfriend from Africa, and some are going for mission work,'' Saisi said.

OSU currently has 123 students from 22 African countries.

Student Sarah Harrison said she has wanted to go on a mission trip since learning about the plight of Ugandan children in a documentary.

``Our society can be very self-centered sometimes, and we are so very rich in comparison to those living in Third World countries. When I saw the flier about the class, I knew I had to take it,'' she said.

She's not planning a trip soon, but eight class members are, including T.C. Houston, a senior who wants to spend at least a year in Uganda. He's already visited that country and Ethiopia but is excited to learn Swahili so he can better communicate.

Nine freshmen are taking the Introduction to African Studies course, which presents an overview of economic and political history, demographics and culture.

Peter Sherwood, dean of OSU's College of Arts and Sciences, said all students would be well-served by learning about Africa, the second-largest continent, which has 52 countries.

``They hear very little about Africa _ only if it's a major disaster,'' he said. ``It's an important part of undergraduate education for people to have a key understanding of the rest of the world.''