BVU's McCorkle Fellows Travel to Rwanda, Kenya

BVU's McCorkle Fellows Travel to Rwanda, Kenya



Five Buena Vista University faculty members will depart for East Africa on June 21 as part of the McCorkle Fellowship program. During the two-week trip, the Fellows will visit various destinations throughout Kenya and Rwanda to gain international perspectives and broaden their field of knowledge in their academic specialties.

The 2012 McCorkle Fellows are:

  • Jamii Claiborne, assistant professor of digital media
  • Dr. Wind Goodfriend, associate professor of psychology
  • Dr. Matt Packer, assistant professor of English
  • Dr. Swasti Bhattacharyya, associate professor of religion
  • Dr. Stan Ullerich, professor of economics 

This year, Goodfriend, who proposed the destination, will lead the trip. “There are so many reasons for BVU faculty to develop greater global awareness,” she says. “Faculty members have a responsibility to be global citizens so that we can be equally welcoming and understanding of any type of student in our classes. We also need to be role models in teaching our students how to be informed about, and involved in, global cultures and politics.”

“For me personally, Rwanda is an ideal destination because my classes and research focus on the psychology of violence and prejudice, two unfortunate themes in the history of Rwanda,” adds Goodfriend. “I will be able to tell my students about what I have learned regarding the ethnic prejudice that occurred, as well as issues such as gender, resentment, forgiveness, and resilience.” This will be Goodfriend’s second McCorkle Fellows trip; her first was to India in 2007.

This is the seventh year of the McCorkle Fellowship program, which was established through the generosity of the late Drs. Paul and Vivian McCorkle, who were both Life Trustees of BVU, to provide selected faculty members with an opportunity for international travel to enhance their scholarly knowledge and to add international dimensions to the curriculum. Locations selected for McCorkle Fellows have included Argentina and Peru (2006); India (2007); Israel and Egypt (2008); Turkey (2009); Japan (2010); and South Korea (2011).

“Kenya and Rwanda both look to be beautiful countries” says Packer. “I hope to understand more about Rwanda’s recent economic and political developments, and I want to learn more about how Rwanda is becoming increasingly integrated into the world community and what this means for us all.” 

Packer also plans on integrating his travel experience into the curriculum. “Next fall I’ll be teaching students about Rwanda in two classes,” he says. “In University Seminar, we’ll be reading Immaculee Ilibagiza’s story, Left To Tell, about surviving the Rwandan genocide. Students in my world literature class will also be studying the ‘postcolonial’ aspect of this region of Africa.” This will be Packer’s second McCorkle Fellows trip; his first was to Japan in 2010.   

“My goals for the trip include observing the economic development and public investments in infrastructure, education, and public health and safety,” says Ullerich.

Ullerich also hopes to bring back international trade and development examples, case studies and scenarios to enhance students’ learning experiences. This will be his first trip as part of the McCorkle Fellowship program.

Throughout the past year, the Fellows have prepared extensively for the trip by meeting regularly, reading books, and speaking with several BVU students from Rwanda.

“I have been gaining different perspectives on the deep and various meanings of forgiveness, rebuilding relationships and attempting to live side-by-side after unfathomable events related to the Rwandan genocide,” says Bhattacharyya, who traveled to India in 2007 and Turkey in 2009 as a McCorkle Fellow. “I am looking forward to traveling with my colleagues from different disciplines and being exposed to additional perspectives as we share questions and observations.”

This will be Claiborne’s first international academic travel at BVU. “My experiences in Rwanda will help me bring a particular depth and advanced knowledge to the classroom,” she says. “The courses I teach that critically examine media messages and that focus on the role of media storytelling for justice will be especially benefitted.”  

“I’m guessing that both my teaching and my own personal perspectives will be affected in ways I can’t even imagine,” adds Claiborne. “That is part of what makes these trips so powerful.”