This post serves as my final academic-oriented reflection from South Africa. Yesterday, I submitted my internship materials to my advisor, Dr. Maureen Wilson. Similar to my time in Bowling Green, I crossed one item off of my list and moved onto the next. No time for celebration. I hope to treat you to a few travel-oriented posts before I depart in two weeks on August 07.
Back in May, I outlined five learning outcomes that I hoped to achieve during my two-month experience. Allow me to share with you my reflections on the progress that I made.
First, I sought to understand how history, politics, social justice, and culture shaped higher education in the context of South Africa and UWC. Out of my five learning outcomes, I made the most amount of progress on this outcome. My experiences related to my internship and my directed reading resulted in a much better understanding of how South Africa’s past influenced the post-apartheid era and the country’s institutions of higher education. As part of my internship, I accompanied a group of students in the Advanced Leaders Programme on tours of the District 6 Museum, the Cape Town Holocaust Centre, and the UWC Mayibuye Archives. I paired these visits with an event during Mandela Week that featured a former prisoner on Robben Island. With respect to my directed reading, I informed myself about South Africa’s history through the lens of Mandela (1994) and Thompson (2014). I also explored Lalu and Murray’s (2013) history of the University of the Western Cape, Fiske and Ladd’s (2004) analysis of post-apartheid educational reform, and a mélange of governmental documents and articles on community engagement and service-learning policies since 1994.
Second, I wanted to apply the learning that took place in my first year of the higher education administration doctoral program to my work in LSR. The perspectives that I gained in my first year at BGSU informed my experiences. My initial blog posts, for example, focused on the organization of the Centre for Student Support Services, under which LSR is housed. My research on community engagement in Advanced Quantitative Methods and Comparative Higher Education provided me with a solid foundation of knowledge on the topic in the context of South Africa. The critical analyses of postsecondary students in the United States made me more mindful of the experiences of students at a historically black university. At the same time, I found it challenging to apply myself as a dangerous administrator since I was just a short-term intern in LSR. I occasionally found myself being less assertive that I typically am because I did not want to present myself as too aggressive or culturally insensitive.
Third, I aimed to gain clarity on how higher education professionals at UWC and other South African institutions defined service-learning, which is a theme that I explored in my Comparative Higher Education course. Regrettably, I did not make as much progress on this learning outcome as I had hoped. Despite UWC’s close proximity to the University of Cape Town and Stellenbosch University, I did not connect with practitioners at either campus to conduct site visits. Fortunately, I had several opportunities in LSR to gain insight into community engagement in the context of a South African university. In addition to visits to community partners, I met with the Director of Community Engagement at UWC. I was able to make connections between these experiences and my research on community engagement and service-learning in post-apartheid South Africa.
Fourth, I intended on building a network of colleagues and friends in South Africa. By working in an office with hospitable, friendly, and positive colleagues, I achieved this learning outcome. I feel confident that if I wanted to collect data for my dissertation at the University of the Western Cape, my friends in LSR would assist me. The only shortcoming of this learning outcome is that my network of colleagues and friends does not extend far beyond the campus of UWC. Although I made connections with community partners, I would have liked to establish relationships with more higher education professionals throughout the country.
My fifth goal was to gain knowledge that I could integrate into my scholarly work at BGSU and into my future professional endeavors. As I make my preparations to return to BGSU, I feel reenergized. I am excited by and passionate about my research on community engagement and service-learning in post-apartheid South Africa. I would like to continue my research and explore dissertation topics that relate to this theme. Although I do not know in which direction my fall semester courses will take me, I welcome opportunities to integrate my new knowledge into my three courses: Law in Higher Education, Social and Cultural Foundations of Education, and Qualitative Research in Higher Education.
Fiske, E., & Ladd, H. (2004). Elusive equity: Education reform in post-apartheid South Africa. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.
Lalu, P., & Murray, N. (Eds.) (2013). Becoming UWC: Reflections, pathways and unmaking apartheid’s legacy. Cape Town, South Africa: University of the Western Cape Centre for Humanities Research.
Mandela, N. (1995). Long walk to freedom. Boston, MA: Back Bay Books.
Thompson, L. (2014). A history of South Africa (4th edition). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.