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NYU Abu Dhabi Political Science Instructor Jonathan Rogers Is Finding Culturally Sensitive Ways to Study Social Behavior in the Middle East

Designing meaningful experiments is a familiar challenge for scientists. In the fast-growing field of experimental social science, however, researchers may encounter difficulties quite different from those facing white-coated laboratory investigators.

rogersAs a member of NYU Abu Dhabi’s Social Science Experimental Laboratory (SSEL), Jonathan Rogers has been seeking a way around one such constraint. His approach may prove useful for scholars throughout the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and beyond.

Rogers, political science instructor, explained that in social science, “experiments let us study human behavior by stripping interactions down to their basic components.”

For example, classic economic theory suggests that if you have $100 and are free to give some of it away, you’ll give nothing. But when experimental economists ask test subjects to play this “dictator game”, many do donate some money. This suggests that there can be a self-serving reason to donate; in the jargon, generosity gives you a “warm glow”.

Often these games involve risk and reward. In the Bomb Risk Elicitation Task (BRET) you face a grid of 100 boxes; each one you open pays $1, but one contains a “bomb” – if you open that one, you lose everything and the game ends. How many boxes would you open before you quit?

Other experiments are less simple. “If we want to study cooperation,” Rogers said, “we can put subjects in a situation where they only have the choice to either cooperate or not. Then we can change one aspect of the game and if we see different behavior, we can infer that the change caused that difference.”

Many games test risk tolerance: are people more likely to enter a lottery if the chance of winning is high but the prize is small, or vice versa?

Jonathan Rogers is working in Abu Dhabi to come up with ways to study social behaviors that are respectful of religious beliefs. Phillip Cheung / NYUAD

Jonathan Rogers is working in Abu Dhabi to come up with ways to study social behaviors that are respectful of religious beliefs. Phillip Cheung / NYUAD

Such “risk elicitation mechanisms” are often “incentivized” – that is, test subjects can keep the small sums they may win. In other words, some games often involve gambling; others involve interest payments. This creates a problem for researchers in the MENA region: gambling and interest are both prohibited for Muslims.

In a paper now under review for publication Rogers tests a potential way around this difficulty: What if the reward goes to charity?

In 2014-15, 40 NYUAD student volunteers played the BRET game twice each, while 69 others played BRET and another game once each. Each student kept the winnings from one game; proceeds of the other were given by pre-arrangement to Operation Smile, a charity subsidizing surgery for children with facial deformities. Winnings averaged about AED 57, or $15.50 USD.

The results were clear: “Subject behavior under the two conditions is almost identical” Rogers’s paper reports. That’s good news, because it appears to mean that research done on this basis, among Islamic populations, can give useful results. “We still need to repeat this experiment with other subject pools, in different countries, and with different types of charities,” Rogers said. But this is a first step.

SSEL members, Rogers said, hope to “attract researchers who want to conduct studies in MENA countries … Academics want to study refugees, revolutionaries, people in developing countries, and attitudes toward extremist groups, but some of the tools that are considered standard in the West can come into conflict with cultures and norms in the places where these people live. If researchers break local customs, people may refuse to participate.”

“(But) If charitable incentives become accepted as an alternative for payments in risk experiments, maybe we can find a similar workaround for experiments about things like interest on investments.”

By Brian Kappler for NYUAD Public Affairs

This post originally appeared on the NYU Abu Dhabi Salaam blog and is available here.

NYU Washington, DC Salon Series Holds A Conversation with Mehdi Ghadyanloo

mehdiOn October 20, NYU Washington, DC welcomed Iranian muralist, Mehdi Ghadyanloo, in conversation with Andy Shallal, Iraqi-American activist and owner of Busboys and Poets.

The NYU Washington, DC Salon Series: Conversations with Writers & Artists offers an opportunity for the NYU and Washington, DC community to meet and engage in dialogue with acclaimed writers and artists as they reflect on their craft. This program provides facilitated conversations that aim to illuminate the guests’ creative processes, discuss their current works, and explain the impact of their work on the world around us.

medhi2Mehdi Ghadyanloo is a visual artist from Tehran, Iran. Born in Karaj, Iran in 1981, Ghadyanloo worked as a farmer before moving to Tehran in 1999 to study Painting at the University of Tehran’s faculty of Fine Arts. After studying painting for three years, Ghadyanloo went on to study for an MA in Animation at Tarbiat Modares University.

Combining these two disciplines with his own unique style, Ghadyanloo went on to become one of the most famous mural painters in Iran, painting more than 100 wall murals in Tehran.

Growing up during the Iran-Iraq war, Ghadyanloo remembers the conflict as a ubiquituous feature of his childhood; hard years in which he recalls following war news on the television, waiting in long lines for fuel and bread. As Ghadyanloo says, he felt the war was an important part of his generation, leaving a lasting impact on people’s lives and minds.

For the past eight years, Ghadyanloo has been involved in the Municipality of Tehran’s Beautification Scheme, a committee set up to help promote mural art in the city. A growing megalopolis, Tehran is an architectural mishmash in which semi modern and classical buildings sit side by side, often faced with widely varying materials from concrete to aluminium. Interestingly, many high-rises and office buildings in the city have only one facade, with the other three left blank and grey. Practical demands mean that windows are often only installed on one side of the building, creating the perfect environment for large scale inner city murals of the type Ghadyanloo specialises in.

For Ghadyanloo, the purpose of public art is to ‘beautify’ his grey and polluted city. Using bright colours on a hyper-real scale, he creates escapist, surreal dreamscapes that form part of his own fictional endless story. His imagery portrays impossible scenes and gravity defying figures from radically altered perspectives. Through the use of optical illusion, Ghadyanloo bends reality, creating works that make people stop in their tracks.

His work is greatly influenced by Surrealism and Symbolism, combined with Persian figures and Iranian architecture. Using dreamy and playful motifs, Ghadyanloo aims to create his own utopia on the walls of his city. When designing a wall, Ghadyanloo carefully studies the people, culture and background of each area. Each mural reflects its surroundings, manipulating everyday life to transform the visual landscape of contemporary Tehran. Foregoing political commentary, Ghadyanloo is more interested in communication, and the dreams and imagination that people all over the world share.

Alongside his artistic career, Ghadyanloo teaches Urban Art and Mural Painting at Soore Art University, Tehran.

In February 2015 Howard Griffin Gallery London staged Ghadyanloo’s first solo exhibition at the Gallery entitled Perception.

Later this year Howard Griffin Gallery Los Angeles will stage Mehdi Ghadaynloo’s second solo exhibition.

anasAnas “Andy” Shallal is an Iraqi American activist, artist and social entrepreneur. He is the founder and proprietor of Busboys and Poets, an activism center and café in Washington DC, which features prominent speakers and authors and provides a venue for social and political activism.

Since its inception, Busboys and Poets has become the most blogged about restaurant and gathering place in Washington DC and has become an incubator for activism and social change. Andy Shallal is a member of the board of trustees for The Institute for Policy Studies, a liberal think tank. He also sits on several arts and philanthropic boards, including The Washington Peace Center, The Institute of Conflict Analysis and Resolution at GMU, DC Vote, Think Local First, Social Venture Network, The National Arab American Museum and Split This Rock Poetry Festival.

He has been a featured speaker at several conferences and panels that deal with Iraqi as well as Israeli-Palestinian issues. He is the founder of Iraqi Americans for Peaceful Alternatives which was an ad hoc group formed prior to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The group was instrumental in speaking out about the detrimental impact of war on ordinary Iraqis and sought to find more peaceful alternatives to change Iraq’s regime. He has appeared on major television and radio shows including CNN, MSNBC, Fox, The News Hour, NPR, and Pacifica. He has been published in various major newspapers and journals, including the Washington Post, NY Times and Christian Science Monitor. Andy Shallal is also the co founder of The Peace Cafe which promotes Arab and Jewish dialogue and improved understanding. Since its inception in 2000, the Peace Café has become the largest Arab Jewish dialogue group in the Washington metropolitan area with over 900 members. Anas Shallal has worked with the Seeds of Peace program which brings Arab and Israeli youth from the region to the United States during the summer to learn how to co exist. Andy Shallal also speaks extensively on social entrepreneurship and sustainability.

As an artist Andy Shallal has worked with a variety of materials. His most recent work is political collage. His murals have been featured in many publications including the Washington Post and are displayed at Busboys and Poets, The Institute for Policy Studies and DC Vote. He is a graduate of The Catholic University of America and attended Howard University Medical School before dropping out to pursue his entrepreneurial dream. He has received numerous human rights and peace awards and is proud to be doing his part to make living on earth a bit more bearable. Founder, Iraqi Americans for Peaceful Alternatives Co-founder, The Peace Cafe Peace Fellow, Seeds of Peace Founder, Mesopotamia Cultural Society Spokesman, Education for Peace in Iraq Center Advisory Board, International Occupation Watch Center Board of Trustees Chair, Abraham’s Vision National Advisory Board, Arab American National Museum.

NYU Prague Students Volunteer at one of the Czech Republic’s Largest Organic Farms

14324382_10155215214323502_7024100913179693587_o 14324294_10155215223728502_3551389952786649951_oA group of NYU Prague students spent a weekend volunteering to harvest vegetables for one of the Czech Republic’s largest organic farms, Svobodný statek na soutoku, o.p.s., during the first autumn weekend and had a wonderful weather. The group of eleven volunteers helped with picking grown pumpkins and beets, cutting the leaves of onions, creating new compost and other tasks. They also participating in planting new crops and fertilizing the fields. It was hard work but great fun.

In Conversation with NYU Shanghai’s new Dean of Arts and Sciences Maria E. Montoya

montoya_9401Maria E. Montoya has been NYU Shanghai’s new Dean of Arts and Sciences since June. As a tenured member of NYU’s history faculty for almost a decade, Montoya also knows NYU Shanghai well, after teaching at the campus as an affiliated professor during the 2014-15 academic year. Author of forthcoming U.S. history textbook, Global Americans: A History of the United States, Montoya is also an expert on the development of the American West, and the history of workers, women and ethnic minorities.

We sat down with the new dean and talked challenges of the Arts and Sciences, what a Global American looks like, and why it’s important for students to have a global perspective.

Q: What Impact Do You Want To Make As NYU Shanghai’s New Dean For The Arts And Sciences?

A creative impact. Things are much more flexible here in the way that we think about classes and the way we think about majors and areas of concentration. It’s exciting to be at a place like this–a hybrid of an American university, and I think a lot about how students are interacting academically in the classroom.

The challenge is getting a handle on some of the fields I’m not as familiar with, but it’s a rewarding process. There are a lot of moving parts in this place–so just figuring out how everything works together part of the exciting challenge.

Q: What Is Unique About NYU Shanghai’s Arts And Sciences Program?

The most unique thing is its diversity in the classroom. You’re able to have these cross-cultural conversations that you could never really have in a U.S.-based classroom. Things that you take for granted in a U.S. classroom you just can’t take for granted here. Those who teach here and choose to be a student here agree to engage in figuring out what it means to live in this place now and for the future. The classroom is peppered with so many different perspectives. It’s an amazing thing to watch how students broaden their own views. “Oh that’s interesting,” they’ll say. “ I never saw it that way. I’ve only learned about it in this particular way.”

Q: You Recently Authored The Textbook Global Americans And Are An Expert In The History Of The American West And Labor And Latina/O History. Did That Help You Bring A Global Perspective To The Curriculum Here?

Doing the Global Americans textbook really helped. U.S. history has always tended to be very focused inward. The project took us about 10 years to write, think about and put all together. When you think about American history from a global perspective, when you think about all the people who come to America and how Americans themselves are out and about since the 15 century, it just reshapes the way you see and think about presenting American history.

One thing the textbook does differently is that it’s entire first chapter has no Europeans in it. It’s all about native peoples and it takes seriously the notion that North Americans were the native people, and they had really complex societies and complex trade relationships–a whole world existing before European contact. You don’t assume that 1776 is going to come and the nation will emerge, but in fact this was a contest of empires and a contest of cultures. If you just switch the perspective a little bit, it becomes a really complex, interesting story. It’s not just about Thanksgiving. It really looks at all of North America and not just the East Coast.

Q:  Why Is It Important For Students Today To Have A Global Perspective Of History?

Everybody lives in a global world whether they know it or not. Think about the U.S. politics right now– it’s so much about politics of fear and politics of the unknown. Through the book I want to show students ‘You know what, America has always been globally connected, whether you believe that or not.’ Look back to the 15 and 16 century–there were always these connections, these trade networks, there were people migrating. People have always had to reassess and reevaluate with each other–and somewhere we got really afraid of that, but that’s actually what the U.S. is built on, different peoples  in constant interaction with each other. Of course that doesn’t mean it’s always easy or painless and in fact it can be really violent and difficult, but as a nation you get through that. You figure out how to absorb the next group of people, whether they are Mexicans or Asians, all of these different groups of people have their own stake of what it means to be an American.

This post comes to us from NYU Shanghai and originally appeared here.

NYU Abu Dhabi Professor Shafer Smith Discusses How Oceans Are Helping Us Predict Future Weather

1473236060970Shafer Smith and other scientists at NYU Abu Dhabi’s Center for Prototype Climate Modeling are developing sophisticated computer models to help improve climate prediction and bring more certainty to what the Earth’s weather will look like in the future. Smith, associate professor of mathematics, focuses on variables in our oceans and the significant role that oceans play in global climate change.

You study the ocean. But what is it about the ocean that you study?

My current work is focused on eddies and vortices in the ocean. These are a lot like storms in the atmosphere. A storm in the atmosphere may be 1000 kilometers across, while a vortex in the ocean may be 100 kilometers across. So they’re about 10 times smaller.

Vortices that can be seen from space are one part of a wide spectrum of turbulent structures that make the ocean a much more dynamic, exotic place than the common conception of the ocean as a dark, still abyss.

What do these vortices in the ocean do?

Vortices play a key role in communicating between the atmosphere and the ocean and in transporting properties like nutrients and oxygen throughout the ocean.

I’ve also started working on something similar to vortices called filaments, which are finer scale. Like vortices, filaments transport heat, salt, and plankton. A recent paper in Science makes an analogy between filaments in the ocean and the alveoli in your lungs, which transport oxygen from inhaled air to your blood.

In terms of location, I’m interested in the transport of oxygen in the Arabian Sea. The Arabian Sea is a fascinating environment for this because it’s the site of the ocean’s largest oxygen minimum zone.

There is a region between 400 meters depth and 1200 meters depth where the level of oxygen is so low that it can’t support life.

Sorry. So there is oxygen in the ocean? How does that happen?

Of course. At the surface of the ocean, light penetrates the ocean to about 100 meters. And every spring in the northern and southern hemispheres when the light gets a bit deeper, and turbulence from winter mixing gets lower, the upper layer of the ocean gets shallower and there’s lots of nutrients from mixing over the winter.

All of a sudden the light and nutrients bring about a phytoplankton bloom that grows cataclysmically all over.

These phytoplankton photosynthesize, converting light and carbon dioxide into oxygen and sugars and releasing them into the ocean. In fact, the oxygen that’s produced by the ocean’s phytoplankton gives us 50 to 80 percent of the oxygen on Earth.

All that organic matter in the upper 100 meters grows for a while and zooplankton eat the phytoplankton. But the zooplankton die and fall into the dark ocean and get consumed by bacteria.

Bacteria require oxygen for that consumption, so the more stuff that falls down from the upper layers, the more bacterial activity, and more bacterial activity, the less oxygen at depth.

The only way oxygen can get back into the lower levels of the ocean is a counterbalancing effect. In the upper layer of the ocean, oxygen in the atmosphere mixes with the ocean. And the parts of the ocean that communicate easily with the deep ocean are able to take that oxygen from the surface layers and replenish the oxygen at depth.

In the North Atlantic for example, if you think of the ocean as a series of stacked layers, there’s very dense water at depth, and warm layers at the top, but these layers aren’t flat — they’re curved. Towards the poles these curved surfaces intersect with the surfaces of the ocean, which helps them mix.

But the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea are special because they are blocked by the Asian continent in the north, so these lower levels of water can’t get back up to the surface. Only the upper few hundred meters have their oxygen replenished.

The average age of water below 400 meters in the Indian ocean is about 30 years. It’s only fine scale eddies and long distance transport from the southern ocean that can replenish the oxygen taken up by a huge amount of productivity in the Arabian Sea.

How is climate change affecting the ocean? And how does the ocean play a role in climate change?

About one third of the carbon that’s been put into the atmosphere by fossil fuel burning since the beginning of the industrial age has gone into the ocean. So the ocean has played a huge role in tempering the amount of climate change we would have experienced had it not been there.

Through complicated process, you always have to pay the piper, so the carbon that goes into the ocean is related to the level of ocean acidity, and overall ocean acidity is growing.

The ocean is like an old man workhorse being abused and taking the punishment to help us out on the surface, but it’s paying a price, because oxygen in the ocean is decreasing faster than we expected and the acidity is rising, meaning that it’s becoming a more hostile environment for sea life.

One hundred twenty-five million people on the Indian subcontinent and in Africa rely on fish from the Arabian Sea. And the amount of sea life is related to how much oxygen there is at depth and also to the acidity.

What do you hope to accomplish with your work at NYUAD?

We’ve got the opportunity to make a big impact. We’ve been offered a great resource and opportunity that bridges the gap between smaller-scale academic work and large-scale climate modeling centers. Most of our work is on the development of highly theoretical algorithms that go into climate models.

In between that small scale academic activity and the large scale operational activity of building and running climate models is a whole spectrum of opportunity where we can contribute.

For example, one thing we’d like to come up with is a model for how clouds form and to make an algorithm that’s fast and can work in a big climate model.

And what we’re doing here is trying to bridge that gap between theoretical developments and operational models.

The long term goal is to make these models work a little bit better, and that’s something that would be very difficult to do without the kind of research that’s been offered here.


This post originally appeared on NYU Abu Dhabi’s Salaam blog and is available here.

NYU Sydney Lecturer Fran Molloy Discusses Peer and Self-Assessment in Environmental Journalism

photo-faculty-fran-molloyFran Molloy is an experienced Australian freelance journalist, editor and educator whose work is regularly published in The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, ABC Health and Science Online, G Magazine, Medical Observer and many other Australian and international outlets. Such international outlets include the South China Morning Post, UK Overseas, Whole Life Times in the US and South Africa’s Business Day. Her writing specialties include environment, science, health and technology and she is also a part-time academic who has taught journalism over the last decade at several Australian universities: University of Technology, Sydney; University of NSW and Southern Cross University, Lismore. She teaches a course on Environmental Journalism at NYU Sydney.


Peer and Self-Assessment in Environmental Journalism in Sydney

Assessment is, of course, a critical part of academic learning. It can also be a thorny one: I’m sure I am not alone in wondering if I’m using the best methods to assess those critical learning outcomes I expect for my class.

Environmental Journalism students visit NSW Parliament House - with Mark Eels (left) and Fran Molloy (right)

Environmental Journalism students visit NSW Parliament House – with Mark Eels (left) and Fran Molloy (right)

At the NYU Sydney global campus, I’ve found our regular Faculty meetings not just a great source of shared knowledge but also a cross-disciplinary delight.

The size of NYU’s global campuses may be viewed by some as a drawback; but I have consistently found Sydney’s compact campus a big advantage, exposing all of us to a great range of pedagogies and systems.

Here, chemistry lecturers share their teaching methods with anthropologists, media studies and psychology teachers swap notes on student engagement and finance and drama professors discuss ways to manage grade expectations.

After talking about peer assessment with an NYU Sydney economics tutor and historian, and about computer-based assessment with a biology professor, last semester I introduced a new assessment method for an existing assessment task.

NYU Sydney Environmental Journalism students on the Sydney Harbour foreshore, walking through protected bushland

NYU Sydney Environmental Journalism students on the Sydney Harbour foreshore, walking through protected bushland

In the Environmental Journalism course at NYU Sydney, students must present to their classmates a round-up of the past weeks’ environment news and then, must analyse one news article in-depth, involving the class in a critique of their chosen piece. The assessment continues throughout the semester and I find it helps students recognise and evaluate various aspects of journalistic writing.

This is a clearly-defined assessment task, with outcomes that are transparent and immediately apparent to the whole class.

For this reason, I’ve found that this task very well-suited to peer and self-assessment.

To grade each presentation, I used a Google Form, with a clear rubric embedded, which I generate for each presenter. At the start of each class, I email the appropriate form to each student (including the presenter). Immediately following the presentation, students assess the presenter – most complete the form via their smartphone. They grade four aspects of the news roundup (succinct summary, context and publication details given, overall quality) and four aspects of the media analysis (appropriate story selection, summarising story quality, discussion and critical analysis).

Students use a 5‐point Likert scale, which McAlpine (2006) found a useful method for peer assessment of a presentation. Google Forms feeds their responses into a Google Sheets document, and it’s easy to then derive an average mark (which includes the student’s own self-assessment).

Gielen et al (2011) noted that peer assessment can encourage the active participation of students in the classroom. That was certainly an effect I noticed.

I believe that the knowledge that they would shortly assess their fellow student heightened students’ attention spans; they were invested in the delivery of the presentation because they would be partly responsible for its outcome.

Searby and Ewers (1997) and Somervell (1993) also posit that shifting responsibility for assessment from the teacher to the student can lead to a greater democracy within the classroom.

NYU Sydney Environmental Journalism students at Taronga Wharf overlooking Sydney Harbour

NYU Sydney Environmental Journalism students at Taronga Wharf overlooking Sydney Harbour

Small classes and a more relaxed Australian academic culture do mean that classrooms here tend to the informal, so I am not sure if that’s an effect I can easily judge.

But for me, there has been another interesting outcome: students who perform an assessment task which will be peer-reviewed adhere far more closely to assessment criteria than they do for other tasks that are not peer-reviewed.

I also found that there was remarkable consensus in the grade that students awarded presenters. Perhaps in itself, this consensus indicates a more democratic classroom environment.

And finally – now that the assessment responsibility can be shared, I find that my own enjoyment of my students’ presentations has increased substantially.



Gielen, Sarah et al. “Goals Of Peer Assessment And Their Associated Quality Concepts”. Studies in Higher Education 36.6 (2011): 719-735. DOI: 10.1080/03075071003759037

MacAlpine, J. M. K. “Improving And Encouraging Peer Assessment Of Student Presentations”. CAEH 24.1 (1999): 15-25. Web.

Searby, Mike and Tim Ewers. “An Evaluation Of The Use Of Peer Assessment In Higher Education: A Case Study In The School Of Music, Kingston University”. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 22.4 (1997): 371-383. Web.

Somervell, Hugh. “Issues In Assessment, Enterprise And Higher Education: The Case For Self‐Peer And Collaborative Assessment”. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 18.3 (1993): 221-233. Web.

NYU Florence Hosted Anita Raja, Likely Identified as Famous Author Elena Ferrante, in 2015

ferrante-booksThe literary world was taken by storm in early October, when an Italian journalist “identified” the writer behind the highly successful Italian author Elena Ferrante. Elena Ferrante is a pseudonym and her identity has been a source of great speculation, especially as her books have become international sensations.

The woman identified as Ms. Ferrante, Italian translator Anita Raja, gave a talk at NYU Florence last year. A photo from that talk was used by the New York Times in the paper’s story.

Anita Raja speaking at NYU Florence

Anita Raja speaking at NYU Florence

Anita Raja was invited to NYU Florence by Italian Studies Professor Rebecca Falkoff, who had earlier published an essay in which she stated she was convinced that Raja is Ferrante. Raja was invited as part of the Graduate Lecture Series at NYU Florence. Raja’s talk was focused on her work as a translator.

In Conversation with Dr. Mattia Gilmartin, Director of GNLP

Mattia_GilmartinToday we are in conversation with Dr. Mattia Gilmartin Phd, RN, Program Director, Ghanaian Nurse Leaders Program, NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing.

As a Senior Research Scientist and the Director for the Center for Continuing Nursing Education, I understand that you oversee the College of Nursing’s portfolio of continuing education programs for practicing nurses in addition to focusing on bridging the worlds of research and practice in order to design and teach leadership and organizational development programs for nursing and general management audiences. How did you come to work in this field and come to NYU?

My education and experience is focused on executive education for clinician managers and I have an academic background in organizations and leadership. I was recruited to NYU in 2011 to work on a portfolio of projects including directing the College’s Center for continuing nursing education.

You have been described as “a thought leader in the areas of organizational change and health system effectiveness” and have experience working in various countries. How does your background inform your approach at NYU?

The design for the Ghanaian Nurse Leaders Program (GNLP) program draws on my prior experience with designing and implementing leadership programs for clinician managers. The program draws on a number of evidence-based practices to develop leadership capabilities and skills. My prior work in continental Europe has given me a greater appreciation for the challenges that healthcare leaders face and the range of innovative solutions that exist to solve common problems. Additionally, I came into the GNLP with an understanding of the British professional nursing model that is used in Ghana.

I understand that you are the director of the Ghanaian Nurse Leader Program (GNLP) at the College of Nursing, part of Ghana Wins!, which aims to advance participants’ access to evidence-based science and training in leadership and performance improvement. Can you describe how the vision for GNLP developed?

The goal of the Ghanaian Nurse Leaders Program was to improve the management effectiveness of mid-level nurse managers working in the Ghana Health Service. Nurse managers play an important part in organizational performance and quality improvement. In many instances, skilled clinicians rise through the ranks into management and leadership roles, yet they may not have formal education or training on how to be effective managers. It was with that insight in mind, that we set out to develop the GNLP. The GNLP examines leadership at the levels of the self (know yourself as a leader), be a leader of teams, and a leader of organizational change. The basic design for the GNLP was drawn from my prior experience with developing leadership programs for clinician managers. An important component of the GNLP is a 12 month action-learning change project. The participants/nurse managers designed and implemented a change project on their units. Projects focused on foundations for quality like documentation systems or physical assessment skills; improving hand-washing rates; to nurse-led family planning clinics. The change projects developed participants skills in change management and quality improvement/tracking skills. Projects were mentored by faculty at the University of Ghana School of Nursing and the NYU Meyers College of Nursing.

The Ghanaian Nurse Leaders Program began in 2013 and we just completed phase 1 in the summer of 2016. Thirty nurse managers and three faculty from the University of Ghana School of Nursing participated in the program. Our partners in the program include Professor Ernestina Donkor, Dean University of Ghana, School of Nursing and Mrs. Patricia Avadu, Program Coordinator, U of G, School of Nursing; George Kumi Kheremeh, Chief Nursing Officer and Mrs. Eva Mensah Program Liaison, Ghana Ministry of Health, Nursing and Midwifery Directorate. And at NYU, Dr. Yvonne Wesley served with me as the program co-director from 2013-2015 and more recently Dr. Robin Toft Klar has served as the program co-director and faculty lead. GNLP offers cohort-based programming for Ghanaian nurses at the College, involving mentoring, seminars, and tours of  labs, and clinical care sites.

What kinds of goals do program participants and organizers have? How does the programming help participants realize their goals?

A central feature of the GNLP is a mentored, nursing practice change project. Each participant was coached/mentored by a faculty member from the University of Ghana, School of Nursing and a faculty member at the NYU Meyers College of Nursing. The faculty contributed their expertise in both clinical care and best practices in organizational change. The GNLP is a year long leadership development program with two weeks of in-person leadership development and a year-long change project. The first week of the program takes place in Accra at the University of Ghana, Legon and the second week at the NYU Meyers College of Nursing, in NYC. The generous support from the Women for Africa Foundation (Mujeres por Africa) and Banco Santander, made the week in NYC a reality.

A second unique feature of the GNLP was a Nurse Manager Shadowing program created in collaboration with the nursing management team at Harlem Hospital Center, that is part of the Health and Hospital system, one of the US largest public hospital systems. Many of the nurse managers at Harlem Hospital Center are of Ghanaian descent or African, so we had a unique opportunity to capitalize on cultural similarities and create a learning opportunity to compare and contrast the nursing management practices in the US and Ghana.

NYU-Ghana-Nurses_NYU-Photo-Bureau-Creighton-1024x681Who are the GNLP participants? Is it a mix of experienced nurse managers and less experienced nurses? Do they come from public or private hospitals or both?

The GNLP is designed for mid-level nurse managers working in the Ghana Health Service. Thus, those in public hospitals only. Participants are identified through the regional nursing hierarchy as high potential leaders. The 30 nurse managers selected for the program have been in a management role for at least 5 years and must have 15 career years left in their careers in the health service.

Do you maintain contact with participants after the completion of the program?

Yes we have created a “ What’s Up” app platform for the program where the alumna and faculty can connect and maintain their network. The program is designed in three cohorts and we gathered all of the participants in June of each year in Accra. This design feature served to connect the cohorts to share learning and best practices. We have also built strong relationships with our colleagues at the University of Ghana, School of Nursing, NYU Accra and the Ministry of Health Nursing and Midwifery Directorate. And we get an occasional Christmas or Easter card from the participants, which is really wonderful.

What have been some of the best examples of change or growth that you have seen as a result of GNLP?

Many of the change projects delivered improvements in nursing practice or expanded access to quality care in the participants units. I think that all of the participants have grown or learned something about themselves, their leadership styles and their plans for their careers as a result of participating in the GNLP. Over the last three years, many of the participants have received promotions, advanced their education, were invited to participate on regional advisory boards, joined a professional nursing association or were selected to serve as leaders in professional organizations.

Two participants from Cohort 1 stand out in my mind. They are Bernice Mensah and Mavis Torgbor. Ms. Mensah and Ms. Torgbor worked on a project to introduce standardized nurse charting across a large percentage of the nursing units at Korle Bu Hospitals, the largest teaching hospital in West Africa. Based on the success of this project, Ms. Mensah and Ms. Torgbor were selected as members of the founding leadership team for the new teaching hospital at the University of Ghana that opened in September 2016.

Although this is a grand example of the career successes of the GNLP participants, I think that the overall experience and opportunity will have lasting effects both for the individual nurses and for the units that they managed because of the connections to the international nursing literature and best practices we were able to share and discuss throughout the program.

Do you think this program is replicable elsewhere in the world? Or is Ghana especially suited to this type of program?

Ghana was particularly well suited for this program because a number key factors that led to our success. First is the strong partnership that we developed across the Ghana Wins programs to share program designs and best practices, including our partnership with the Banco Santander and Mujeres por Africa teams. Second, the excellent team at NYU Accra under the leadership of Professor Akosua Anyidoho, played a key and invaluable part in supporting program logistics. Third, our nursing partners in Ghana were deeply committed to the success of this program. Nursing in Ghana is undergoing a transformation as more nurses gain bachelor’s degrees and the Health Service develops expertise in clinical quality improvement and population health. A strong nursing management workforce is key to achieving clinical outcomes.

I think that nurse manager leadership development programs can be replicated in other parts of Africa. We learned a lot about nursing practice, the realities and ingenuity that comes with working in a resource-constrained environment, and the ways that the US model of nursing management is similar to and different from the Ghanaian model of nursing management.

Is there anything else you want to share about this program, Ghana Wins!,or working in Ghana?

Working on this program was an awesome experience. I have enjoyed learning more about a new healthcare system and the challenges and opportunities for nurses. I also cherish the professional and personal connections that have emerged throughout the 4 years of the program here in New York and in Accra.

In Conversation with Amparo Hofmann-Pinilla, Director of GWSLP

AmparoHofmannPinillaAs a director of the Ghanaian Women’s Social Leadership Program (GWSLP) supporting Wagner Leadership in Action at NYU Wagner, how did you come to work in the leadership field and how did you come to Wagner?

I am originally from Colombia, South America, where I studied law and political science. I came to the United States to attend graduate school in the doctoral program in sociology at NYU. I was interested in advancing research that was grounded in the community, participatory, and focused on vulnerable populations.

My first full time job after graduate school was at Alianza Dominicana, a Community Based Organization that provides services to the Latino immigrant in NYC. I directed a Job Readiness Training program for People Living with HIV/AIDS. Later I joined a team from Columbia University School of Public Health as the director of the HATS program, a comprehensive HIV/AIDS research and social service intervention for People living with AIDS at the Harlem Hospital of Columbia University.

My interest in social change and participatory research brought me back to Wagner/NYU in 2002. Wagner obtained support from the Ford Foundation to advance research on social change leadership in the USA. This initiative was the Leadership for a Changing World (LCW) Program. LCW aimed to better understand social change leadership in American communities and change the conversation about leadership in the USA to recognize leadership from grass roots community organizations. We were the research and documentation component of the project. For more than 7 years, using participatory research approach, grounded in organizations and the communities we worked with more than 150 leaders from 92 social change organizations. LCW yielded practical knowledge for academics and practitioners on how social change leadership happens and how organizations and leaders are able to tackle issues, engage others and obtain concrete results as they face serious constraints.

Two years after the implementation of Leadership for a Changing World, the Research Center for Leadership in Action was created at Wagner, with financial support from the Ford Foundation. RCLA mission was to partner with public service leaders, organizations, and scholars across sectors to uncover new thinking about how leadership works. We explored leadership as a collective achievement. As RCLA deputy director, I managed the social change and international areas. I advanced several research, training and evaluation projects that supported women, immigrants, grass roots organizations and leaders in the USA and globally.

img0022I understand that you are the director of the Ghanaian Women’s Social Leadership Program (GWSLP) at Wagner, part of Ghana Wins!, which aims to strengthen the capacity of Ghanaian women as leaders in healthcare, education and civil society. Can you describe how the vision for GWSLP developed?

The interests of the Center in leadership development combined with our interest in working internationally and focusing on women and leadership, made the development of GWSLP a natural progression. We wanted to apply the research we had done to practical leadership programs in areas that needed them. Mujeres for Africa Foundation from Spain developed the idea of starting a program on leadership in Ghana. Believing that women must play a central role in shaping the future of leadership in Africa they proposed Ghana as an ideal location. NYU’s site in Accra was a real asset. In collaboration with Mujeres for Africa, Wagner, the Nursing Department and the Steinhardt School, together we created Ghana Wins! with support from Banco Santander Foundation in 2012. Our aim was to support Ghanaian women working in civil society organizations and in the education and healthcare sectors. The need for these programs in Ghana is immense. Women still suffer terrible discrimination in society and there are very few women in high positions, even in the social change arena.

Wagner’s GWSLP offers a one-year, cohort-based leadership development program for women in mid-level positions in Ghanaian civil society organizations, offering opportunities that better enable participants to realize transformational change in their communities. What kinds of issues are program participants working on? What kinds of programming do you provide to help them realize their goals?

The women who participate in the GWSLP program come from civil society organizations in Ghana that are tackling very serious issues related to social change – lack of reproductive health education and services, lack of education and leadership opportunities for women and child welfare, issues related to public health, including HIV/AIDS, lack of social services, especially for women, and lack of political participation or representation, among other issues. We target middle-level managers, specifically coordinators or managers with a high potential who need a boost so they can aspire to better positions within their organizations and help their organizations achieve their goals. Through leadership trainings, participants learn leadership skills and capabilities, enabling them to become better leaders. The training curriculum incorporates best practices and knowledge from our research from needs assessments and feedback received from women and leaders in Ghana. The GWSL program promotes a sense of collective leadership, focusing on not only in supporting the individual participants but creating opportunities for them to bring that knowledge to their organizations and communities. GWSLP so far has work and graduated two cohorts (each with 15 women who have implemented 30 Action Learning Projects in Ghana) and have recently started a new cohort of 12 women.

Through the program’s leadership development, individualized coaching, and networking opportunities, participants develop the skills and support needed to lead transformational change in their communities and society at large. We challenge the idea that you are born a leader, or that leadership is a heroic or charismatic trade. For us, leadership is not a heroic act, but is a collective endeavor, which results from the capacity to build direction and commitment working with others towards a common goal. We teach that leadership skills can be developed, that anyone can be a leader, and that organizations can better achieve their goals when individuals are empowered.

The program activities are both based on our research and responsive to local needs. We have facilitated evaluation and assessments with women and leaders in Ghana at the start and throughout the program to better understand their specific needs and goals and assess program results. In collaboration with leaders and leadership development providers in Ghana and the USA, we run two leadership development institutes, one in Ghana at the beginning of the program and another one in NYC half way into the program Throughout the year, the participants work with coaches in Ghana to achieve specific leadership goals and advance Action Learning Projects. The coaches meet with the entire cohort of participants once a month, which is an opportunity for participants to connect, share challenges and successes, and learn from one another. The coaches are also regularly in contact with individuals between these monthly meetings. There is a fairly seamless flow of information with the participants, coaches and NYU.

The flow of information and support will improve this year with our third cohort as we introduce new communications platforms to better enable direct contact between participants and NYU and build a strong network with the GWSLP alumni, collaborators and key stakeholders. We have established WhatsApp and Facebook groups, and we are developing a newsletter to highlight successes. We are now determined to advance an alumni network in Ghana and create ways to sustain GWSLP towards the future.

img9984Do GWSLP participants enter the program with a specific project in mind or is the focus more general?

Participants send a proposal for the Action Learning Project (ALP) when they apply. The idea behind the projects is that it should enable them to tackle a critical need in their organizations and communities and apply what they learn through GSWLP in their communities and organizations. We work with participants to refine their projects after they have been accepted to GWSLP, and together with the coaches, we support the ALP’s implementation. We initially did not anticipate that the Action Learning Projects would become so central to the program, but most of the projects not only enable participants to practically apply the ideas and skills they are learning, but they have tackle important needs and produce impressive results in the organizations and communities. Through the projects, participants learn how to develop a theory of change and how to monitor and evaluate results. They learn how to deal with issues of strategy and management as well as deploy skills such as public speaking and team building and management. The constant feedback structure and the collaboration with other GWSLP participants and organizations are also critical to the success of the Action Learning Projects. Participants have undertaken some amazing projects. Many have been sustained after the conclusion of the GSWLP program. We have seen projects become institutionalized and participants successfully obtaining funding to continue their projects, which provides participants with greater self-confidence in addition to practical skills.

Do you maintain contact with participants after the completion of the program?

Yes. We remain in contact with participants from previous cohorts and are now establishing an alumni network so that these women can continue to support one another. This year, we will also have alumni from previous cohorts speak to the new participants as part of the program activities.

One of our graduates, Bashiratu Kumal, recently spoke on behalf of her cohort, highlighting the program’s impact on women’s leadership: “The GWSLP has helped us elevate our leadership,” Bash said “”Because of GWSLP, we are now bold, proactive, and confident. We are ready to continue working together towards building a better Ghana with decisions made by men and women.”

What have been some of the best examples of change or growth that you have seen as a result of GWSLP?

Our evaluations shows that after a year into the program participants learn how to move an idea to action and how to network and collaborate with others in their organizations and communities using a collective leadership approach. Participants increase their public speaking ability, their capacity to reflect and balance work and self-care. They leave with strong project management and evaluation skills, which they learn through the trainings and the ALPs implementation. The GWSLP provides multiple opportunities for participants to get to know themselves, through assessments, reflections and feedback from coaches and peers. As they complete their leadership goals and ALPs they start to see results and they feel a sense of self-efficacy and accomplishment and their self-esteem increases. By the end of the program they realize their potential, their capacity to bring change and produce results with others. They really start to feel and act as leaders.

I understand that you have also researched and worked in Latin America (and of course the United States). Do you think this program is replicable elsewhere in the world? Or is Ghana especially suited to this type of program?

Absolutely! This program can be replicated in Latin America and other parts of the world. I recently had the opportunity to visit Colombia, my country of origin, and travel though different regions in Peru. I found myself dreaming with the idea of implementing a similar leadership program for women in civil society organizations in Colombia and Peru. Women’s inequality and violence against women is an endemic problem in Latin America and other parts of the world. Giving women the opportunity increase leadership skills and to realize their potential would help tremendously to tackle inequality and other systemic issues.

The third cohort of participants in GWSLP is just about to start. What do you see as the future of the program as the number of alumni grows and as it has a greater influence?

In May we held a graduation ceremony for the 2015-2016 cohort. The ceremony also welcomed the third GWSLP cohort—12 Ghanaian women who represent civil organizations advancing human rights, youth leadership development, children rights, accountability and transparency, and women’s and girls’ rights, among other critical issues facing Ghana. As with the previous cohorts, these women will be busy in the coming year. The new participants will attend a week-long leadership development training in October 18-24.   IN the summer they will come to NYC to attend a one-week leadership institute in NYC in the coming summer. After the October training, They will start to implement their Action Learning Projects throughout the year through the support of coaches who accomplished Ghanaian women leaders and feedback and support from our Wagner’s GWSLP team. The new cohort has already written proposals for their ALPs which are very meaningful. We look forward to working with this new fabulous group of Ghana women.

By focusing on an alumni network, we hope to foster lasting connections among all GSWLP participants that will benefit their work on social change in Ghana.

More information about the women participating in the program and their Action Learning Projects can be found on our website (http://wagner.nyu.edu/leadership/ghana). All participant bios are available here.

In Conversation with Grace Nukunu, Participant in GIFTED

DSC_8491Today we are in conversation with Grace Nukunu, a participant from the GIFTED program.

GIFTED, part of the larger Ghana Wins! project, is a professional development program that aims to build capacity in women leaders in education. GIFTED began in June 2013 and is a partnership between New York University, University of Minnesota, the University of Education Winneba, and Mujeres for Africa, sponsored by Banco Santander.

GIFTED’s mission is to strengthen the leadership capacity and visibility of female educators as leaders within the Ghanaian education system. In doing this, GIFTED Fellows are better positioned to produce a systemic change in the local schools and at the regional education office level. The GIFTED curriculum seeks to provide these leadership skills so that GIFTED Fellows can actively participate in the decision-making processes, act as role models for other women and girls, and mentor other women.

GIFTED provides professional development, on-going support, and leadership training to cohorts of 12 women educators. Teachers who are selected for this program participate in a year-long transformational leadership curriculum and they develop and implement action projects that support education outcomes in their schools.

Can you tell me about your background? Where are you from, what lead you to teaching, and what do you teach?

I hail from the Volta region of Ghana and am the youngest of four. I now have two children of my own with my husband Johny. I have always had a passion for teaching, starting when I was little. I find great personal satisfaction and comfort in teaching and enjoy being able to share what I have learned with people and having an impact. I now teach home economics and social studies at the New Winneba Junior High School located in the Effutu municipality of Winneba.

IMG_7393How did you first hear about the GIFTED program and why were you interested in participating?

I first heard about the GIFTED program from my headmistress who was looking for a partner to attend a workshop when the program was introduced to our municipality. I was interested because the program focuses on women and girls. I am a strong feminist and have a passion for programs concerning girls.

Can you describe your project to me? How did you come up with it? What were or are you hoping to achieve?

Our project is basically about bringing girls of school-going age to school from and around the community in which the school is situated by using cultural performance – music and dance. We came up with this when we realized that girls in and around the school community were seen hawking goods and selling things nearby when school was in progress. Though many attempts were made to convince both parents and girls about the importance of learning, they proved futile. Parents preferred that their girls sell things to make money or take care of the family rather than go to school. Particularly the elders believe that the right place for girls is to be home, cooking and taking care of the home.

Therefore, when GIFTED was introduced, we picked cultural performance (music and dance) as a means to entice these girls to school. Basically our goal was to bring all girls in and around the community and even beyond to school. Also, we had a vision of girls outnumbering boys in the community school. We also had the dream of empowering girls in terms of academic performance as well as standing up for themselves when the need arises. We wanted to boost their confidence level.

What do you personally gained from the GIFTED experience and how has it influenced you?

The GIFTED experience has been absolutely amazing. Aside from working with knowledgeable and kind hearted people from NYU, I have come into contact with my colleagues from the same municipality who I was not very close to previously. We have become a big GIFTED family. Furthermore, I have: acquired great leadership skills from the NYU team; gained confidence in my dealings with people; become acquainted with a lot of people; gained exposure (traveling to NYU); gained so much passion for the education of girls or anything that concerns the welfare of girls.

IMG_7716I understand that you created and then have been able to maintain the Girls of Difference Club and that it has increased girls enrollment in your school 130%. Is that correct? What does the club involve? Beyond increasing enrollment, how else has it been empowering for the girls in your school?

The group Girls of Difference was created by Martha, my headmistress, and I. It started in June 2013 with 56 girls and grew steadily. As of June 2016 there are 186 girls and counting. This increase did not happen overnight. It has been a gradual process, involving lots of dedication and great moral and financial support from the NYU team, the University of Education, Winneba team, and the GIFTED family.

The club meets twice weekly after school to either learn new songs and dances or rehearse the old ones. Lately we have shifted from cultural dance to contemporary music and dance. This has set the school ablaze. The fever is just too much to handle. The club also does reading literacy on one of the meeting days. We focus then on teaching the girls how to read and they read very well.

The club also meets to discuss certain issues that pertain to girls and their wellbeing. This can be in any form – psychological, financial, moral, physical, spiritual, and can include discussion of abuse or other issues that trouble our girls. This gives the girls a sense of belonging and peace and better enables them to study. It has also given the girls a lot of confidence knowing that they have teachers on their side.

Not only has the Girls of Difference club empowered girls in our school, it has also empowered the whole community in which the school is situated. Here are our amazing testimonies:

  • Because of Girls of Difference club, the school land which has long been in dispute between two towns and two chiefs has been resolved. This happened when we held a GIFTED durbar in our school inviting the chiefs. Using cultural dance, our girls communicated to the chiefs through cultural display telling them they need peace to learn and become responsible women. Since then, the two chiefs have united and settled their differences.
  • Later, the chiefs told us that they were touched by school land by cultural performances hence they have extended our school land by several meters.
  • The chiefs have also allocated parcels of land to teachers who are willing to build in the community at a whopping 50% discount.
  • Because of the GIFTED program, the chief has connected the school with bore-hole water all the way from his house to the school reservoir.
  • A big parcel of land has been given to the school to do a garden. The seeds and other materials have been provided by parents. Products from this farm are sold out to the community while the rest is enjoyed by the school children.
  • Also the awesome way our girls passed their final examinations.
  • The most awesome things ever – ready attitude of parents and the entire community to willingly support our school and this is all because of the GIFTED program.

In all, I can say the ripple effect of the Girls of Difference club is just so cool.

What do you see as the next steps for the Girls of Difference Club? For your school? For you personally?

The Girls of Difference club has seen tremendous achievement over the past three years. We have come a long way and we will still move to a greater height. Our next steps are the following:
  • To be the most recognized and best school in the municipality in terms of academic performance;
  • To have all girls of school-going age in and around the community in school;
  • To have the best drama / dance group in the whole municipality;
  • To generate funds to keep the club going by performing at functions or ceremonies.
We see our club producing intelligent and knowledgeable women for Ghana. It is said, “if you educate a man, you educate an individual but when you educate a woman, you educate a whole nation.” We are educating girls and we are educating our nation Ghana. We are also helping out with schools facing the same problems to overcome as well. We are now a “model” school.
Personally, I have never done anything so fulfilling in my entire life. We have transformed lives and watched a dormant community turn into an active one. I have seen disputes and rivalries turn into peace and development. I have been transformed totally. I am now a bold leader, a go getter, confident and self-motivated. The next step for me is to make the club bigger, brighter, and better through any means possible. Girls of Difference – we will fight for our future!