On Thursday, April 27, NYU Accra students had the opportunity to engage in a lively discussion via the NYU Accra Conversation Series. The topic for the event was “Inside out: Conversation with a Contemporary Ghanaian Musician.” The lead discussant was Reggie Rockstone, one of Ghana’s finest rap artists who is often referred to as the ‘Godfather of Ghanaian Hiplife’. He is believed to have pioneered the Hiplife Art form and has played an important role in the development of this uniquely African genre. He raps both in English and in Twi. Both Reggie and the students enjoyed the opportunity to connect and converse.
On 28 March, NYU Accra hosted Former President John Dramani Mahama as a Guest Writer to a Special Interactive Session with students taking writing classes. Organized jointly with the English Department at the University of Ghana, the program allowed students in the NYU Accra classes Creative Writing and Colonialism and the Rise of African Literature to participate along with writing students from the University of Ghana.
The focus of the special session was on President Mahama’s book My First Coup d’Etat: Memories from the Lost Decades of Africa, which was a required or recommended reading for students in the participating classes this semester.
Former President Mahama did a reading of selected stories from the book and also responded to questions and comments from the audience. It was an engaging and successful event.
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.
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.
As 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.
I 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I 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?
- 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.
In 2012, NYU, in collaboration with Fundación Mujeres Por África, the University of Ghana, and Banco Santander launched The Ghana Wins! Project, a major initiative designed to develop and promote leadership skills in Ghanaian women. Through the project, a select number of Ghanian women receive training and assistance from the NYU College of Nursing (NYUCN),the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, and the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, to help address Ghana’s critical needs in healthcare, education, and strengthening of its civil society. In a series of posts, we’ll explore the experiences of The Ghana Wins! Project.
Background and Project Structure
“The needs in developing countries are great, but the more health resources that are developed, the better off the country will be,” said NYUCN’s Yvonne Wesley, co-director of the project, at the project’s launch. The project’s director, NYUCN’s Mattia Gilmartin, added, “Ghana is dealing with increases in diabetes and cardiovascular disease, as we are here. One goal of our program is to teach the participating nurses skills to improve the quality of care in their local settings.”
The College of Nursing began first, launching the four-year Ghanaian Nurse Leaders Program, which addresses a fundamental need of the Ghanaian nursing profession—the development of a corps of nurses that can improve health system management and clinical practice —in Ghana.
The Ghanaian Nurse Leaders Program is based on the frameworks of both the seven-year-old Leadership Institute for Black Nurses (LIBN)—an annual fellowship program held at the College—and the more recent Global Health Scholars Program. Three cohorts of 10 Ghanaian nurses, in staggered groups, will join activities that advance their access to evidence-based science and training in leadership and performance improvement. Each will be assigned a mentor and take seminars led by College of Nursing and other faculty as well as tour NYU Langone Medical Center, simulation labs, and dental and clinical care sites.
The three cohorts of nurses will be recruited from across Ghana. Organizers are seeking to interest a mix of experienced nurse managers and less experienced nurses with great potential from both public and private hospital settings.
Principal Investigator, Kristie Patten Koenig, associate professor at NYU, along with Rose Vukovic, Co-Principal Investigator and associate professor at the University of Minnesota, direct Steinhardt’s Ghanaian Institute for the Future of Teaching and Education (GIFTED) Women’s Fellowship Program in collaboration with Sakina Acquah and Priscilla Yaaba Ackah at the University of Education, Winneba.
“We know that education is key to economic development, stability, and equality in developing countries, especially the education of girls and women,” says Koenig.
GIFTED provides professional development, on-going support, and leadership training to three cohorts of 12 educators through collaboration with the Ghana Education Service and the University of Education, Winneba.
The program began recruitment in January 2013, kicking off the program in Accra in that summer. Teachers who are selected for this program identify, develop, and implement a project that supports education in their school communities.
“Programs that are implemented with success in our public school systems inherently have a strong professional development component that not only values, but provides the time and supports for quality on-going teacher development. This is central to the GIFTED program and will enable the women leaders to make the changes they envision in their communities,” Koenig adds.
The Wagner school Ghanaian Women’s Social Leadership Program (GWSLP) offers a one-year cohort-based leadership development program for mid- to senior-level women leaders from civil society organizations in Ghana. GWSLP selects three cohorts of 12-15 women each working in public service organizations across the nation. The program offers two week-long Training Leadership Initiatives, one in Ghana at the beginning and one in NYC midway through the program. At the start of the program, women leaders identify a pressing organizational or community need and design a public service action-learning project to address it. They spend the following year implementing their projects, aided by ongoing expert local coaching in Ghana, feedback from Wagner’s GWSLP staff, and support from peers.
“In the half century since gaining its independence, Ghana has developed a strong and vibrant civil society to support its social, political, and economic growth,” noted GWSLP Director Amparo Hofmann-Pinilla. “As Ghana enters this next phase in its history, the continued strengthening of democratic institutions will be crucial to realizing greater prosperity, and NYU Wagner is honored to be identifying, nurturing, and equipping visionary women leaders as central to that effort.”
The Ghana Wins! Project builds on the collaborative relationship between NYU and the University of Ghana, which includes NYU’s study abroad site on the university’s campus in Accra, the country’s capital and largest city. For more than three years, the two universities and two medical centers—Korle Bu in Accra and Bellevue in New York City—have been working together and learning from each other.
“The philosophy of this program is that leadership can be learned,” says Wesley. “What we have learned from our Leadership Institute for Black Nurses is that, if we can help nurses to think about health care from a leadership position, they’re more likely to initiate projects in their own communities and really go out and make positive changes.”
Friday, February 26 was Global Service Day and NYU Accra students and staff joined the children of La Enobal Basic School and New Horizon Special School to celebrate it. Starting at 8:00am, NYU Accra students went to both of these schools carrying boxes filled with printed sheets, pencils, crayons, drawing sheets, etc.
La Enobal Basic School caters to children of low-income parents, many of whom serve as drivers, caretakers, housekeepers, babysitters, etc. for occupants of middle-income homes in the North Labone area. The choice of the school for the service day was therefore motivated by need. On arrival at the school, the teachers and children enthusiastically welcomed the students. Soon the students went to their assigned classes and engaged the children in various activities, including storytelling, English language lessons, spelling drills, drawing, coloring, and singing. The classroom activities lasted two hours followed by 30 minutes of outdoor activities and games and group pictures.
Whilst the students and staff at La Enobal mainly taught the school children and played with them, the staff and students at New Horizon worked on a project to decorate the classrooms for the students. As you can see from the photos, it was a memorable and meaningful experience for all.
NYU Accra Professor Dr. Akosua Darkwah discusses academia in Ghana, her course on society, culture, and modernization in Ghana and NYU Accra, and more.
How did you come to be interested in sociology? What lead you to this field?
I always wanted to be a lawyer. As a child, I had a very strong sense of social justice and was convinced that with the law, I could fix every problem on earth. I entered college with that conviction and proceeded to intern with a lawyer who had a license plate with the inscription “I will sue.” I was sure I was in the right place; I would spend the summer suing all the people meting out injustices to others. I was in for a huge disappointment. The firm had a pro bono incest case; a nanny reported that a father of three girls had been consistently raping the youngest, aged six. The mother, when she was called into the office, admitted this but in the court, she would deny it. I was perplexed. Over the course of one summer where I interviewed the mother more closely, I came to the realization that law could go only so far in fixing this woman’s problems. Married straight out of high school and a stay at home mother, she was afraid of the consequences of having her husband prosecuted. She would have to become the breadwinner for her family and she was ill prepared to do that. Law could not help her with that. Social programs could. More importantly in terms of my career choices, I realized a fascination with understanding the set of structural factors that led individuals to make the choices that they make. I wanted to make sense of the social world in which I lived and sociology was the field of study best placed to help me do that.
2. In addition to your doctorate in sociology, I understand that you also have a B.A. in psychology and sociology? Have you found that your study of psychology has influenced your approach in your sociology work? If so, how?
I graduated from Vassar College where at the time you had to defend your choice of a double major. I remember saying something along the lines of psychology helping me to understand the individual and sociology the society in which that individual lived. I thoroughly enjoyed my psychology classes and still remember some of the concepts I learned back then. Honestly, though, I do not think that I draw on it much in my work as a sociologist. I focus primarily on structural forces in my work and the opportunities or lack thereof that it presents for women in terms of their work. I spend little time reflecting on what these means for the women’s sense of self or psychological well-being. Last year, however, I co-authored a piece with a psychologist which was published in Frontiers in Psychology. In that piece, we explored the extent to which women’s interdependent constructions of self deemed as crucial to well-being in collectivist societies was maintained in the context of social change which we explored using an intergenerational survey of women’s everyday lives that explored a wide array of issues such as educational opportunities, career options, reproductive health decisions and so on. This project forced me to reflect much more closely on the interactions between these two fields of study so who knows I may very well revisit my dual interests more systematically in future.
3. Your areas of research – from women in the informal economy, with a focus on trading in global consumer goods, to the implications of large foreign financial flows into Ghana’s oil region for Ghanaian youth employment prospects – are fascinating. What are you currently researching? And what topics do you find are most pressing in Ghana? What topics receive the most attention overseas?
An overriding theme in my research is to look at the implications of global economic principles or practices for Ghanaian women’s work. In my current research, I am exploring one of the responses to the global financial, energy and food crises, which is large scale land acquisitions. I am interested in its implications for women’s livelihoods and especially women’s responses to the shrinkage in livelihood options that these transactions present.
It’s hard for me to isolate a couple of topics as the most pressing in Ghana. I feel that everything deserves attention not just from sociologists like myself but from all the other academics whose areas of expertise help shed light on the richness of Ghanaian life.
In terms of gender and women’s studies, I think that overseas the three Ghanaian topics receiving the most attention are issues of domestic violence, women’s political participation and transformative women leaders.
4. You have contributed articles to books (including Women’s Labor in the Global Economy: Speaking in Multiple Voices, edited by Sharon Harley and published by Rutgers University Press in 2007) and engaged in collaborative research with other professors. Is this common for scholars in Ghana or something you have specifically sought?
Collaborative research is strongly encouraged at our university, be it with other scholars at the university, other universities in Ghana or outside of Ghana, so I am by no means unique in that respect. In my case, I had great mentors who early in my career encouraged me to think of myself as a scholar whose work would be recognized globally and pushed me to apply for or participate in events that would make such global recognition possible. The internet has also been amazing in that increasingly, I get invitations to contribute to joint projects or for speaking engagements from people who find me by looking online for scholars who work in the area that I do.
5. How did you come to also teach at NYU Accra?
I can’t remember exactly how this happened in terms of the recruitment process. I do know that in my early years at the university, I directed the Minnesota Studies in International Development (MSID-Ghana) project for the two year period that it run in Ghana so I did have a CV that showed my previous experience working with both international students and American students in particular. I may have been sought because of this, but to be honest, I cannot remember.
6. I understand you teach a course entitled Society, Culture and Modernization in Ghana at NYU Accra. Can you tell me a little about the course? How do you help foreign students to understand Ghana?
This course starts off with a theoretical discussion about concepts such as tradition, modernity and post-colonialism and uses these as lenses through which to understand Ghanaian social institutions. My primary goal is to help students appreciate our common humanity as well as the ways in which Ghana’s unique past especially its interactions with outsiders over the last 500 years has had an influence in one way or the other on our value systems and practices. Having grown up as a child who spent summers in various parts of Africa as well as living for a decade in the United States, I’m particularly attuned to the sense of feeling like a fish out of water in new spaces as well as the learnings that can come over time particularly with introspection and I try and bring that to bear on the class as well. So while there are specific issues I seek to discuss each week linked to the topic and readings for the week, I constantly invite students to bring their questions especially those borne out of the experience of living in Ghana to class even if it is unrelated to the subject under discussion. I find that invariably these have links to either issues already discussed or yet to be discussed in class and that experiential learning of this sort – learning borne out of personal experience and the questions that experience raises – helps students makes sense of the material in more concrete ways than text alone could.
Finally, not having attended college in Ghana meant that I myself was not introduced to much academic writing on Ghana as a student. I came to my academic career fully cognizant of this lacuna in my knowledge and have had to systematically seek to understand Ghana on my own not simply as a Ghanaian but also as a scholar. Teaching this class allows me an opportunity to see Ghana with fresh eyes every semester. In a sense then, it is not only the students who learn about Ghana each semester, I do as well and I think that part of what makes the class special is the co-learning that takes place in the class.
7. What kinds of students do you teach at NYU Accra? Do they come from a mix of majors and schools or are certain disciplines more represented than others? Are there certain aspects of your course that they find most compelling?
The students I teach at NYU Accra come from a wide variety of academic disciplines; I’ve taught history majors, biology majors, economics majors, music majors as well as sociology and anthropology majors.
I think that the most compelling aspect of the course is the way in which it unsettles the binary lens through which they view Africa, i.e as traditional as compared to the modernity of the part of the world from which they come.
8. If there were three things you would want the broader NYU community to know about Accra, academic scholarship in Ghana, or NYU Accra, what would they be?
This is a tough one to do because I have more than three things to say and cannot quite decide which is the top three for any so perhaps instead of doing three top things, I’ll do one for which. I think one of the least known facts about Accra is the fact that it has been home to others from the continent, the Diaspora and the Western world for more than two centuries; Accra has been home to Sierra Leoneans, Nigerians, returnees from Brazil for more than a century. It also has a long association with the Western world – the Dutch, the Danish and of course the British. In essence, issues of cultural diversity and integration is not new to the people of Accra and perhaps given the current global discussion of these issues, places like Accra may very well be the places to look to for ideas about how to do this.
As a relatively younger academic in Ghana, I think one of the more exciting facts about Ghanaian scholarship of today is the breadth of ideas that we seek to explore. There are far many more of us today than there were in my parents’ generation. We are no longer the first or one of the few in an area of study. There are growing numbers of us building a body of work in specific areas of study that enable us to understand Ghana better from our unique socio-cultural context.
NYU Accra offers students a unique opportunity to begin to understand the rich diversity of the African continent, one that unfortunately international media houses have done a very poor job of explaining. It offers students the opportunity to look beyond the stereotypical images of war, famine and disease that seems to be the narrative of Africa fed to the West and to begin to truly appreciate the fact that Africa is a continent of over 50 different countries, each of which offers something quite unique to the world at large.
On Friday, October 30, NYU Accra held an event for students entitled “World Tour.” The event celebrated the history and culture of Ghana. The World Tour theme was “Telling Ghana’s Story from Independence to Now: Ghanaian Folk Tales, Photo Exhibition, Musical Performance and Spoken Word.”
The program was comprised of three main components:
Ghanaian Folk Tales: A lecture and Demonstration of Ghanaian Folk Tales by some renowned Ghanaian Story Tellers led by Professor Esi Sutherland Addy. This lecture and demonstration enlightened students about the importance of Folk Tales in the Socialization of the Ghanaian.
Photo Exhibition: A Photo Exhibition of the Past and Present Ghanaian Presidents provided information on their time of reign, their achievements, and some of their popular sayings. Also exhibited were photos of some Ghanaian icons and trailblazers as well as some important symbols of national pride, accompanied by explanations of their significance
Cultural Display: A Musical Performance by a renowned Ghanaian xylophonist from the Bambu Center and Spoken Word by the well-known Ghanaian Artiste Chief Mormen.
The students and entire NYU Accra community had a wonderful time participating in this lively event!
Congratulations to NYU School of Medicine Vice Dean Dr. Gbenga Ogedegbe, winner of The Association of Black Cardiologists’ Dr. Daniel D. Savage Memorial Science Award. This award is ABC’s highest honor and recognizes scientific achievement in the areas of cardiovascular disease and research. Dr. Ogedegbe is being recognized for his implementation of evidence-based behavioral interventions targeted at cardiovascular risk reduction in minority and low-income populations. Dr. Ogedebge is also Chair of the NYU Accra Site Specific Advisory Committee.