(Impressions from the Smithsonian and the MFA in Boston from Prof. Tanya Sheehan’s Spring 2018 Global Lab “American Art in a Global Context.)

 

 
“No matter how many books about African politics we read or films about development we show in class, there’s no substitute for actually getting to the continent & seeing how efforts to help those living in extreme poverty do (and don’t!) work. JanPlan Uganda: Field Study in African Development allows students to do just that. Traveling throughout the country, we meet donors, NGOs, volunteers, and Ugandans who are working to solve problems of poverty in a variety of different contexts. Students learn through interaction and observation that the causes of poverty are complex, that solutions are not always obvious, and that individuals and communities are resilient and motivated to address challenges using the resources they have on hand. They also benefit from a cultural immersion experience through a rural homestay, learning the basics of the local language and drawing profound observations about gender norms, educational opportunities, and economic livelihoods through living and working alongside their host families. Thanks to the support of a 2017-18 Global Innovation Course Grant, this experience was accessible to Colby students from a wide variety of socioeconomic and geographic backgrounds. Helping students to learn experientially and think critically about the subject matter while also exploring potential career paths in Uganda is one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had as a professor.” – Laura Seay, Assistant Professor of Government

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Our time in Uganda elucidated just how much similarity there is in difference and how much difference there is in similarity. Throughout the trip, I was constantly surprised by the amount of overlap I could identify between my own country and Uganda – from bustling markets and advertisement jingles to the intricate architecture lining Kampala, a strange familiarity underlay what is so often portrayed as exotic. At the same time, however, our visits to various development organizations, cultural and historic sites, and geographic regions not only deconstructed the misperception of Africa as a single-faceted entity but also shed light on the rich diversity within Uganda as well as within the development sector. It remains clear that there is no formulaic way to help best, especially concerning such varied historical, political, and social regional and community backgrounds.” – Student Class ’20

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“Taking what I had learned about the politics of development at Colby outside of the classroom and putting it into context in Uganda was an invaluable experience for me. Professor Seay‘s professional and personal connections presented us with multiple occasions to have fruitful conversations with development practitioners across all sectors throughout the country, ultimately providing me with a more nuanced understanding of the field. A highlight of the course for me was our rural homestay, and I left Uganda with new friendships and knowledge that only an experiential learning opportunity like this could provide me.” – Student Class ’18

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“Professor Seay’s JanPlan course in Uganda was one of the most formative courses I’ve taken at Colby. We met with international & community development organizations and witnessed their impact firsthand, which helped contextualize the things that I had been learning in the classroom. And by spending the month of January abroad, I felt prepared and motivated for the spring semester.” – Student Class ’18

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“This is an incredible course that has pushed and challenged my views about development in Uganda as well as many other issues such as religion, gender, and race. I went into the trip with a fairly solid plan for my plan post graduation, however this course has disrupted that plan (in the best way) and has highlighted new fields of study and work that may be better fits for me.” – Student Class ’19

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“Prior to this trip, …I had never even left the country. …I am eternally grateful…for…this opportunity to learn about the world in an entirely new way. Professor Seay knew from the start that I don’t have a future in international affairs, but she knew that I am a sociology major with a fascination of different cultures and possibly social work. She went out of her way to answer my questions about community based programs and introduced me to social workers who work on an international level. Not only can I tell you about the political history of Uganda and about the rule of Museveni, but I can also tell you about programs like Spark Microgrants and AfriPads that helped me to form a more knowledgeable decision about future career opportunities.” – Colby Class ’20

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“I am glad that that Professor Seay designed this course as a field study, because it really helped illuminate the complexity of development efforts in Uganda. I learned about top-down vs. bottom-up approaches to development, the role of international donors/actors, the effects of conflict, etc. I can honestly say that I learned something new every day, which played a role in challenging and changing my beliefs about how development should look.” – Colby Class ’18