Lara Foley

Lara Foley

Lara Foley

Associate Professor of Sociology

Through a new cultural exchange program, TU students and faculty can have front-row seats observing the West African nation of Ghana emerge into the 21st century from its ancient past.

TU sociology professor Lara Foley joined approximately 20 faculty members from other American universities for the two-week Council for International Educational Exchange (CIEE) faculty development program at the University of Ghana in Accra, Ghana. The group attended lectures on a broad range of social issues, toured slave castles and rural villages, spent time in Kumasi (one of Ghana’s large cities) and met with various institutional executives.

The CIEE program included lectures, field trips, and interdisciplinary discussions. Foley says she was most intrigued by the Ghanaian culture and development. Ghana is experiencing a “brain-drain” similar to what Foley says she sees here.

“We’re having the same kind of conversations in Tulsa,” she noted. “How do we attract and retain young professionals? Young Ghanaians, who may receive free, or relatively free educations in Ghana, leave for Europe or the United States where they can make more money. Some leave for higher education and never return, leaving [Ghana] without highly educated people to do the development work that needs to be done.”

Leaders of key Ghanaian social institutions are focused on addressing the migration of young educated citizens from the country, and Foley observed how they are addressing the problem. On a visit to a new private university, the university’s president, a former Microsoft executive, who returned to Ghana, welcomed her group. “He is concerned with giving back to his country,” Foley said, “and he is succeeding in getting that vision across to his students, who are eager to stay and be change agents.”

Since Foley’s experience at the CIEE, TU has established cultural ties with the University of Ghana for faculty and students.

The first TU student to visit Ghana was Maddie Rogers, who studied there in spring 2008 with CIEE. Rogers, a senior from Colorado majoring in secondary English education with a sociology minor and an African American Studies Certificate, attended the University of Ghana and stayed at the CIEE student complex in Legon, a suburb of Accra.

Ghana’s rapidly changing economic realities and cultural atmosphere make it a key site for study of cultural change and for the exploration of new social ties for TU.

Foley’s trip to Ghana has shaped her ideas about future research possibilities, including the medical system as well as the emigration issue. She is also excited about the possibility of sabbaticals in Ghana and faculty exchange or research collaboration with the ties she made to faculty there.

As a follow-up to her CIEE participation, in October 2007, Foley invited Professor Akosua Adomako Ampofo from the University of Ghana to speak on TU’s campus about women’s issues.

TU students can study in Ghana as a result of the course Foley has organized with the Center for Global Education. Scheduled for TU’s first summer session in 2009, the program will be a two-and-a-half week course in Ghana. The focus of the course will be specific social institutions in Ghana. The course, which is open to all majors, includes a prerequisite of at least one sociology course.

Since Ghana is moving so rapidly through a formative period of development, students can expect to have a unique opportunity to observe the impact of change on culture, to have their stereotypes about Africa challenged, and to explore the possibilities for expansion and hope blossoming in Ghana.