27

Thursday, Jul 27, 2017

Heavy Rain Fog/Mist, 71 °F

compassLogo
Ohio University President M. Duane Nellis visits with students enrolled in OHIO’s Swahili STARTALK summer intensive language program.

Ohio University President M. Duane Nellis visits with students enrolled in OHIO’s Swahili STARTALK summer intensive language program.

President M. Duane Nellis talks with Bose Maposa, assistant director of OHIO’s African Studies Program.

President M. Duane Nellis talks with Bose Maposa, assistant director of OHIO’s African Studies Program.

Ohio University President M. Duane Nellis and Vice Provost of Global Affairs and International Studies Lorna Jean Edmonds poses for a photo with faculty, staff and students in this year’s Swahili STARTALK Program.

Ohio University President M. Duane Nellis and Vice Provost of Global Affairs and International Studies Lorna Jean Edmonds poses for a photo with faculty, staff and students in this year’s Swahili STARTALK Program.

Featured Stories


President Nellis meets with students in summer Swahili program at OHIO


Ohio University’s Swahili STARTALK summer intensive language program kicked off its 2017 program during the last week of June and was visited by President M. Duane Nellis and Vice Provost of Global Affairs and International Studies Lorna Jean Edmonds.

Ohio University’s Center for International Studies is hosting the intensive elementary Swahili program over the course of four weeks, ending July 26. The program is the only Swahili STARTALK program being offered in the United States this summer. The course is a great learning opportunity in a fun environment, and it is tuition-free.

Four of the students in the course are also students in the Upward Bound program on campus. During the June 29 visit, they took the opportunity to thank Nellis for his support of the program and his interest in the community.

“I’m glad he attended the Under the Elms concert last night, and that he helped fund Upward Bound,” said Mason Loudner, one of the students participating in both the Swahili STARTALK program and Upward Bound. As one of his first acts as OHIO’s 21st president, Dr. Nellis allocated funding from the president’s strategic reserves to keep Upward Bound operating through the summer. The action came less than two weeks after the program learned its annual federal funding grant renewal was denied by the U.S. Department of Education.

“I’m loving the program,” Loudner elaborated. “I was in Spanish for four years and didn’t get much out of it, but I’ve been here for four days and I’m already speaking [Swahili].”

OHIO faculty and staff members Peter Mwangi, Bose Maposa and Catherine Cutcher received grant funding for the program from STARTALK, a program of the National Foreign Language Center at the University of Maryland. The support from STARTALK covers in-state tuition, the non-resident fee and other fees for all 10 students who are attending this summer’s program, along with the costs for books, meals and all excursions.

Mwangi, the lead instructor for the course, is impressed by his students this year.

“I was so excited because we have more than doubled the students this year,” Mwangi said. “It’s a positive sign.” Last year’s class had four students; this year’s class has 10 with two of them taking intermediate Swahili.

Students who complete the elementary summer program will earn four hours of college credit for Elementary Swahili I, SWAH 1110. Students who complete the intermediate course will receive four hours of credit for Intermediate Swahili I, SWAH 2110.

President Nellis’ visit began with introductions from the students in Swahili and a presentation from Mwangi on the STARTALK model and the Swahili STARTALK program at OHIO. After the presentation, Dr. Nellis said a few words on how important it is for students to take advantage of opportunities like this intensive Swahili course.

“I have spent part of my career as a geographer doing research in Africa,” President Nellis said. “I gained some knowledge of Swahili along the way, but I would have greatly benefited from a class like this. What a fantastic opportunity – I am thrilled this course is offered at Ohio University, and I am so proud of you all for taking advantage of it and enhancing your worldview.”

He also spoke about his own international experience and how it shaped his career path.

“I know I am a better person because of the interactions I have had over the years with people of different cultures. There is a deep enrichment that comes from having multiple nations represented on campus. It is yet another part of the learning process. We need to continue working to create an environment at Ohio University where we welcome and accept everyone so that our international students feel at home here,” Dr. Nellis said.  

The president’s visit left a deep impression on all involved, including Mwangi.

“The greatest honor of my eight years in teaching with the STARTALK language program was to have the president visit my class,” Mwangi said.

At the end of President Nellis’ visit, Maposa presented him with the traditional kente cloth that is gifted to faculty at OHIO whose research and courses are related to the continent of Africa. Steve Howard, director of the Center for International Studies, commissioned this kente over 10 years ago and designated it as the official Ohio University African Studies kente. Howard and African Studies Director Ghirmai Negash also took part in the visit and both have been supportive of the Swahili program at OHIO.

Swahili is the official language of the East African Community, the regional intergovernmental organization of the Republics of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania. Swahili is also spoken in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique and Somalia. Currently, there are approximately 100 million people around the world who speak Swahili. For anyone interested in traveling to eastern or central Africa, knowing Swahili would be invaluable. 

The Swahili program is taking place from June 26 to July 26. For more information on the program, please visit the Swahili STARTALK website

STARTALK, whose slogan is “start talking,” is an organization that seeks to increase the number of U.S. citizens learning, speaking and teaching critical need foreign languages.