Dr. Amanda Alexander, Assistant Professor & Area Coordinator for Art Education at UTA, has been selected to participate in the 2016 Fulbright-Hays Seminars Abroad Program to Senegal. This particular Fulbright-Hays focuses on religion and cultural diversity in West Africa. The seminar description states:
We will consider why religious and identity-based conflict has arisen in some countries, while focusing on the ways that Senegal has been able to maintain relative social harmony. The seminar will be based at the West African Research Center in Dakar. Academics, religious leaders, and activists from diverse disciplines and organizations will introduce the region’s history, review the three main religious traditions, discuss the unique cultures of various ethnic groups, and explore the sources of social conflict and harmony.
Seminar participants will develop an understanding of the diversity that exists in West Africa, why it sometimes inspires conflict, and how it can be a social resource. The seminar will explore Senegal as a diverse society with peaceful ethnic and religious coexistence. Participants will gain particular insight into the expressions of Islam, Christianity, and indigenous religions and how they interact in the region as well as broad knowledge about the country of Senegal to integrate into their classes and share with their colleagues and communities.
As a White, female educator, Dr. Alexander plans to increase her understanding of Senegalese social relations, which might include Black/White, native/immigrant, Wolof/French, and/or Sunni/Sufi/Other. Through increased understanding about various sociocultural relations, Dr. Alexander believes she will be more astute in teaching pre-service art teachers with accurate information about diversity and religion. Her plan is to explore, discover, and examine numerous cultural and artistic traditions that are used as vehicles for understanding these topics.
Upon return from the Fulbright-Hays, Dr. Alexander will add a curriculum assignment about Senegalese diversity and religion into her Introduction to Art Education course—a course that currently involves components about developing multicultural art curriculum and teaching diverse populations of children. She believes that teaching her students about Senegalese multicultural identity will open a dialogue about other country’s identities as well as a better understanding of the cultural and religious mixes in the U.S. Pre-service teachers will be able to use this information in their own teaching to bring about awareness and social harmony. The hope is that dissemination of cross-cultural understanding will facilitate connections on a broader level for various people of DFW and Texas.