Pan-African Studies instructor has abundance of experience in Africa

TaLeiza Calloway

Professor Wendy Wilson-Fallreflects on cultural differences, ‘lack of social relationships’ at Kent State

Wendy Wilson-Fall (second from right) escorts President Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton during their visit to Senegal in April 1998. PHOTO COURTESY OF WENDY WILSON-FALL

Credit: Jason Hall

Wendy Wilson-Fall speaks eight languages.

The associate professor of Pan-African Studies lived in Senegal for 12 and a half years. She began traveling there when she was 16. Wilson-Fall is originally from Washington, D.C., but her father worked in West Africa.

On her own, Wilson-Fall has traveled widely throughout Africa. She admits that the only parts of the continent she doesn’t know that well are southern and central Africa.

Work in Senegal

From 1992 to 1994, Wilson-Fall worked for the National Agricultural Research Institute in Senegal through the firm Development Alternatives Incorporated and USAID. It was a “very interesting” job, she said.

“I managed the grants program from the perspective of matching community organizations with research projects,” she said.

She went on to serve as the West Africa Regional Coordinator for the National Council of Negro Women. She held this post from September 1996 to August 1999 and in April 1998 hosted former President Bill Clinton and his wife on their trip to Senegal.

The last part of her tenure in Senegal was as the director of the West African Research Center from 1999 to 2004. The research center is a part of the Council of American Overseas Research Centers. Other members of this council include the American Academy in Rome, the American Research Center in Egypt, the American Center of Oriental Research in Jordan and the American Institute of Indian Studies in India.

“It’s the only one in sub-Saharan Africa,” Wilson-Fall said.

The council, funded by the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of State, offers scholarships and research fellowships for American graduate students, she said.

“I would be proud to have submissions from Kent State,” Wilson-Fall said.

Transition to Kent

The social anthropologist returned to the United States in August 2004. She said the transition was very difficult.

“Kent is very different from Washington, just as Washington is from Senegal,” she said.

She said in Kent there is a university culture, a “town culture” of the city of Kent and many subcultures. Sometimes they intersect, she said.

In terms of life in the United States in general, she said she has “become more aware of the unconscious different behavior that many white Americans practice toward Africans of the new Diaspora – people born in Africa and their children – and people of African descent from the old Diaspora, such as African-Americans and people of the Caribbean.”

In regard to the university culture at Kent State, the lack of social relationships between black faculty and other faculty “stands out in relief” and has been a surprise to her, she said.

While some of the social aspects of living in the town have been difficult, Wilson-Fall said she is happy to be in Kent. The schools and sports programs available for children in the Kent area are wonderful, but outside the formal programs, she said she is unaware of the social life here.

“I’ve also had a great reception here at the Department of Pan-African Studies,” she said.

The Joy of Teaching

Some of the courses Wilson-Fall teaches include African Social, Political and Economic Systems; Senior Seminar; Theoretical Approaches to Pan-African Studies and Foundations to Pan-African Studies.

Her students said they enjoy her as a professor because of her approach. Samantha Broaddus, senior Pan-African Studies and magazine journalism major, likes that when Wilson-Fall is addressing the class, “it feels like she is talking to you,” she said.

“I enjoy that she’s an interactive professor,” Broaddus said.

Sarah Garrido, senior Pan-African studies and biology major, has had Wilson-Fall as a professor for three classes. Garrido said she likes Fall’s nontraditional teaching methods and style.

“It’s more open as far as teacher-student relationships and dialogue,” Garrido said.

Wilson-Fall is also an adjunct professor in the anthropology department.

She says she enjoys teaching because she loves exchanging with young people the excitement of discovery and learning new things from her students.

“I love helping students realize that they’re the next generation of leaders,” Wilson-Fall said.

Contact features correspondent TaLeiza Calloway at [email protected].