University News

Tougaloo student exchange connects campuses

In ‘mini-exchange’ trip, students may share in culture of Mississippi historically black college

Contributing Writer
Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Shireen Akram-Boshar ’16, Tim Ittner ’18, JoVaun Holmes ’17, Isabella Kres-Nash ’18, Sabiya Ahamed ’17 and Nico Sedivy ’17 visited the historically black Tougaloo College in Mississippi through Brown’s exchange program.

The partnership between Brown and Tougaloo College, a historically black college located near Jackson, Mississippi, continues to advance exchange programs and research opportunities for undergraduate students and faculty and staff members, said Maitrayee Bhattacharyya ’91, associate dean of the College for diversity programs and director of the Brown-Tougaloo Partnership.

The deadline for applying to the spring 2016 Student Semester Exchange Program — in which Brown students spend a semester at Tougaloo — passed on Thursday.

The Student Semester Exchange, while still relatively small, has grown from one or two students each semester to six or seven students each semester over the last few years, Bhattacharyya said, adding that “there has been very much increased participation” over the course of her eight years at Brown.

Established in 1964, the partnership fosters “a lot of activity” when all of its components are considered, Bhattacharyya said. According to its website, the program “is designed to enrich both campuses through student and faculty academic and cultural exchanges, collaborative research ventures and administrative level engagements.”

As the director, Bhattacharyya coordinates all aspects of the partnership, including  an advisory council at both Tougaloo and the University.

Each year, as part of the Semester Exchange Program, students from each school swap places and experience a different environment for a semester.

In order to raise awareness about the partnership and the exchange, the Civil Rights trip was created. The Civil Rights trip is a “mini-exchange” led by Associate Professor of History and Africana Studies Francoise Hamlin. In the program, a group of Brown students spend a week each spring at Tougaloo to study the history of the Civil Rights Movement, Bhattacharyya said.

Nico Sedivy ’17, a double-concentrator in Africana studies and music, participated in the Civil Rights trip last year and plans to study at Tougaloo next semester as part of the Student Semester Exchange.

“The students there were really interesting and very different from students at Brown,” Sedivy said. “At the end of the trip, I wanted to stay even longer.”

The Civil Rights trip to Tougaloo College largely attracts students concentrating in Africana studies, while the Student Semester Exchange includes a wide range of students, Bhattacharyya said.

Shireen Akram-Boshar ’16, an Africana studies concentrator, praised her experience in the Civil Rights trip last year.

“It was my first time in that part of the country,” Akram-Boshar said. “We did archival research projects at the Mississippi State Archives for two to three days. We each did a research project about historical and contemporary racial injustice.”

But the program suffers from a lack of awareness among the student body, Akram-Boshar said. “I don’t think enough people know about it,” she said.

The program “spreads by word of mouth, which takes a lot of time,” Bhattacharyya said.

Last semester, Akram-Boshar had students from Tougaloo in one of her classes and appreciated engaging with their perspectives. “It was valuable to have them in our classes here,” she said.

Several Tougaloo students who participated in the exchange as undergraduates are currently studying at the Alpert Medical School, Bhattacharyya said.