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Booker Ammah Returns To Ghana As Fulbright Scholar

Published: June 15, 2015

Beverly Booker Ammah is no stranger to Ghana. For the past three years she and the ASB Ghana Long Beach Executive Team (current and former graduate students) have led a group of CSULB students to the West African nation over spring break and this year will do the same. This time, however, “spring break” will be from June 17 to July 3.

Then, the assistant professor in advanced studies in education and counseling will return home to prepare for her August departure to Ghana, this time as a U.S. Fulbright Scholar. While there she will spend 10 months conducting research and teaching in the Psychology Department of the University of Ghana Legon in Accra, Ghana.

“I feel very humbled, excited and a little nervous,” said Booker Ammah of her Fulbright award. “Although I’ve traveled outside the country, I’ve never lived outside the country so I am very mindful of being very open and being a learner.

“I’m always talking to my students about serving and becoming a global leader, so in a lot of ways it matches not only what Cal State Long Beach, but most universities around the country talk about when discussing the importance of global leadership,” she added. “I just feel really humble to serve at a global level and represent the university, the country, my family and community. I think I owe all of those people a lot for the opportunity because there are so many people who have helped me get to this point.”

Booker Ammah was born and raised in Philadelphia, attended undergraduate and graduate school at Hampton University in Virginia and earned her doctorate at the University of Louisville. She singled out mentors who encouraged her to apply for a Fulbright, particularly former CSULB Africana Studies’ professor Lionel Mandy, who was a Fulbright scholar himself.

“He was really a great mentor and continues to be,” she said. “He thought I should take the opportunity to live there, do research there and teach there and that would be a growth opportunity.”

Her research project is designed to explore the efficacy of international service-learning projects on university students’ leadership development and civic engagement. Additionally, her research will address the perceived value of service-learning projects for addressing Ghana’s social justice needs.

Booker Ammah, who has been at CSULB since 2011, got her first taste of Ghana when she took a group of students there during the 2012 spring break as part of a service-learning study abroad course.

“We went during the traditional spring break period, but it’s grown in the past couple of years and partners in Ghana have asked us to increase the number of sites they go to,” she said. “Also, people have been wanting to come from other universities to be part of this program, so that’s why we changed it to the summer because it’s more convenient for everyone.”

The summer “spring break” has other benefits as well, one being that it goes from being a 10-day trip to 16 days. This year a team of eight will be making the excursion, six from CSULB, one school counselor working in New Mexico (a former student of Booker Ammah) and Booker Ammah as part of a short-term immersion program through the College of Education. It will be the fourth year Booker Ammah will be leading a group to Ghana as part of the campus service-learning efforts.

“People seem so enthusiastic about going in the summer and more people are saying they want to come in 2016 that we think it may work best to keep it during the summer,” she added. “We also found that a lot of our students are a little less stressed than when we do it in the spring with exams and final projects still pending, so the summer seems to work better in a lot of ways. We invite current students and community members. People from all over the country are welcome to go. It’s not exclusive just to our students because we want everybody to have the experience.”

CSULB is partnering with Ghanaian communities from an asset-based perspective, not as a charity.

“We don’t go there thinking, ‘We’re privileged Americans who want to help you,’” said Booker Ammah, “but more so that we have assets and the country we are visiting has assets. We have areas of growth and they have areas of growth so it helps as emerging leaders for us to collaborate and talk about how we address common social justice issues because you find around the world issues are similar.”

One of the projects her students will be working on is a collaborative library literacy project where they help build a library, not the physical structure, but the resources. The second year the group went it took 250 books, last year was 460 and this year they plan to double that number.

Booker Ammah said because of her own interest the excursion has turned into part of her research agenda to see how students are impacted in terms of their leadership skills and levels of civil engagement by doing international service learning.

“That’s one of the things that I am so passionate about doing with this trip,” she said, “to see how this develops their leadership skills and their level of civic engagement. It is more than a notion to take students abroad and build partnerships for them to serve. We found that the partners were very excited for us to be there and we decided that it would be better to develop a sustained partnership with one country rather than go from country to country.”

Established in 1946 under legislation introduced by the late Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, the Fulbright Program was created to build mutual understanding between the people of the United States and countries participating in the program through educational and cultural exchanges. Today, the Fulbright Program is the U.S. government’s premier scholarship program. Sponsored by the State Department, it is an international exchange program offering opportunities for students, scholars and professionals to undertake international graduate study, advanced research, university teaching and teaching in elementary and secondary schools worldwide.