University of Vermont

The College of Arts and Sciences

Global and Regional Studies Program

Africa House

Living/Learning Center Programs
The University of Vermont


The Africa House and Seminar has three purposes: (1) to offer students a sense of the richness and variety of African culture, (2) to provide an introduction to different topics in African studies, and (3) to provide advice for students who would like to spend some weeks or a semester in an African University. Through its residential component, the program offers students shared experience and an opportunity for participation in the exploration of Africa’s incredibly rich and diverse culture. The Introductory course offered in the Fall Semester, and the Seminar offered in the Spring semester provide a grasp in interdisciplinary fashion of the situations and problems in Africa. Regular brown-bag and discussion series, organized jointly with the African Studies Program, on topics of African relevance take place throughout the year. The program promotes interactions between participating students and Africans and Africanists in the community. Africa House and Seminar combines the traditional humanities and social science concerns of African Studies with environmental, agricultural, health and technological issues and highlights women’s roles in development, politics and culture.

An important aim of education is to refine the empathetic responses of students. This can be achieved through immersion in and appreciation of cultures different from their own. Such a comparative dimension as contact with another culture provides means for the students’ critical re-evaluation of the assumptions and prejudices by which they live; contact with other cultures can serve to provide a window into their own souls. Students from monocultural backgrounds, as in most Western technological societies, need to acquire some degree of cultural diversity as well as an education for global awareness. The Living and Learning Center provides an environment and opportunity for such intellectual growth and the experience of a communal way of life. When properly planned and implemented in the future, the study abroad program will further enrich such an experience.

The fullest exploration and exposure of the African experience in an educational environment occurs when the academic and cultural dimensions of that experience are systematically linked. Africa House and Seminar Program brings together professors and students of African origin and Americans under the tutelage of leading Africanists, who themselves spring from a variety of cultural and academic backgrounds. The interdisciplinary nature of the program offers a panoramic view of Africa rather than a fragmented approach to the subject.

  • Africa has an elegant performance tradition of poetry, story-telling, music, dance, and theatre. A few workshops on each of these and other areas are planned. Students are also encouraged to attend African performance.
  • Africa has a growing indigenous film industry to which students are exposed. Students are also encouraged to expose themselves to non-African film productions that deal with African issues.
  • For centuries, African cuisine and culinary practices have influenced the food culture in America. Students explore the food cultures of Africa and prepare African dishes

The Africa House Seminar I: Introduction to Africa (IS95) and Africa House Seminar II: Modern Africa (IS197) are offered under the auspices of International Studies and Continuing Education. These courses also count towards a Minor in African Studies. In the Fall semester, the course covers a wide range of the most important topics in African Studies. Topics include: Geography of Africa; Themes in African History; African Literature and Society; Cultures of Africa; African Art; Food and Agriculture; Environmental concerns; Women in Africa, Health; Education; African Economic Communities; Neo-colonialism; American Policy in Africa. The Seminar (IS197) offered in the spring is designed for students who have taken the introductory course, or some other approved course with an African component, and wish to explore current issues in Africa. Africa House students must take the Introduction to Africa and the Modern Africa courses. Although enrollment in all the two seminar courses is also open to Continuing Education students and other students, priority will be given to students who live in the Africa House suites. The Fall course enrolls 20-40 students. Enrollment for the spring course is limited to 20.

A number of visiting African scholars, who are already in the States, will be invited to participate in some spring/fall lectures and seminar discussions to expose students to up-to-date developments in Africa. Regular brown-bag presentations are held by leading experts in respective fields.

Students play a major role in planning and making necessary arrangements for the year-long extracurricular activities of the Africa House program. In November, all students in the Africa House program join in organizing week-long events focusing on African issues and Africa’s heritage which involve public and guest lectures, videos and films, symposia, exhibitions, performances, African dinner and dance, etc. The political crisis in the Great Lake Region( Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda) and South Africa’s management of its transition from apartheid to democracy will continue to receive particular attention this year.

Africa House Program relies on team effort, with the participation of experts on Africa, and provides valuable living and learning experience for faculty and students alike, through an overview of important topics in the study of Africa. For African and African-American students enrolled at the University of Vermont, Africa House aims to provide peer support and the opportunity to share their rich heritage with others. For other students, this program offers them an opportunity to learn and experience the heritage of their fellow Americans and world citizens.

Community Service

Africa House will encourage participation in some community service projects related to Africa. In the past, Africa House has participated in various community-based activities which included (1) guest teaching on Africa in middle and high schools around the state; (2) teach-in for Vermont teachers on Somalia; (3) guest-lecturing for a Summer Institute on Africa sponsored by the Vermont Council for the Humanities; etc. This year we will continue to look into ways of facilitating a quick integration of African immigrants in the larger Vermont community.

Last modified April 16 2010 01:43 PM