New social work professor's dream comes true

4/4/2007 7:00:00 AM

Years ago, a mother in Ghana had high aspirations for her newly born child. She named the infant girl Alice, after a revered school teacher of the small town of Bomaa, Ghana.

That child grew up and received her doctorate in social work across the Atlantic at the University of Georgia in May 2006. Three months later, she became an assistant social work professor at the University on Nevada, Reno in August 2006.

Of all the reasons that brought Alice Boateng to Nevada, one of the most interesting is her passion for diversity—or the lack thereof.

"I wanted to help broaden the diversity of the school," Boateng said. "I can make an impact as an international scholar."

It also helped to have a congenial School of Social Work.

"I saw that the faculty was warm and welcoming," Boateng said. "I wanted to be in a place where people would be nice."

Boateng has previous teaching experience both at the University of Georgia and in Ghana, where she taught elementary and high school level students.

"I needed a change, so I decided to switch from the classroom to the field and do social work," Boateng said.

The decision to work in the field changed Boateng's life and brought her to a new place. She applied for a master's degree at Washington University in St. Louis and received the International Peace Scholarship.

Dealing with residency changes and culture shock was not easy for Boateng. As a teacher in Ghana, her rent and utility bills were paid for since she lived close to the students in order to supervise them. The kind of relationships with her neighbors was also another form of culture shock she had to deal with.

"In Ghana, you can just knock and you are welcome to talk and eat," Boateng said. "Here, your next-door neighbor has nothing to do with you."

Boateng began teaching with University of Georgia's study abroad program along with her masters and doctorate courses. Boateng conducted her dissertation research on female refugees' social networks in the Buduburam Liberian refugee camp in Ghana. She also researched the effects of the camp's current policies in order to find the best procedures that would benefit the women. The research she was conducting attracted the University of Georgia's study abroad program to the camp.

Boateng will continue the project and teaching abroad with the University Study Abroad Consortium.

"Study abroad is part of what I want to do," Boateng said.

Boateng also enjoys the fringe benefits of teaching for a study abroad program in Ghana. While teaching in Ghana, she makes an effort to see her two children, her family and visit her hometown.

"I can go home and visit my children," Boateng said. "They share [their experiences] with me and I can share with them."

Boateng encourages all her students to study abroad, both for cultural and personal reasons.

"Living and learning in another culture is a life-changing experience," Boateng said. "And we live in a global village now. Issues in a different country affect our own."

Boateng will teach in the summer Ghana course for USAC in the summer. While there, she plans to conduct follow-up research on her first project. Since the civil war in Liberia recently ended, Boateng will seek out some of the women who stayed in Ghana and the women who returned to Liberia to find out why and how their current social networks are affected.

"I will ask the Liberian women why they have gone back," Boateng said. "And I will also try to develop an idea of what needs to be done to integrate the remaining women into Ghanaian culture."

Boateng said the path she took to get to this point of her life was not an easy one. She was the first woman of her small town to receive a doctorate. Boateng hopes to be a role model for the girls in Bomaa, Ghana.

Boateng is glad to have her mother see her aspirations for her child fulfilled.

"People told my mother that after school, I would just come home to my place in the kitchen and at home," Boateng said. "My mom's dream has come true. I am now a professor."


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