City College of New York seniors Rene Cordero, Shanna Jean-Baptiste, Emmanuel Lachaud and Debra Williams traveled to South Africa to attend the University of Cape Town Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellows (MMUF) January program. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation funded the trip.
The program, which ran January 9 – 13, offers an interdisciplinary curriculum to introduce undergraduates to the history, culture and science of South Africa. The students participated in conferences and attended lectures on topics such as understanding communities, the role of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and challenges facing higher education in South Africa.
They also visited several Black and Colored townships, including Langa, where they went to the “Happy Feet Youth Project,” which empowers children in the community through mentorship and through traditional dance. Other stops on their itinerary included the Cecil Rhodes Memorial on Devil’s Peak overlooking Cape Town and Robben Island, site of a prison where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years behind bars.
The students, who are preparing to go onto graduate school after earning their bachelors degrees, said the experience gave them new perspectives on the social responsibilities of academics and increased their understanding of life in South Africa under apartheid.
“The Cape Town program forced us to develop a more critical understanding of voice, location, and citizenship as a step toward becoming agents of social transformation,” said Mr. Lachaud, a history major.
“The city’s residents, while gracious hosts, made us face many complex questions about inequality, privilege, and the social responsibilities of universities and scholars,” added Ms. Jean-Baptiste, who is majoring in French studies with a minor in English.
About The City College of New York
Since 1847, The City College of New York has provided low-cost, high-quality education for New Yorkers in a wide variety of disciplines. More than 16,000 students pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees in: the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; the Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture; the School of Education; the Grove School of Engineering; the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education, and the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership. U.S. News, Princeton Review and Forbes all rank City College among the best colleges and universities in the United States.