Beyond Borders in South Africa – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Beyond Borders in South Africa

Seven students participating in the Beyond Borders global leadership program will travel to South Africa this summer to expand on their study of critical issues facing Africa and the United States. Students in the program offered by the Centennial Center for Leadership (CCL) are Ato Bentsi-Enchill ’17, Susannah Berry ’16, Molly Dietrich ’17, Kimberly Gutierrez ’17, Mary Kubinski ’17, Domenic Merolla ’16 and Ryan Mullaney ’16.

Throughout the semester, the HWS students have been regularly video conferencing with college students from Stellenbosch University’s Frederik Van Zyl Slabbert Institute for Leadership Development. Together they’ve explored issues ranging from environmental justice, children’s education and food security to gender-based violence, HIV/AIDS and sexual rights.

“The trip to South Africa will be an excellent opportunity for the Beyond Borders students to further engage the issues we’ve been examining,” says CCL Program Manager for Global and Community Leadership Programs Solomé Rose, who is facilitating the program. “Students will have the opportunity to engage with local civil society to better understand the ways in which the issues both manifest and are addressed on the ground.” 

An interdisciplinary, independent study program, Beyond Borders presents HWS and Stellenbosch students with similar readings that they discuss once a week. In addition, the students have worked on e-service projects hosted through the United Nations volunteer website.

“A really interesting offshoot of the program has been the relationship building that has occurred between the students,” says Rose, who also serves as the Colleges’ Interim Chief Diversity Officer. “These students are the future leaders and change agents and it’s remarkable that they are starting to see each other as resources to effect change.”

Through the program, HWS students have also worked on independent study projects with faculty advisers including Professor of Political Science Kevin Dunn, Professor of Education Charlie Temple, Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Sociology Christopher Annear, Assistant Professor of Education Khuram Hussain, Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Sociology Ervin Kosta, Assistant Professor of Political Science Justin Rose, and Assistant Professor of History Elizabeth Thornberry.

“Beyond Borders has been an eye-opening experience,” says Berry, who is from New Rochelle, N.Y. “Skyping and having joint classes with Stellenbosch students has allowed me to see that we are facing many of the same issues, despite living in two completely different places. These issues include peer-to-peer racism, institutional racism, and rape culture on college campuses which has resulted in student-led protests in both countries.”

Berry has been working with Hussain on a research paper about peer-to-peer racism on predominantly white college campuses and how minority students experience micro aggressions in day-to-day interactions with their peers.

Under the guidance of Temple, Bentsi-Enchill is investigating the black-white achievement gap among kindergarten through 12th-grade students in both the U.S. and South Africa. He says his perspective has been invaluable to his research process.

“I have learned a lot, both about my continent through interacting with the Stellenbosch students and about the United States, from all the research I did on my topic,” says Bentsi-Enchill, who is from Accra, Ghana. “It has opened my eyes to a scope of this problem and got me thinking about ways to tackle this issue in the United States.”