Gannett Global Learning Initiative Goes to Dakar

Each year Marlboro College faculty are encouraged to submit grant proposals to the Committee for Global Engagement to bring their classes on international trips, supported by the Gannett Global Learning Initiative. Last summer the initiative helped send the Dance in World Cultures class to Dakar, Senegal, for three exciting weeks of dance classes, drumming, and cultural immersion. The trip was also made possible by the planning and leadership of adjunct faculty member Elhadji (Pape) Mamadou Ba, a former professional dancer from Senegal who helped teach the class.

“We got to participate in Senegalese culture in ways that go beyond what most American college students would get to experience on an exchange,” said Kristin Horrigan, dance professor, who made the journey with six students and two other faculty members. “Taking lessons with master teachers here at Marlboro is a tremendous way to learn, but nothing compares to experiencing how dancing is practiced day to day by the people who live with these dance forms.”

With funds coming from the Senator Robert Gannet endowment and the Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Foundation, the Gannett Global Learning Initiative grant paid for roughly half of the cost of this adventurous trip. Participating students were able to go for a vastly reduced fee, and received support for trip planning from the international services office.

While in Senegal, the class had regular drum classes and dance classes in the morning, followed by afternoon visits to local sites in Dakar. They also took several day and weekend trips to outlying communities, like Goree Island, Toubab Dialaw, St. Louis, and Lompoul. But perhaps the most memorable part of the trip was the opportunity to stay with Pape Ba’s family and spend time daily with his friends and former colleagues.

“This personal connection allowed us to step inside Senegalese culture to a degree that we would not have been able to achieve without Pape's collaboration,” said Kristin. “We formed friendships with many Senegalese people and had the opportunity to engage in deep and challenging conversations with them. Much of the depth of learning the students experienced came from these close personal relationships that were forged.” 

“A highlight for me was the amount of generosity and awareness I learned and observed among the Senegalese people,” said junior Cait Mazzarella. “There wasn’t a moment that went by where people were not being helpful or gracious in their being. I plan on bringing back and practicing these acts of extreme generosity with my community and close loved ones.”

The trip culminated one evening with a tannebeer, a large street party for sabar dancing, arranged by Pape and his colleagues in the street outside his family's home. 

“The entire neighborhood turned out to dance with us,” said Kristin. “It was an unforgettable experience.”

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