Professor Joshua Gisemba Magaga

Photo by Sara Liptak

.Professor Joshua Gisemba Magaga introducing the panelists at the symposium on Sept. 2, 2015 inside the Fenn Tower Ballroom.


September 14, 2015

Cleveland State symposium works to reach beyond boundaries of educational exchange

By Sara Liptak

Cleveland State University hosted “The Public Humanities and Modern Africa Interdisciplinary Symposium” on Wednesday, Sept. 2 featuring panelists and speakers from Cleveland State and Maseno University (MSU) in Kenya.

Joshua Gisemba Bagaka, Cleveland State professor of educational research design and statistics, moderated the symposium. He encouraged audience members — particularly students — to use the hashtag #csuafrica2015 on social media to engage and ask questions of the panelists in discussion.

J. Mark Souther, Meshack Owino and Erin J. Bell from Cleveland State, introduced MaCleKi — a mobile app project in Kenya funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

Dr. Souther, professor of history and Director of the Center for Public History + Digital Humanities (CPHDH), was the first to speak after Bagaska’s introduction and comments about global education to make a tradition more efficient.

Souther is co-director of the NEH-funded project “Curating Kisumu: Adapting Mobile Humanities Interpretation in East Africa.” Professor Owino is also co-director of the Curatescape mobile publishing framework app and is teaching HIS 393, Special Topics in History, with a focus on Kenya. He also spoke in detail on the partnership with MSU and MaCleKi, including major goals, progress and prospects of the program.

In spring 2015, Owino taught History of South Africa (HIS 392/592) at Cleveland State. This course is what sparked the partnership between Cleveland State and MSU to collaborate on a digital learning platform, producing stories on the MaCleKi website through location-based essays and media. Owino spoke about many issues that the partnership with MSU has experienced, including financial costs, technological bumps, communication — and the time difference.

“Both universities are very similar, aside from tuition costs,” said Souther. “We are both a medium-sized public university located in similar metropolitan areas.”

Bell, who is technology director and project coordinator of CPHDH said that Cleveland State has provided equipment to MSU to have a better digital connection between the students.

Bell is the lead web developer for the Curatescape project and is on the project team of the NEH-funded project “Curating Kisumu.” The Curatescape mobile framework program has published location-based humanities content both from Cleveland State and MSU students and has been adopted by more than 30 organizations internationally, explained Souther.

“If I had to put a hashtag on this, it’d be #ethnocentricdesign,” Bell said.

The Office of Civic Engagement at Cleveland State is tracking this project in hopes that it gains more sustainability.

“We’re still building a strong foundation,” Souther said. “I think we have a good foundation, but it needs to be more firm.”

During the second session, speakers Gordon Obote Magaga, Leonard Odhiambo Obiero and Benard Busaka, who are on the MSU project team, provided their perspective on the adoption of the MaCleKi program through the teaching and learning of African history.

Magaga, lecturer and chair of the Department of History and Archaeology at MSU, is project leader of “Curating Kisumu.” Magaga explained the background of the project, saying the initial contacts between the Department of History in Maseno and at Cleveland State were made in July of 2011.

The challenges that come along with a project such as MaCleKi include the cost of travel between countries, time constraints and preparedness, technology — and lack of information from government departments.

The audience was delighted to hear from Obiero, a level IV student at MSU majoring in history and archaeology. He has coordinated developing content for the MaCleKi website and app project, serves as a leader among his classmates in Magaga’s class and connected through teaching exchange in spring 2015 with Owino’s class.

“Having all of the participation I had as a student from the other side [in Kenya],” Obiero said. “I take this opportunity to appreciate and also to share relaying gratitude to Cleveland State University and Maseno University for having such a good program for us. And also, encouraging our students who participate at Cleveland State University to continue the same theory so that please, in future we can be scholars.”

“The future of this project is very bright, robust and a good project with a lot of potential,” said Owino.

As every non-profit program has their challenges, all project members of MaCleKi and “Curating Kisumu” have a positive attitude for the future. The speakers indicated plans to overcome political pressure, expand the project to involve more themes such as healthcare, environment and tourism, and find sustainability.

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