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Fall 2013

A New Cohort of Students Joins CIE

This September, CIE welcomed eight new students who come from Afghanistan, Malawi, Nigeria, Senegal and the U.S. The US students bring extensive field experience in China, Madagascar, and Uganda. We also welcome a visiting scholar-student from China. All are mid-career professionals who have been working in education. There are three Master's candidates and five Doctoral candidates. They add to the very international mix of experienced educators already at CIE.


David Epstein   depstein@educ.umass.edu

Growing up the only religious Jewish family in our neighborhood and one of less than a handful of identifiable such students in a public high school of 2,000 people I found myself in a peer group full of first generation immigrants and racial minorities in America. Those childhood friends and experiences gave me the permission to feel comfortable, from a very early age, exploring differences and celebrating diversity as a source of curiosity and wisdom. When I was a first year undergraduate at the University of Chicago I was employed through the Neighborhood Schools Program which gave me the opportunity to teach and work at some of the most run down schools on Chicago’s South Side. There I was confronted with forms of financial poverty, institDavid Epsteinutional oppression and violence, segregation, and the ramifications of daily violence in post slavery social orders. There I also met some of the brightest and most curious students I’ve ever known, whose loving families were profoundly disadvantaged in their ability to access equal opportunities for their children in “the land of the free”. The brutal force of those experiences caused me to reflect on what I wanted to do with my life, and subsequent to that I have been involved in inner-city teaching and community organizing for the past fourteen years.

In addition to my educational and life experiences here, I am a dual citizen of Israel and I have had the opportunity to spend significant parts of my adult life living in Israel. There I have taught in diverse Jewish and non-Jewish communities throughout the country, while living both in communal farming villages and major cities. At the Anglican International School in Jerusalem I interacted with students from all over the world and had my first meaningful relationships with students from Palestinian families. My students there were different than many others I have had, in that their exposure to so much diversity of race, language, religion, and ethnicity by growing up in an international community helped give birth in many of them an ability to think in more empathic and loving ways.

In addition to these experiences I have been blessed to run a non-profit organization in Putti Village, located in Eastern Uganda, for the past fourteen years. Our work there has resulted in the production of two musical CDs of indigenous music fused from East African beats and harmonies sung in three different languages. We are focused on working with over 1,500 people in the immediate area (and hope to grow beyond that in time) working with people from four different faith communities to secure access to nutritious food while maintaining biodiversity and ecological balance by utilizing permaculture techniques. Our work includes empowering women, using micro-financing to build local economies, and planning for a long term educational and medical plan to create sustainable and self-sufficient means of meeting the needs of their people.

As a result of the forms of violence I have lived through, be that witnessing suicide bombings in Israel, gang violence and drive by shootings in Chicago, or poverty to the point of starvation in post-colonial Uganda, the importance of finding a different and better way has been a main thrust of my adult life. Focusing on conflict resolution, interconnectedness, story-telling, and teaching for peace, joy, and empathy have become the focus of my interests and life which I hope to further pursue while at the CIE.  

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Ezekiel Abdullahi Babagario  ebabagario@educ.umass.edu

Lately, when people listened to the story of my life, the first question I am asked is “Why did you leave a better paying career and delve into Religious Studies or Education?” I come from northern Nigeria a region that lately was engulfed in religious crises and insurgencies. I worked with the Nigerian Air Force for the better part of my life. I was involved in both combat and administrative duties; I was deployed during internal crises in Nigeria, some West African countries, and foreign combat under the United Nations forces. The loss of my brother and other friends during one of such crisis prompted me to leave the Air Force and look for a solution to these crises. I grew up in Jos Plateau State Central Nigeria. Jos was once considered the most peaceful town in Nigeria; hence the town earned the slogan: “Home of Peace and Tourism” however, recent events have transformed this slogan to read ‘Home of Pieces and Troubles’ this can be attributed to the religious and communal clashes in the area. The cordial relationship enjoyed by the people of this area was shattered as a result of these clashes.

On a closer look I discovered that the division among the people based on religion and ethnicity is only within the lower class, the politicians and elites were not affected by this division. I also discovered that it is only the poor that fight for their religion and/or ethnic groups, whereas politicians and the elites interact freely regardless of religious and ethnic differences. ThEzekiel Babagarioe conclusion of my findings prompted me to embark on my current academic journey. The politicians use the divisions to achieve their selfish goals; the people on their part follow blindly or ignorantly. Most of the people used by the politicians and/or religious leaders to perpetrate these acts know little or nothing about their religion.

How then can this issue be addressed? I believe through awareness which can be achieved by educating the mothers. Mothers are the first teachers most children have. However, religion and culture has deprived a great number of them from acquiring education in northern Nigeria. I look to CIE to help me achieve the dream of educating the ‘Girl-Child’ in northern Nigeria. Why CIE? I will be learning with professors who have firsthand information about education in Africa and other developing countries not theoretical. I am confident that after my sojourn here I will be better equipped on how to create a curriculum that will be used to teach the young girls and mothers in places of worship (Mosques and Churches). I realized that achieving this task will be difficult but I am determined. It was for that reason I was involved in interfaith activities within my community to create the awareness of peaceful co-existence.

I was instrumental to the establishment of an Abrahamic Peace Center (The Center for Interfaith Dialogue and Conflict Resolution) in the Kawo area of Kaduna and in Anglo Jos Plateau State respectively.  My contributions to interfaith dialogue earned me a scholarship to study at the Hartford Seminary in Connecticut, USA through the International Peacemakers Program (IPP), where I recently graduated with a M.A. Religious Studies (Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations). I am also a teacher.  I have taught at the School of Administration (SOA) of the Nigerian Air Force in Kaduna, the Nigerian Air Force School of Intelligence (NAFSAINT) in Makurdi and the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) in Kaduna.

Five years after being at CIE I hope to have trained the second batch of religious teachers who will teach the girls and young mothers who were deprived the opportunity to attend school at both Mosques and Churches. I will partner with the National Teachers Institute Kaduna where I was an adjunct teacher to achieve this goal.  I intend to label this project “Teach the Mothers” I will also partner with CIE and religious organizations to achieve this.


Mei Lan Frame  mframe@educ.umass.edu

Greetings! My name is Mei Lan Frame, and my interest in international education centers on current education reform in China, particularly the decline of education in remote rural areas within the last decade. China has been my home for the past 13 years

In 2004, I worked as the Community Service coordinator (International Baccalaureate program) at a K-12 international school in Beijing, where I managed various student outreach programs and fundraising for Chinese public rural schools in Yunnan and Sichuan province. This was my first experience with education in the countryside in China. Yet I was also struck by the fact my school was located in the middle of migrant shanty towns on the edge of the city, but showed little recognition of the poverty surrounding it in our own community. I began student outreach programs (weekend sports and English) with two migrant schools, Tao Yuan and Hong Qi, in the area. In addition, the Chinese students visited our school and tutored students in Chinese language! To me, this was a wonderful example of the strength of “community service”.

In 2007, I went to Andra Pradesh, India, to study the role of culture and community in a multi-grade K-4 rural education program at the Rishi Valley Institute of Mei Lan FrameEducational Resources (RIVER). RIVER’s place-based curriculum using community knowledge and resources, such as village mothers’ tales, traditional folktales/art, and village land remains deeply inspiring to me as evidence of a quality primary education program rooted in the reality and situation of rural life that simultaneously engages and sustains marginalized communities. I returned to Beijing in 2009 to work with the NGO Small Steps on the Open Classroom project in Gang Fang village, Hebei province, to improve education quality at a K-2 village school through peer-learning and community outreach. During this time I also served as an education consultant for migrant schools, and volunteered in my community as a yoga instructor for the Chinese NGO Hui Ling, which provides services for physically and mentally challenged adults.

In China, the national revision of curriculum and pedagogy to embrace western methodology and promote creativity has further disadvantaged rural areas. My recent work as training director for a teacher training program (Chao Yang district Ministry of Education) in Beijing to train Chinese public school teachers (grades 1-10) in communicative language methodology illustrated the glaring difference between the traditional approach to education through hard study and rote memorization and the MOE’s insistence of a modern pedagogy emphasizing attributes such as inquiry-based and student-centered learning. As access to higher education in China becomes increasingly competitive and weighted in favor of urban culture and access to modern methodologies, the dichotomy of practice and resources between urban and rural education becomes even more pronounced, to the great disadvantage of rural populations.

I am also a certified TESOL trainer for the School of International Education (SIT) in Brattleboro, VT, and my work has enabled me to train teachers from many other countries. I deeply look forward to my future work at CIE, and I am thrilled not only at the opportunity to pursue doctoral studies in the field of international education, a culmination of my interest in and experience with the practice of education in different contexts and countries, but also the opportunity to join the CIE team and work in a community of diverse, passionate researchers and practitioners committed to worldwide education and helping all learners succeed.

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Ben Herson    bherson@educ.umass.edu

I was born and raised in Newton MA and grew up in a musical household where there was a constant connection between life, politics and music. I started playing drums at the age of eight and in high school; my friends and I formed a band that played ska music (a Jamaican genre of music that was the precursor of reggae). It was through my experience playing Jamaican music that I became interested in the intersection of music and youth movements in the Caribbean and Africa, a subject I studied as a Cultural Anthropology major at Hampshire College from 1995 - 2000. 

In 1999 I travelled to Senegal with a Senegalese friend of mine and discovered a young and thriving hip-hop scene there. What inspired me most about the hip-hop music made in Senegal was that it was created noBen Hersont just to entertain but also to educate the Senegalese public about important social and political issues. I returned to Dakar in the Summer of 2000, after studying Wolof at Columbia University and wrote my undergraduate dissertation on the intersection of Senegalese hip-hop and political change.

In 2000, I moved to Brooklyn and started Nomadic Wax. In its early days Nomadic Wax was a fair trade record label and Production Company that helped socially engaged hip-hop musicians promote and distribute their music internationally. In 2007, we began producing documentary film with a project titled "Democracy in Dakar" a film that documented the role of hip-hop on Senegal's 2007 election. With the "Democracy in Dakar" project, I developed an educational program and toured for three years visiting colleges, concert halls and community centers throughout the U.S, Europe and Africa with rappers featured in the film, including a fortuitous screening and discussion at CIE in 2010. 

Nomadic Wax's work today ranges from producing hip-hop compilations with international rappers aimed at educating listeners about issues of social importance, to setting up and running media training workshops for youth in West Africa. If you can't figure out whether Nomadic Wax is a record label, a film Production Company or an education-focused NGO - you're not alone, because I can’t either. 

In addition to my work with Nomadic Wax I've spent much of the past 12 years working as an educator, curriculum developer and media arts instructor in New York. Most recently, I spent a year and a half working with the International Rescue Committee on a project in Staten Island working with African and Caribbean middle school students. I developed a program that used a performing and media arts framework to promote literacy skills. 

I have come to CIE to be a part of a vibrant and engaged community, to learn from the experiences of both students and professors and to dive even deeper into building innovative and transformative media-based education programs. I am thrilled to be surrounded by such a talented and diverse array of students and professors from all over the world. 

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Promise Mchenga    pmchenga@educ.umass.edu

I come from Malawi, the “warm heart of Africa”. I have just entered the Master’s program here at Center for International Education. Earlier I received a BA in Biblical Studies and Education from African Bible College (Lilongwe, Malawi campus) and an MA in Christian Leadership from Asbury Theological Seminary, Kentucky.

My interests in international education are closely related to my personal, academic and professional experiences. For most of my undergraduate studies I interned with Children of the Nations International (COTNI). This experience exposed me to many individuals and teams from around the globe driven to promote access to education for underprivileged youths in countries such as Malawi, Uganda, Dominican Republic, and Sierra Leone. This experience helped me to understand education’s potential as anPromise Mchenga avenue towards economic and human development. Prior to my graduation, I taught Social and Development Studies as a student teacher in one of the Malawi’s government secondary schools. Following my graduation, I joined Project TEACH and Youth Care where I did mentoring and counseling with students with varying degrees of academic challenges.

I gained international experience through a fellowship with Urban Promise International in the inner city of Camden, New Jersey from 2010 to 2011. Apart from working with and teaching amazing elementary and high school students in Camden, I also received hands on training in non-profit leadership and development. This experience challenged me to analyze how poverty and educational discrepancies exist in both developed and developing countries despite the economic gap between these two worlds. I have also worked as communication and education coordinator for UCC of Cheshire, CT, Friends of Children for Arts Society and the Nthandizi Orphan Care Project.

Along with some secondary school teachers I recently pioneered sponsorship program for the needy in Malawi. It is my hope to see this program stretch into other education issues that are hindering the development of education among the poor in Malawi and beyond.

It is exciting to be part of a vibrant and diverse CIE community with members passionate about improving educational practices around the globe. CIE’s structure is conducive for academic and also professional development which favors my immediate and long term goals. The program’s flexibility appeals to my interests in areas such as non-formal education in economic development, child war refugees in new education systems and quality education access for the poor. I strongly believe the program will prepare me in understanding effective international educational development strategies as I seek to become an effective change agent in the global south.  

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Maguette Diame   mdiame@educ.umass.edu

Joining the Center for International Education as a doctoral student is a wonderful opportunity for me to acquire knowledge and skills that can help me to better understand international education for development, a process to which I am deeply committed to studying for the benefit of our African countries. I hope that it also allow me to share my experience as an African, teaching in developing countries, and exchange information between the academic community at the University of Massachusetts and myself, a native Senegalese, as a representative of the African community.

As a teacher coming from a developing country, the expected answer to the question “what can I do to contribute to the development process of my country?” should be “how can education be used as a tool for sustainable development?”, another question. To answer all these questions and my experience as a student in Senegal, a middle/high school teacher, and a Fulbright exchange student have stimulated my interest in international education and development and, hopefully, I will find some of the answers at CIE.

My experience as a student in Senegal coming from a modest family in a rural area has heightened my interest in the Maguette Diamebetterment of the students’ schooling conditions for more success. Students in rural areas have to undergo many socio-economic hardships to make it to university. The few  who succeed in passing the middle school entrance exams have to go to bigger cities for middle school and high school, and then to the capital, Dakar, for university studies. Each experience is filled with socio-economic hardships as more advanced levels of school are more demanding in terms of results. They also cost more. As a teacher in middle/high school I became more aware of how wealth and traditional cultural values are interconnected in determining success and failure at schools in Senegal. I had a chance to talk with my students and their parents; therefore I could understand their socio-economic background and this knowledge helped me better evaluate and manage them.

During my Fulbright experience at the University of Oregon I was teaching Wolof and Senegalese culture to students interested in the field of development and who were getting ready for their internships in Senegal. The classes were a wonderful cultural exchange, as I also learned a lot from them about the American culture I was experiencing for the first time. As part of my fellowship, I was also giving presentations during several campus events and greater community about my culture and traditions. As a graduate student and a teaching assistant in the International Studies department, where classes were mainly about development and, therefore about Africa, I endeavored to provide an insider’s perspective. However, at the same time, I was also carefully listening to US students’ perspectives about African issues.

After this experience, I returned home and resumed my teaching position while applying for a Master’s program in International Development at the University of Oregon.  I was accepted and two years later I graduated with my Master’s degree in 2011. Once again I returned to Senegal and this time I was posted in a rural area of Senegal where I encountered a new set of educational challenges.

I plan to conduct research to expand on my master thesis “Traditional Culture and Educational Success in Senegal, West Africa” which explores the effects of traditional values, parental involvement, and poverty on student performance. Instead of regarding tradition and poverty as obstacles, it argues that they can play a positive role in improving educational quality

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Christina Chen   christinache@educ.umass.edu

My passion for international education began during my undergraduate studies at Loyola University Chicago.  I worked as an afterschool program instructor for minority students in inner-city Chicago as well as an ESL instructor for both adults and children in Beijing, China.  From this work I gained an interest in education in a multicultural setting.  This interest led me to pursue refugee outreach work with the Ethiopian Community Association of Chicago (or ECAC) focused on ESL training for nChristina Chenewly arrived refugee’s from Nepal. My role as an ESL instructor expanded to include teaching employment literacy and well as cultural integration.  The personal ties I built with these individuals helped me shape my focus in international education, as it relates to working with refugees.

After receiving a degree in economics and international studies from the University of Loyola I embarked on a twenty-seven month contract in Madagascar as a Community Enterprise Development specialist with Peace Corps.  My work was heavily concentrated on implementing income-generating activities in handicraft, agricultural microenterprises and working with women and youth groups.  My service was focused on teaching a number of topics aiming to promote income generation, women’s leadership, and economic self-sufficiency.  The challenges faced by members of the enterprises usually stemmed from their inability to grasp basic business concepts, largely due to the deficit in the education system.  I realized early on that I could impart the most change in the field of education therefore I diverted my attention towards teaching in schools.

My experience working in severely underfunded schools gave me some insight to the structural issues in Madagascar’s overall education system. I developed an apprenticeship program for youth from the local high school. These youth acquired vocational training in a particular trade under skilled artisans. Concurrently I taught the students business classes to help them manage and market their products and skills.  In addition, I implemented extra-curricular club activities in order to introduce non-formal learning opportunities to students which were not being offered in their schools such as art and an ecology club, as well as helped host a children’s radio program. 

These experiences culminated in my applying to CIE.  I believe that many of the systemic issues of poverty that I had witnessed lie in the lack of emphasis on education and the quality of education available. My aspiration is to obtain the skills necessary to pursue a career helping to develop or manage educational programs in, or with those surviving from post-conflict settings. I hope to gain tools to help these students confront PTSD in order to adjust to a foreign education system. I am confident that CIE will equip me with the practical skills as well as the theoretical knowledge to succeed in doing this.  I am thrilled with the prospect of collaborating with and learning from such a multi-national and talented team of individuals who bring such wide variety of experiences to the program.

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Chaonan (Kathleen) Xu   chaonanxu@educ.umass.edu

I'm from China. I was born in Henan province in the middle of China. I really cherish having this opportunity to join the Center for International Education as a visiting scholar for a semester. My main field of study is about African Education, I do believe that I will gain both practical and theoretical knowledge about international education here.

During 2006-2010 I studied in the University of Northeast Normal University in Jilin province located in the north of China Chaonan Xuand received my BA in English Literature. In 2001 I began my graduate study in the Zhejiang Normal University with a major in comparative education. Zhejiang Normal University is one of the Chinese universities that specializes in African Studies and offers many good opportunities to learn about the culture and education in African countries.

In 2010, I worked as an English teacher in Yuanhang Oral English training school in Beijing for several months. This experience allowed me to learn more about non-formal education which is very different from the traditional education in China. In 2011 I participated in the program of writing the "Annual Reports and the Development Tendency of the International Education Policy" which was organized by Professor Wang Yingjie, the president of the Comparative Education Association. I worked mainly on tertiary education policy in Botswana, which allowed me to learn more about the small country of Botswana.

In 2012, the former vice-president of University of Botswana, Frank Youngman, visited Zhejiang Normal University for a month. During his stay, I worked as his assistant to help with his research on tertiary education in China. Working with him helped expand my understanding of higher education in Botswana He also co-organized a workshop on research about Botswana-Africa-China issues.

In September of 2012 the "International Forum on Sino-Africa Higher Education Exchange and Cooperation" was held in our university (ZJUN). I worked as staff to help with the reception of the participants and the organization of the forum. This experience enriched my knowledge of the current higher education situation both in China and different African countries.

After that, in 2013 I participated in the seminar on Higher Education administration for South-East Asian Countries and the seminar on Higher Education Administration for French speaking African Countries. The participants were mainly government officers, the presidents of universities and researchers. I also accompanied them to visit Jiangxi Normal University and Guizhou University in China to help them learn more practical knowledge about Chinese Higher education.

I'm very honored to join the family of the Center for International Education. Here I am experiencing a different study atmosphere and have already learned some interesting and useful knowledge that is different from what I learned in China. I do believe that the talented professors and students from different countries here will inspire me and give me useful suggestions to carry out my study about the higher education policy in Botswana. My short visit for a semester will also let me to rethink the current Higher Education structure and situation in China, which maybe my next topic of interest.

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Hassan Aslami           haslami@educ.umass.edu

Assalam-o-Aalaikum! I grew up in Kabul, capital of Afghanistan. My interest in pursuing doctoral studies has initially grown during my over five years of tenure with the USAID funded Afghanistan Higher Education Project (HEP) and later during my master’s program studies CIE. My purpose for seeking the Doctoral Degree is to expand my knowledge with the theoretical tools, interdisciplinary knowledge, practical skills, and professional experiences needed to positively contribute in transforming education system in Afghanistan. Education in Afghanistan does battle every day: with families who need children to earn income, with fathers who deny their daughters access to formal learning, with insurgents who destroy school buiHassan Aslamildings, poison students and threaten teachers, with a government unable to train enough teachers and produce quality textbooks. The higher education system has to absorb the results of the above facts in the student, staff and university professor populations.

Since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, the government of Afghanistan and the international community have made notable efforts to revive the higher education sector. Public higher education institutions were reopened and over 70 public and private higher education institutions have been established since then. Yet due to the devastation caused by thirty years of conflict and civil war, higher education is facing enormous problems. Under-qualified faculty members, lack of buildings, outdated curricula, lack of proper educational assessment, poor planning in national, institutional, and faculty levels, ineffective budgeting and planning, poor quality of instruction; and lack of classrooms and laboratories are among the acute problems the higher education sector in Afghanistan must confront. At present, only 5% of faculty members have PhDs and about 36% have Master’s Degrees. The majority of current faculty members hold bachelor degrees that do not produce the kind of skilled and knowledgeable graduates to meet the nation’s needs. To increase the number of higher degree holders the MoHE planned to establish more graduate degree programs, but the question is: would it be possible without qualified faculty members. Hence, lack of doctoral degree holders, specifically in the higher education system, is another important reason for me to pursue my doctoral program at UMass.

I selected the Center for International Education (CIE) for various reasons. Firstly, during my Master’s studies at UMass/CIE, I found the courses offered by the School of Education fully related and responsive to the higher education needs in Afghanistan. Secondly, UMass has been a key partner in implementing HEP since 2006. For me in addition to gaining academic knowledge I will also have the opportunity to discuss some of the specific issues and how to effectively address them with my professors and colleagues in the center. Thirdly, at CIE, being a diverse community, I will learn about other countries with similar situations to Afghanistan.

I got my B.Sc. from the Faculty of Agriculture, Kabul University. Currently, I am assisting CIE/UMass team in managing Higher Education Project (HEP) in Afghanistan. Before coming to UMass for my Master’s studies, I worked for Afghanistan Land Authority (ALA) as a Monitoring and Evaluation Director. I also served as a Monitoring and Evaluation Manager and as a consultant for the HEP for over five years. Previously, I worked as a National M&E officer in Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO-UN), as a Senior Reporting & Data Management Officer, and as an Administrative Officer with CARE International in Afghanistan.

I believe that upon completion of my doctoral degree and return to the country, I will be able to use my skills and knowledge to help improve the planning and management of development activities in different sectors, particularly in higher education of Afghanistan.

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